Today was a good day in the Wii corner of the CVG office. A crowd of nostalgic Nintendo fans gathered round the Wii, drawn in by the distinctively catchy jingles of Mario Kart 64, which was released on the Virtual Console this morning. Office-wide Mario Kart competitions are back!
Mario Kart 64 is undoubtedly one of N64's best games thanks mostly to its legendary four-player racing. We hammered it for months back in 1997. Now it's back on the Wii, and not only is it a welcome return for the classic, but it's one that comes with a few added benefits.
The horrible blur of the N64 has been wiped out by the Wii's superior hardware. Now the game looks a crisp as you like, and the frame rates are now constant and smooth - even in the four-player mode. Those are the advantages that all of the 3D games that hit Virtual Console should benefit from in the future.
Nintendo has also done us European gamers a much-needed service of getting rid of the gigantic borders that plagued the original PAL version. Now just a tiny, insignificant slither of blackness lines the top and bottom of the screen, but it's hardly noticeable and doesn't make the graphics appear to be squashed like in the original.
The only problem with the new, crispier resolution is that the 2D sprites which make up the characters, trees, items and various other objects are now more immediately noticeable. The new sharpness exposes a sort of pixilation around the edge of the sprites. Again however, this is not a huge problem.
Leaving it there with the techie stuff, Mario Kart 64, for those who never played the original, works in the typical way - you race through four cups, each one with four races, to win the gold cup award at the end.
This was the first game to feature triple items - Red and Green Shells - and that cheating Blue Shell that seeks out the person in first position. It also pioneered the powerslide boost, which has you sliding the analogue stick left and right during a powerslide to change your smoke orange and achieve a boost.
But if you've only played Mario Kart DS, you should know that the handling on Mario Kart 64 is a lot looser. Courses, like Banshee Boardwalk, that are relatively easy on DS are made hard on MK64 by the weightier handling.
Despite that, it's an absolute treat to play through all the old Mario kart courses again. We actually forgot how good they are. There are so many brilliant ideas in here that were never taken further by the series - Kalamari Desert's train that crosses the track forcing players to slam on the brakes, Yoshi's maze-like course that saw players getting lost as they scrambled along the intertwining canyon paths - brilliant.
MK64 is an unforgettable classic, and will bring nostalgia flooding back to everyone that loved it back on the N64 era. It'll set you back about seven quid, and we reckon it's worth every penny for fans. The first must-have VC is here and it's a gem.