Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
As always, the game is based on memories from when I first played it several years back. Hopefully.
I must admit, this game isn't truly for me. Like most games coming from Nintendo, the party game aspect is a strong one, and I'm a single-player guy most of the time. That said, I also remember immensely enjoying the original Mario Kart for the SNES, so I thought it would be equally good here.
Well, it is in fact pretty much equally good. Of course, that also means it's not really developed that much since the days of the SNES. Considering the effort they took to bring Mario and Link into the "new age" of gaming, one can find this more than a bit disappointing.
Anyway, the name of the game is go-kart racing, Mario-style. Choose a driver, choose the strength of the engine and a league to drive in, and it's go(-kart) time. Of course, since it's Mario, that means it's not even intending to be very realistic. With old weapons like koopa troopa shells, banana shells, and a few new ones like the fake item box and the spiny-shell that without fail seeks and takes out the leader (and anyone else in the way). Of course, none of the new additions really makes a difference here. You get an item, you use it when the opportunity presents itself.
The tracks are... Well, pretty much like you'd expect. Bright colours (mostly), some traps, and now also going up and down. Later you'll also find labyrinthical stages and other stuff that at least makes it a bit of a difference. One thing to remember is that if you upgraded the memory pack on the N64 (and if you owned an N64, that's just what you did, because you wanted to play Mahjora's Mask.), then a few of the tracks will in fact run much faster. Almost too fast, in fact, though it can also be a bit of fun to get some real driving action going on. Just thought you should know
The drivers are pretty much the biggest disappointment. Because the AI will invariably cheat to keep right behind you no matter how well you drive, it's a moot point on who to choose. That is, the three "big ones" can be nice to have at the starting line, because if you manage the "quick-start" trick, they'll just plow through their opponents. Apart from that, the driving is solid, but unspectacular. The breaking button is, as always hardly ever in use. The sliding corner trick, on the other hand, does come in use. It's also fairly easy to master (despite what some GR reviewers might want you to think), though it's not for every corner.
In addition to racing all the tracks in multiplayer mode, the battle mode returns. Though for some reason, it used to be funnier in the SNES version... Perhaps age was taking its toll on me? Or was the SNES battle mode track designs actually better? The circle stage certainly isn't much fun, that's for sure, but the "lego block" stage is much more like it.
OK, so I've been a bit negative here. But it's not a bad game, it's just that after what they had done with Mario 64 and Zelda: Ocarina of Time, I would have expected the same kind of upgrade here. I mean, the drivers themselves are in fact only some sort of pseudo-3D stuff. The prize ceremony doesn't even have some small gag with each different character like the original had. (Though managing to end up on 4th place total on a circuit is another thing...)
All in all, this game had its moments, but it just didn't really catch on, neither single-player or multiplayer. Despite the lack of weapons, I'd rather recommend F-Zero X as a "lunch break race" game. But, of course, if you can't get enough of taking out your friends with a well-aimed koopa troopa shell....