News Article

Mario Kart Month: The Developers Who Tried To Beat Nintendo At Its Own Game

Posted by Damien McFerran

Improving On Perfection

Veterans of the 16-bit era will vividly recall the first time they played Super Mario Kart. Nintendo's seminal racer was a genuine revolution; it took what had previously been quite a staid and serious genre and turned it into something light-hearted, yet immensely challenging and addictive. While Super Mario Kart had an incredible impact on the gaming masses of the early '90s, the ripples caused by its release were perhaps more keenly felt by the developers of the period, many of whom would be so inspired and invigorated by the game that they would devote a significant portion of their careers to bettering it.

"Over time I came to learn all the nuances in the design of the game, how all the different mechanics worked in harmony to deliver such a compelling experience" Charnjit Bansi

However, developers are still gamers are heart, and just like the average consumer, the first thing that hit Nick Burcombe — creator of Wipeout — was the sheer quality of the racer. "Super Mario Kart on the SNES was a revelation," he says. "The thing that is so great about it — and to be fair, a lot of Nintendo games — is that the subtlety in the game design isn't immediately apparent. At 50cc, you race the tracks in one way and you get familiar with the routes, the coin placements, the pickup squares and so on. You end up understanding the course at that speed. Your knowledge of the game is always expanding throughout the 100cc series; you're getting better at using the slide of the shoulder buttons and you’re starting the find little exploits in the track and you wonder if you have found some kind of unknown advantage. Then you're at the top end of 150cc and the racing is intense — the control you require is like Zen mode and you realise that every nook and cranny and feature of the course design is perfectly placed and designed for shortcuts and getting the required advantage. And that’s when you sit back and understand that this game design – everything from the courses, the height of the little hop when you power slide, the importance of the coins, the skewed balancing of the weapons and the AI — all of it has been tweaked within an inch of its life so that you can reach this level of skill. I love it – it’s one of the most rewarding games to master and that's the reason it was such an influence in the development of Wipeout back in 1993."

Former Bizarre Creations staffer Charnjit Bansi feels a similar level of affection for the title, and would try to update the formula for 2010's critically acclaimed Blur. "I can remember being wowed by the fact that I could race as my favourite Nintendo characters," he says. "It was one of the first games that defined split-screen gaming and all the hilarity and mayhem that comes with playing head-to-head with someone on the same console — before the days of online play, this was how we experienced competitive play. Over time I came to learn all the nuances in the design of the game, how all the different mechanics worked in harmony to deliver such a compelling experience. Even if you go back to it today, you can still see all these elements at play."

However, it's surprising to note that not every developer inspired by Mario Kart was fully aware of its charms from day one; ex-Rare staffer Lee Musgrave — who worked on Diddy Kong Racing on the N64 — wasn't sold on the game initially. "My first impression was that this was unplayable and just too hard by far," he comments. "But then you start getting used to it; you find out how to power slide, what the subtlety of the weapons mean and suddenly two player split-screen becomes a killer. It’s probably the most addictive two player game of its era and has a depth of control that is steep to master, but puts you into a fairly select club once you’ve got it. It's endlessly playable and was a real watershed moment for split-screen gaming."

"It's endlessly playable and was a real watershed moment for split-screen gaming" Lee Musgrave

Sumo Digital executive producer Steve Lycett experienced similar downbeat feelings when he first witnessed Super Mario Kart. "Back then I was working in a games shop in Sheffield," he recalls. "We got some copies in and tried it out on the store's demo SNES, and my first reaction was it felt like a bit of a step back from what is still one of my favourite games of all time, F-Zero. I played it in single player and didn't like how half the screen was given over to map, plus compared to F-Zero it all felt a bit light and cartoony. It was only when we plugged in a second controller and dabbled with Battle Mode and multiplayer races that we got hooked. The magic was in the multiplayer. After that I was sold, which yet again just goes to show that graphics don't count for everything."

While the SNES original managed to captivate millions, it's important to remember that subsequent sequels have been just as influential. For Naughty Dog co-president Evan Wells — one of the guiding lights behind Crash Team Racing, the PlayStation's answer to Mario Kart — it was 1996's Mario Kart 64 which really got his creative juices flowing. "It was when it went full 3D that I was hooked," he says. "The track design, the mini-turbos while drifting, the balance of power-ups and the 4-player split-screen just made the perfect multiplayer package. It came out while I was working at Crystal Dynamics on Gex 2. We really wanted to make a racing game that took on Mario Kart 64. It just so happened that Naughty Dog had the same idea and recruited me and my good friend Danny Chan to come down to do work on what would become Crash Team Racing. Mario Kart 64 had a huge influence on the team as we began work on Crash Team Racing. We played countless hours of the game, analyzing the track designs, the feel of the controls, how the AI worked — everything. The PlayStation had very different rendering capabilities compared to the N64, so we had to come up with all sorts of tricks and cheats to build tracks of similar scale while maintaining the high quality of graphics that the Crash Bandicoot games were known for. But more than anything, we knew the karts had to control as perfectly as they did in Mario Kart. That’s something we tuned and refined right up to the last minute."

The Mario Kart series has remained popular over the past two decades because each instalment has managed to capture that magical element which seems to appeal to gamers of all ages and skill levels. It's almost impossible to understate this almost universal quality. "The Mario Kart series is the perfect multiplayer game that can be enjoyed by hardcore gamers and casual gamers alike – even in the same race," says Wells. "The controls are easy to pick up, but have a great deal of depth as you continue to play. The power-ups — while occasionally crossing the line to frustrating — create the ideal leveller. Even if you aren't as experienced as your opponent, the game does an awesome job of giving you the right power-up just when you need it most to get back in the game. And of course as mentioned earlier, Mario Kart is the poster child for how much fun local multiplayer can be. There’s a time and a place for online multiplayer, but there’s something about taking on your friends in the same living room that can't be matched with a headset and a camera." Lycett is in agreement. "Anyone can learn to play the game in minutes, and due to the nature of the weapons balancing, even a novice can beat an experienced player. It’s also very light-hearted; you're racing in fun colourful locations, so it’s ideal for little kids just as much as for big kids."

"Anyone can learn to play the game in minutes, and due to the nature of the weapons balancing, even a novice can beat an experienced player" Steve Lycett

The finely-balanced gameplay and addictive multiplayer of Mario Kart play a huge part in its enduring appeal, but it's important to not underestimate the intrinsic allure of Nintendo's star-studded cast. "It’s got Mario and a fantastic ensemble of the Nintendo characters," says Burcombe, who now runs his own studio called Playrise Digital and has recently celebrated over 5 million downloads of Table Top Racing. "Take out the characters and clearly you'd still have the same game, but the front-facing power of the word 'Mario' on it is clearly the biggest draw for a lot of people."

Acknowledging and understanding greatness leads to the very human desire to create something superior, and all of the developers we spoke to have at one point in their careers tried to topple Mario from the top of the podium with their own racing titles. Given that Rare worked closely with Nintendo on the N64, it should come as no surprise that its output was often directly compared to that of the Kyoto veteran. Diddy Kong Racing was — in the eyes of many fans — the first time that Nintendo was outpaced by another company. "Diddy Kong is where we first got to go up against Mario Kart," explains Musgrave. "We did everything we could to out-do them: more levels, more finessed controls, nicer artwork, a real adventure element that melded races with Super Mario 64-style elements and of course, water and air-based vehicles. I think we did a fairly good job of expanding everything to the point where the game was a real hybrid between Mario Kart and Super Mario 64, but back then, there was not much that can compete with the weight of a franchise like Mario and even though it was simpler — or maybe because it was simpler — it outdid us on sales."

More recently, the Activision-published Blur was a clear attempt to update the Mario Kart theme for the Xbox 360 and PS3 masses. "We had a very tight set of power-ups that were as much about defence as they were about offense," says design director Bansi. "I spent many a late night with a core team balancing, tuning and iterating the power-up functionality to make sure that each one provided unique mechanics that added to the depth of strategy between each of them. We also had a robust, sticky multiplayer mode that kept players hooked long after the game was released; you could have epic races with up to 19 other players." While Bizarre Creations' racer was seen by many as the spiritual successor to Mario Kart, it didn't perform as well at retail as was expected. Bansi has his own views on why this was the case. "Blur fused real-world racing with power-ups — we were trying to appeal to the racing and action segment of the market," he explains. "Having real-world licensed cars was a double-edged sword; on the one hand it gave players instantly recognisable brands and cars but then others were somewhat confused with the believability of the power-ups as it was never explained how they came to be." Blur tried — and, it's fair to say, succeeded — in capturing some of the Mario Kart magic, but by removing the whimsical setting of the Mushroom Kingdom and replacing it with realistic courses and proper cars, some of that message was arguably lost.

"The roster feels slightly padded, especially when you have Metal Mario and Pink Gold Peach as unlocks…why not Link and Samus?" Steve Lycett

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is an even more recent Mario Kart challenger, and Sumo's Lycett has a pretty solid idea of what makes it a genuine rival to Mario Kart. "We tried to capture that Sega spirit of speed, drifting and flow," he reveals. "Mario Kart is a weapons game with racing added on; we're more of a racing game that also happens to have weapons. For us it’s more about picking the right lines, drifting, stunting at the right time and then using the weapons in addition. As a side effect, I think we tend to attract players who feel skill should have more impact on the race results. We also get to play in all those lovely Sega universes, so we're not locked to just one game as source material. So you get to visit more than just Sonic locations in All-Star Racing Transformed. I’m not sure why Nintendo don’t expand the cast and locations to be more of a Super Smash Bros. Karts, as sometimes there is a real sense of deja vu when you see old tracks reused. Plus the roster feels slightly padded, especially when you have Metal Mario and Pink Gold Peach as unlocks…why not Link and Samus?"

Lycett also feels that Sumo's title has a greater variety of racing styles thanks to the transformation aspect of the game. "I think we've pushed the bar with regards to racing on water and we have actual flight, not slow gliding," he continues. "The transformation in our game is more of a change in play mechanics, rather than slight alterations to the driving. I'd argue we had a lot more gameplay content, especially if you are playing on your own. I love the Grand Prix mode as much as the next man, but I also like a nice campaign to chew away at, either by myself or with friends."

However, for others, Mario Kart is an inspirational piece of software which has pushed them to new heights but simply cannot be beaten — or perhaps they are just too humble to think they best Nintendo at its own game. "I never think of any of my games in any way superior to Mario Kart, as it’s one of my favourite franchises," says Burcombe. Wells is equally reluctant to claim superiority. "I'm not even going to try to pick and choose elements that work better or worse in either game," he says. "We were just happy to be able to provide a fun multiplayer karting game to the millions of PlayStation owners that didn’t have access to Mario Kart. We wanted to leverage the crazy cast of characters and environments that we'd developed over the course of the first three Crash Bandicoot games and provide a wide range of racing, battle and adventure modes to keep players entertained for a long time. I like to think we succeeded. It’s still one of the games I worked on that I can actually go back and enjoy."

"There’s a whole generation that grew up with the PlayStation being their first gaming console and for those gamers, Crash Team Racing was the karting game they knew best" Evan Wells

Of course, when you seek to emulate the glory of something which is already famously successful, it's almost inevitable that your product will be endlessly compared to it. Some developers could find this annoying, but for Wells, it was never an issue. "We were both exclusive games on different platforms so our audiences were pretty distinct," he says. "There’s a whole generation that grew up with the PlayStation being their first gaming console and for those gamers, Crash Team Racing was the karting game they knew best. That’s rewarding in itself. And if you have any of your games mentioned in the same breath as a Mario game, you could be doing a lot worse." For Musgrave, the comparisons were never a problem because Diddy Kong Racing was able to provide something different to Mario Kart, even though it was trying to tap the same user base. "Lots of people owned and enjoyed both titles," he explains. "I think they both offered slightly different angles on the kart genre and although we were certainly inspired by Mario Kart, we diverged to the point of not being a one hundred percent like-for-like comparison in the way some other clones were."

To Burcombe, comparisons are flattering purely because of the standard of Mario Kart and the talent at Nintendo. "The fact that people considered us within the same thought process means that we largely achieved what we set out to achieve." Lycett is equally humbled to have his work spoken of in the same breath as Mario Kart, but can't help having a cheeky dig which harkens back to the good old days of Sega vs. Nintendo. "Whenever we see comparisons I actually take it as an honour," he says. "We're being compared to one of the most well-loved game series of all time by one of the greatest game makers in the world. Plus, it gives me the chance to remind people that we were there at the Wii U’s launch — it’s taken Nintendo two years to catch up!"

Mario Kart 8 is of course the latest entry in the long-running and beloved series, and could prove to be one of the most significant in the history of the lineage — primarily because many Nintendo fans are hoping it will be the game that finally gets the Wii U's engine running and gives hardware sales a much-needed speed boost. Musgrave isn't convinced. "It feels like it’s too late," he says. "Times have changed and I think online play has removed much of the sheen that came with the novelty of multiplayer split-screen gaming in the '90s. From my own experiences now as a parent, kids are more likely to want to play Forza 5 online in a photo-realistic McLaren P1 than try to clout Bowser with a Red Shell. Kids have moved on."

"Nintendo need to create experiences of the same calibre as Mario Kart 8, and at a steady cadence — that will be key to getting back on track" Charnjit Bansi

Wells also feels that the game has perhaps come too late to save the struggling system. "Mario Kart 8 looks gorgeous, and there’s no doubt that it'll be a blast to play, but the Wii U has a lot of ground to make up," he says. "It’s the first Nintendo console that I've yet to buy. And frankly, no matter how much of a Mario Kart fan I am, I still don't think that it'll tip the scale for me. I hope I'm wrong." Bansi shares this sentiment, to a degree. "The Wii U is struggling in the marketplace at the moment and I think Mario Kart 8 is the strongest title we've see in the Wii U line up for some time, but I don't think a single title is going to be the golden ticket for Nintendo. Nintendo need a solid and steady stream of quality entertainment that can't be found on other platforms, titles that can build momentum and turn the tide. Nintendo need to create experiences of the same calibre as Mario Kart 8, and at a steady cadence — that will be key to getting back on track."

However, not everyone has such a dismal outlook. "I don't think you can ever rule out Nintendo," says Lycett. "A lot of people expected the 3DS to fail after the first year or so, but once the software started coming, it’s now one of the most successful handhelds of all time. I think the same will prove true with the Wii U. It’s had a shaky start; software-wise there’s been a little bit of a drought. But if you look at the software library recently, it’s becoming a more attractive proposition all the time. I know I've been waiting for the system to have five must-have games to make it a purchase, and between Mario Kart 8, Super Mario 3D World, Super Smash Bros. and all those lovely cheap launch titles — All-Star Transformed included, of course — all Nintendo need to do to steal sales is hit that magic £150 price point, and they'll have this Christmas sown up in my household, at least."

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User Comments (102)

Shiryu

#1

Shiryu said:

To think WipEout was born because two guys where listening to Jam & Spoon's "Age of Love" when playing Rainbow Road on the SNES "Super Mario Kart"...

Expa0

#2

Expa0 said:

Diddy Kong Racing (N64 version anyway) and Crash Team Racing are imho better than any given Mario Kart game.

ULTRA-64

#3

ULTRA-64 said:

All about diddy Kong racing......the best kart racer ever made- bar non! The battle mode,boss fights, and challenges have never been equalled by Mario kart. Not to mention a REAL one player story.

GougeMan

#4

GougeMan said:

And they need to give away free downloads of their 8-bit NES titles. This will get the X generation buying the Wii U for them AND their kids. Please listen to this advice big N.

TreesenHauser

#7

TreesenHauser said:

I loved Diddy Kong Racing. I would give anything for Rare and Nintendo to come to an agreement so it would release on Virtual Console someday, though that's doubtful.

Spoony_Tech

#8

Spoony_Tech said:

Yeah, Diddy Kong Racing was by far for me the superior kart racer on the N64. It had so much more going for it. Made me to this day hate Mario Kart 64!

DreamyViridi

#9

DreamyViridi said:

Crash Team Racing is an awesome racing game, one of the few racing games that's on par with the Mario Kart games and was imo, better than MK64. Nice single-player mode, good battle mode, fun challenges, the game had next-to-no flaws. I would like to point out though that in multiplayer, the game's Blue Shell equivalent shows up a lot in races. Seen it show up more times than the Blue Shell does in MK Wii.

MayhemStaff

#12

Mayhem said:

Diddy Kong Racing to me, is a better one player experience than MK64. Multiplayer... the N64 version still bests DKR. Bit surprised to see no mention of Konami's Krazy Racers or Ubisoft's Street Racer though, as they were the two first real clones to emerge.

DiscoDriver43

#13

DiscoDriver43 said:

Crash Team Racing is such a great kart racer and it aged much better than Mario Kart 64 IMHO. Mario Kart 64 to me is the weakest of the Mario kart games. Any decent clone of mario kart could easily be on par or beat it. Also may i mention Mickey Mouse Speedway USA? Fun game

oh and Mod Nation Racers was a decent game, though it was somewhat limited in track variety. Nice of this article to mention Blur. It is a shame that it was underlooked. Perhaps it would have done better if it didn't have the uncessary swipe at Mario Kart in it's commericals and just advertise it like some action car racing game with power ups.

DreamyViridi

#14

DreamyViridi said:

@Grumblevolcano - You mean MK8 or another Mario Kart in general? In CTR's multiplayer, it appears often; I've seen players get it 4 times in a row in Crash Team Racing! Way worse than MKWii ever was, but again, that's just the multiplayer.
Single-player experience is great and CTR's aged pretty well.

luke88

#16

luke88 said:

I haven't read the article, but I will, I am only here to say that Mario Kart 8 might be the best game I've ever played. It's so, so good; might not make tonight's tourney but am very much looking forward to many more in the future.

Mahe

#17

Mahe said:

Chocobo Racing on the PS1 was great. Crash Team Racing was also good.

It's a shame Chocobo Racing 3D was canned when 3DS wasn't selling so well.

DamoAdmin

#18

Damo said:

@Mayhem The Street Racer guys were going to contribute to this feature but it all fell through at the last minute. We've got another feature on its way which looks at the clones, though.

triforcepower73

#19

triforcepower73 said:

I thought Sonic and All Stars Racing Transformed was a pretty fun game. But idk. It just didn't have that addictiveness that Mario Kart always has had. And so I've maybe played it like 4 times since I got it.

Pahvi

#20

Pahvi said:

Not late (around 1993 or 1994) after Super Mario Kart, on PC there was Wacky Wheels (Beavis Soft/Apogee), and Skunny Kart (?/Copysoft). I remember trying out the demo/shareware versions of them and preferring WW over SK. (I didn't have SNES, so I had to make do with these.)

For me, Sonic All-Stars Racing Transformed was notably more fun than MKWii. I have yet to try and see if I prefer MK8 over Transformed or not.

Peach64

#21

Peach64 said:

Crash Team Racing, Diddy Kong Racing and Sonic and Allstars are all right up there with Mario Kart for me. I'd still love to see a racer with all Nintendo's IP like Smash.

Oh! Wacky Races on Dreamcast as well. Not really karts, but even MK doesn't really feature too many karts anymore.

Goginho

#22

Goginho said:

No match. Mario Kart was and always for now remains the most solid, and overall best Kart racing game series ever. Diddy Kong racing is great, but it's different. It's an adventure mixed with racing. Mario Kart is pure racing epicness, fun :)

onery

#23

onery said:

"It’s the first Nintendo console that I've yet to buy. And frankly, no matter how much of a Mario Kart fan I am, I still don't think that it'll tip the scale for me. I hope I'm wrong."

Since the troubled times of the 3DS we hear this kind of comments of "Yea, I like 'so-and-so game', but it's not gonna make me buy the 'so-and-so' system." The WiiU's stumbles at it's start certainly does not give it much room for further errors, however the stigma from it's birth remains and we're forced to see publishers, developers, critics and players all put down the WiiU as something on it's last legs. These particularly venomous comments, while not wholly unwarranted, does not help with the WiiU's situation and further exacerbate its problems with publishers/developers avoiding the WiiU console, critics bashing games for the console due to the console's negative image and players just being either uninformed consumers or horrid trolls looking for the next lolz for entertainment.

There is hope for the WiiU. Maybe it'll be a success with this title? Granted the 3DS got out of its funk through a release of absolute stellar titles, one of which was none other than MK7. Maybe it'll take a succession of stellar titles like the 3DS did (lord knows we got Bayonetta 2 and Smash Brothers to look forward to amongst others). One thing is for sure, we can't keep looking back at the rather dismal start and keep holding that photograph every step we take into the future. Best thing we can do is to learn from the past and not compare to it... which I believe the big N's doing, albiet in their own way as per usual. While Nintendo does have some practices of thiers that I rather they change/stop, as a force of gaming they are still relevant and I believe that we can help them along through encouragements and constructive criticisms, rather than the tried and tested "Hurr hurr, I like Mario/Zelda/Metroid/etc etc, but the WiiU is dead. Don't see no reason to buy WiiU," sort of thing andirealiseiambeingimmaturesoibeststopnow.

This reply has been particularly hard to write out, getting my head on what to say and editing and re-editing. So I understand if what I mean to say does not come through well. However just take this as a tl;dr if you please: I'm going to get Mario Kart 8 and I'm going to play the hell out of it. ;)

Luffymcduck

#25

Luffymcduck said:

Crash Team Racing (number 1) and Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (number 2) are better games than ANY Mario Kart title in the series. I used to play MK64 and Diddy Kong Racing (better than MK64) with my cousins when I was a kid, then I discovered CTR and the rest is history. CTR just works perfectly, drifting is awesome and the jump turbo mechanic is better than any trick system in MK so far.

ACK

#26

ACK said:

These games aren't even close. Fire up Time Trials in any one and the shoddy physics and convoluted track design will be all to obvious. SR: Transformed is probably the worst offender (atrocious rubber-banding, to boot).

Crash Tag Team Racing is probably the closest competitor... But I'm going to vouch for Excite Bots, as well. Actually, Excite Truck is where it's at for me (probably a top five racer all time for me), but that's less similar to MK...

Kirk

#27

Kirk said:

Well some gamers would definitely argue that Wipeout beat Nintendo at the sci-fi futuristic racing game.

Personally, I still prefer F-Zero's pure skill based racing but I also though Wipeout was brilliant.

Diddy Kong racing was actually the better racer over Mario Kart imo but that's just me.

The rest I either haven't played or don't really have much of an option either way.

Dr_Corndog

#28

Dr_Corndog said:

Super Mario Kart on the SNES was the stuff. One of the absolute top moments of my long gaming career.

Jetset

#29

Jetset said:

Steve Lycett wants another price drop on the Wii U? The Deluxe Set price has already dropped $50 since launch and is already $100 dollars cheaper than the PS4. It's getting ridiculous that people want the Wii U's price to drop even further... It's an HD console that's already $100 cheaper than the PS4, and has already dropped $50 since launch.

People need to quit asking for another price drop.

eaglebob345

#30

eaglebob345 said:

Some of these developers give themselves way too much credit. You can't make a game that is better than another just from playing it. You have to know what makes that game so great, and what makes that genre so great.

For example, CoD is played out... a lot, but it is still one of, if not THE best, FPS games because Actvision is so good at it. Just look at Buggyfield 4 for example: EA was so invested in beating Activision in the FPS market, they forgot what made them what they were. They also released their game buggier than as frog poo, but that was their bad management at work as well.

MadAdam81

#31

MadAdam81 said:

CTR was the best kart racer ever, at least until Double Dash came out. As far as battle mode, I think it wasn't until MK7 that Nintendo even got close with fun maps, and I'm glad they're going away from that style and doing something different. In fact, if I remember right, MK borrowed battle mode from CTR, and only just realised they should have done their own battle mode.

Yorumi

#32

Yorumi said:

@ACK you're really going to complain about rubber banding? MK is infamous for it's absolutely ridiculous rubber banding. In sonic racing even on expert I'm able to pull away from the pack a good degree. In MK they're always right on you no matter how good you race.

For me I wish some people would get out and try some things new. There are just so many amazing racers that have brought great ideas that fall into obscurity for no other reason than they don't have mario in the name. CTR, sonic racing, diddy kong, snowboard kids etc. Sadly because of the mario game we mostly get a clone every console and people saying ridiculous things like slightly altering the friction underwater is game changing but an airplane isn't.

Blue-Thunder

#34

Blue-Thunder said:

Something I learned a long time ago is don't believe people who say a clone is better than Nintendo's effort.

Super Mario Kart was a revolution.

@MadAdam81
CRT? Your having a laugh? CRT better than Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 64 lol. Keep believing your own hype.

Action51

#35

Action51 said:

Crash Team Racing....ugh

Crash Bandicoot is my single least favorite thing in gaming. In a lot of ways, Crash represents the very beginning of gaming no longer being in the realm of creators and artists, but instead being dictated by soul-less suits looking to exploit a cynical formula. It succeeds at copying everything on a superficial level from their competition and forcing it into an ugly, overhyped, bland game that fails to capture the artistry or creativity of the works that it blatantly steals from.

To put it bluntly, Crash Bandicoot is Poochie from the classic Simpsons episode in video game form. Before you say I'm just being anti-Sony, please note that I actually love the PS1 and owned tons of games for it, including Jet Moto, which was a great racing game series.

flightsaber

#36

flightsaber said:

A lot of good kart racing devs in this interview...would have loved to see the Freaky Fliers devs as well, but they might be harder to track down at this point.

The_Fox

#37

The_Fox said:

The original Crash Team Racing was far better than Mario Kart. It's just a shame the franchise was passed off to other developers for the sequels.

Excep7ional

#38

Excep7ional said:

Yeah I have to say that Crash Team racing was far superior to any other kart racing game in my opinion. The tracks were better and the gameplay was very fun. Not to mention that games adventure mode where you can drive around in the world to the next race track, finding hidden keys to unlock extra stuff in said world, etc. I wish they would make a new one, but since it has aged so well I just may download it onto the vita or my PS3. Game is a pure classic.

evildevil97

#39

evildevil97 said:

I clocked more hours in CTR than any Mario Kart game. I still replay it from time to time, seventeen years later.

Diddy Kong Racing and Sonic Transformers are both good games, but they didn't do anything for me. They both felt pretty clunky. (So did Mario Kart 64, come to think of it.)

Since CTR (and even it's first sequel), only Mario Kart games work for me.

sleepinglion

#40

sleepinglion said:

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is a gem (and probably pretty darn cheap by now). I enjoy it every bit as much as the MK line and originally bought it on a whim just because it featured a Golden Axe level. Turns out the rest of the game was incredibly well done!

outsider83

#41

outsider83 said:

To this day, I regret not buying Diddy Kong Racing on the N64. I was excited about the DS remake, until the reviews came in. :( I remember when Pacman had a kart racer. I had Sonic Drift (I also think there was a sequel) for the Game Gear. I had good times with it. I wonder if I played it today would I enjoy it. I'll have to dig out my GameCube and Sonic Collection (or Gems, forget which one), and play it.

Hy8ogen

#42

Hy8ogen said:

Am I the only one who played the final fantasy chocobo racing game back on the PS1? that game was some proper fun! But I think this new Mario Kart 8 is going to push the karting genre into new heights! Can't wait to pick up my copy! :D

luke88

#44

luke88 said:

@eaglebob345 BF4 is infinitely superior to any COD game, in my opinion. All of the bugs have been ironed out now, don't get me wrong, I was pretty furious when I first got it to find it in the state it was but it is a better FPS than COD. Neither compare to MK8 though in terms of being a joy to play - transparent attempt to stay on topic.

unrandomsam

#45

unrandomsam said:

@luke88 What about comparing it to Wolfenstein ? (If you have played both). I like the look of Wolfenstein but haven't bought it yet.

kensredemption

#46

kensredemption said:

My SNES days were consumed with platformers and fighters, so I don't remember the original Mario Kart that well. In fact, all I remember from my SNES days were Yoshi's Story and Killer Instinct. My first karting game was Diddy Kong Racing and I loved every second of it. Pigma was stupid and obnoxious, but shooting at his fat butt with the super rocket was the most fun I've ever had. Ha ha ha. Nowadays, I'm content with harassing other players with the same items to make races interesting, hence, my fandom for MK8, regardless of the naysaying ninnies and frustrating fanhermaphrodites.

rastamadeus

#47

rastamadeus said:

@Action51 If you could like comments you'd have got a like from me. Crash can burn in hell. Hate him with a passion.

As for CTR it was good back in the day if you fancied a change but it was so boring after a couple of races with awful power-ups and genuinely dreadful music and sound effects. Personally I wouldn't put it anywhere near any Mario Kart. The two Sumo Sega titles are identical to each other in that they're both initially near MK beaters but after the excitement dies down you just get bored. Nice to see that Lycett is still his smug, all-about-me self.

Yorumi

#48

Yorumi said:

@rastamadeus here's the thing I don't seem to understand and no one seems to answer. There seems to be a huge double standard when it comes to MK. Specifically you say the tracks get boring after a while but how is MK any different? You're racing the same tracks taking the same lines over and over. At least sonic transformed had multiple paths in some tracks which is more than MK can say.

I'm not trying to be hyper critical of MK but why is there such a double standard? It just seems like every criticism leveled against other racers apply in many cases to an even greater extent to MK.

rastamadeus

#49

rastamadeus said:

@Yorumi Sonic Transformed does have multiple paths which make a tiny bit of difference but it then relies on set pieces to keep things interesting. That's the mark of a boring track. Once you get over the initial "that's cool" moment hardly any of the tracks are memorable. Don't get me wrong, I really like SRT, got the Platinum for it on both PS3 and Vita. But it's nowhere near Mario Kart - and I'm a die hard Sega fanboy.

The Mario Kart ones are like all racing games best tracks: memorable. There's very few Mario Kart tracks I can't see and play in my head. Other companies rely on gimmicks to make the game stand out, Nintendo just seem to concentrate on making the game stand out by being quality.

WiiULoveSquid

#50

WiiULoveSquid said:

These devs are just jealous that Mario Kart even on the Nintendooomed Wii U gets more hype than their own knock off software.

The industry can move away from Nintendo with their realistic McClaren's and army men, but cartoon character games will always have a place and a charm that they can't replace, and nobody does them better than Nintendo.

Yorumi

#51

Yorumi said:

@rastamadeus you can't remember the tracks in sonic transformed? I can remember just about every single one and they're just as good as any MK track. Same for DKR, and snowboard kids. What gimicks are they relying on anyway that again doesn't apply to MK to a greater degree? Anti-grav in which the devs even said you wouldn't really notice it until replays? Short glider sections where 90% of the time you slowly fall to the ground? Underwater where they slightly adjusted the friction? Allowing you to hold two items instead of one?

I mean lets face it if MK 8 was instead "insert some other company's mascot" racing game everyone would be talking about how gimmicky the gliders, underwater, and anti-grav are. And likewise if sonic transformed was mk8 people would be praising it giving it 20/10 for doing such a good job of breathing new life into the MK formula while staying true to it's roots.

It's just kind of starting to annoy me a lot that almost everyone is saying MK is better for no other reason at all than it's nintendo. No matter what someone else does it's just a gimmick, but no matter how little impact something nintendo does on the game it's revolutionary and memorable.

Nintendo is supposedly head and shoulders above the competition but somehow no one can come up with any reason why other than vague generalities?

rastamadeus

#52

rastamadeus said:

@Yorumi You asked me for my opinion and I gave it. You replied back having a sulk and a tantrum as I didn't agree with you. People are allowed to like what they want. If someone prefers Mario Kart to Sonic Racing Transformed then big whoop. Grow a pair and accept people has different opinions to you. Have a good evening.

Yorumi

#54

Yorumi said:

@rastamadeus no need for that tone, I was explaining why I think you're using a double standard which is what I was initially asking about. I don't get it, every time someone asks why MK is so much better people go storming off in huff. Lets use one standard to judge racing, if sonic is relying on gimmicks then MK is too. It does us no good as gamers to say sonic is bad for relying on gimmicks but MK is good for relying on gimmicks.

The reason the double standard annoys me is it means nintendo can be lazy which is what they're doing with any new features. I don't necessarily want someone else to beat mario kart, I want to see the game be truly amazing. As gamers we should like games, but this extreme closed mindedness toward anything non-nintendo is crippling the system.

Imagine the great racers we'd get if nintendo and sumo were fighting to the death to make the best kart racer, or a more terrifying thought working together on a crossover racer. My overall point with these semi-rants is if we wern't so closed minded about games we'd be sparking a lot of creativity on the system. Instead we ignore others with nothing at all tangible and don't give anyone else a chance to succeed.

eaglebob345

#55

eaglebob345 said:

@luke88 First off, I wasn't comparing MK to BF or CoD. What I was saying was that MK is above other kart racer because it is known and good and that simply copying another game WILL NOT get you the desired results. It just so happens that the developers in the article, the one I was referring to, were going off of sales figures. It is the same with CoD over most, if not all, FPS out there THEN I COMPARED COD TO BATTLEFIELD. CoD is stomping BF in sales and quality because Activision knows what their fans like. EA is just trying to compete by rushing unfinished games out the door. I think I get what your trying to say: you think that since just CoD is on the Wii U, I am trying to defend it. Sorry to burst your bubble, but I don't play any of the FPS army rehash games. I am just calling it based of of consumer reactions and sales figures. So, because of that little mix up let me give you another example.

Soul Sacrifice could very well be a good game. I wouldn't know because I don't have or want a Vita atm (if KH shows up on there we'll talk). Soul Sacrifice was rumored to mimic MH and to want to steal from it's fanbase. Just because it may play like it is MH doesn't make it MH, but since that is what they are trying to combat, that is what they are compared to. That alleged plan didn't work.

DiscoDriver43

#56

DiscoDriver43 said:

You know, i actually just played some a source game called SuperTuxKart. It is actually pretty decent kart racer for an open source game.

Williaint

#57

Williaint said:

SnowBoard Kids is number 3, in "adventure" for me ( After MK and Diddy Kong Racing)

BinaryFragger

#58

BinaryFragger said:

I'm glad Blur was mentioned, it's one of the funnest split-screen experiences from the past generation. Very fun and chaotic game.

ACK

#59

ACK said:

@Yorumi I have no trouble far outpacing most opponents in any recent Mario Kart either... Your point?

The item balance and track design make Mario Kart a more competitive racer, so people seem to overestimate the unfairness at work. Mastering your line, nailing the shortcuts, strategizing your weapon use, and properly adapting your tactics are enough to win 95% of MK races. The Blue Shell is so overblown... Since I mastered the turbo-dodge (MK Wii), I swear I've dodged as many as I've been hit by. (Personally I find the All Star moves far more unbalanced--everything else is basically useless--and obtrusive, but hey, whatever...)

To me, few racing games, period have been as fair, as competitive, and as accessible as the Mario Kart series at its best. Don't mistake that accessibility for imbalance, as simply because a newbie can pick the game up quickly (unlike say, SR: Transformed) that doesn't equate to a lack of skill or expertise required to be a top competitor. Mario Kart makes gamers have to work even harder to master all the phases because they all have proper weight.

Study the tracks, focus above all else on a perfect line, drift like an artist, maximize item use (treat mushrooms like gold--all shortcuts rely upon them, among other uses), and master the art of shaving seconds. To be a Mario Kart master is to play more than most others play one of the most popular and heavily played racing series around...

Luffymcduck

#60

Luffymcduck said:

I'd really welcome more competitors for Mario Kart with open hands. CTR is still my favourite, but since Naughty Dog didn't make new Crash games after that it was left to other developers (haven't played the two other Crash racers). Sonic All-Stars Racing Transformed is the best competitor to MK currently (and I prefer Sonic in this one). I really hope they make more Sonic Racing games. Good competition is healthy for all franchises to improve themselves.

Yorumi

#61

Yorumi said:

@ACK wait so is rubber banding a problem or not? If you can pull ahead then rubber banding isn't a problem, if you can't then it is.

I'm kind of curious now can you give specifics about what makes the MK track design so much more competitive and sonic uncompetitive?

ACK

#62

ACK said:

As far as track designs go, the idea is that every inch of every recent MK track is unique and identifiable. This lends to a degree of familiarity and navigability that is both apparent and invasive to all players. Moreover, shortcuts tend to be perfectly balanced between risk and advantage along with an element of creativity. The tracks and dynamics are often more conducive to a range of racing styles and add just enough unpredictability to keep everyone on their toes.

As for SR: Transformed, I could write paragraphs about what I dislike about the track designs (I've played the Time Trial modes in both Transformed and All-Stars extensively). For starters, the transforming mechanic is a neat gimmick, but terrible mechanic. The physics, handling, and refinement of flying and boating are lacking compared to racing on wheels. This does a massive disservice to the track design because most are rendered somewhat un-digestable. Sort of like a meal with too many imbalanced ingredients.

To most, I know the tracks themselves are convoluted and obtuse to comprehend. The shortcuts are too restrictive and inconspicuous. As such, racing in Transformed is uncomfortably rote. Add in generic, vaguely pointless weapons and you have a game where few people I know (who love games like Mario Kart) can tolerate the design and balance deficiencies.

I like Transformed, but I've experienced first hand how hard it is to introduce to willing, competent gamers who want more MK-like games. It rarely succeeds on any front... And, truthfully, I myself find it a much harder game to wring enjoyment from. And as such I cannot say it compares favorably to MK.

Nothing against the game or anyone who adores it, I just haven't seen much success in pulling anyone else in to play with me, in my hundred or so hours... So, I've spent a lot of time around the track wondering why this group (of all types) that kills for MK and is into the F-Zeros, Wipeouts, Burnouts, Excite Trucks, etc... Can't find much desire to play Transformed (All Stars roped in a few). Track design and weapon desire are MAJOR aspects.

I know this because essentially all these like the handling and adore the music and characters.

ACK

#63

ACK said:

Rubber banding is a complicated dynamic that is difficult to quantify or address. Honestly I don't have the time after furiously tapping the two previous comments on my phone while waiting for my wife at the dentist office. I understand how it works in MK games, but I find Transformed to be strange and difficult to compensate for. Transformed seems to operate best with opponents of similar skill, but when there is a gap, the effect is unreliable and off-putting. My opinion, again based upon the obstacles to maintaining others' interest.

Yorumi

#64

Yorumi said:

You didn't say anything. You made a vague rant against sonic and vague praise of MK. I don't get it you say rubber banding is a problem and then isn't at the same time, then when asked for specifics you give vague generalities and base all this on purely anecdotal evidence. Beyond that when you call the weapons in sonic pointless I have to wonder how much time you've spent on it.

jpcline004

#65

jpcline004 said:

I love the quote from the Wipout dev. The "zen mode" in 150cc is one of my favorite experiences in any video game ever. I felt it again in Mario Kart 7 as I mastered every track.

Can't wait to play 8.

ACK

#66

ACK said:

@Yorumi Read it again, but vague? I'm not penning professional reviews here. Anecdotal evidence? I've played the game and shared the game, both extensively though not so much recently. I've watched nothing short of two dozen different gamers of all kinds attempt to come to grips with this game. Call it what you will but it is my experience. Most gamers do not like Transformed all that much. It has a group of fervent fans, but many were just as fervent in their immediate disinterest. Even those who loved All Stars. I'm in the middle. I like it no more or less than All Stars, which I found to be a competent gapper between MK releases. Little more, but at least with that game I could mobilize a few friends...

Playing Transformed primarily alone or online does not serve its memory well.

As for RB, the MK games are well-designed and polished. The SR games are not as much. Some mechanics are therefore less consistent and reliable. The fact that RB exists isn't always a problem, inconsistencies in its implementation are. As I said, it's a complicated dynamic that people use a general negative towards MK when most racing games utilize it.

Yorumi

#67

Yorumi said:

@ACK I feel you don't understand the words being used. Anecdotal evidence doesn't mean you havn't played it. When you say people don't like it because I tried getting a few people to play and they didn't that's called anecdotal evidence.

Also could you perhaps cite sources for "most gamers not liking it" or the equal number of people with immediate disinterest? I'm not saying the game was massively popular, but even in the genesis hayday sega wasn't as popular as nintendo and we're far removed from that. That makes the game a rather more obscure title, but popularity has nothing to do with quality.

You say MK is better designed, a statement of fact, and yet can't seem to back it up with any kind of specifics. Can you not give some level of comparison between the two and express what makes something better and why?

ToxieDogg

#70

ToxieDogg said:

Sad that so many people remember Diddy Kong Racing on N64 but Mickey's Speedway USA is pretty much forgotten...as a pure kart racer, it's also excellent, and again beats Mario Kart 64 IMHO.

The worst clone is Sonic Drift...Sega's blatant rip off starring Sonic and his pals....it absolutely sucked.

AlexSora89

#71

AlexSora89 said:

Crash Team Racing has always been my favorite. The closest Mario Kart ever got to its feel was Mario Kart DS, but even then, CTR had some je-ne-sais-quoi that Mario Kart could never quite replicate. Both schools of thought provide awesome gameplay, but they're like parallel lines - they follow their own paths without them ever crossing over.

SparkOfSpirit

#72

SparkOfSpirit said:

"From my own experiences now as a parent, kids are more likely to want to play Forza 5 online in a photo-realistic McLaren P1 than try to clout Bowser with a Red Shell. Kids have moved on."

Sales don't seem to indicate that. I'm not sure why western devs still think kids care about "photo-realism". Kids like games that are fun. I don't know too many Mario Kart players that switch to Forza of all things.

Of_Folsense

#74

Of_Folsense said:

I had a gbc game simply called mickey's racing or something like that. I don't know how many have played or remember that game but it's is one of my favorite racers ever, despite the limited technology of gbc. It was kind of a sim/kart racer if i remember corectly. I had as much fun with that old game as any mario kart.

R_Champ

#75

R_Champ said:

@Action51

Ouch...harsh, lol. I can't say I'm a huge Crash fan, but I don't hate him that much. Jet Moto rocked though. The grapple beam was just too cool! Forget people who tried to copy Mario Kart, let's celebrate those who did something original like Jet Moto.

In terms of Mario Kart look alikes, I find that it just can't be beat on a base level. Sure games like Diddy Kong Racing have a better campaign. Or games like Wipeout might have better physics, but you just can't beat the pure multiplayer fun provided by the Mario Kart series IMO.

Theober555

#76

Theober555 said:

I would do anything for another Crash Bandicoot racing game as good as Crash Team Racing

Action51

#78

Action51 said:

@R_Champ - Jet Moto, absolutely terrible clipping and garbage framerates, but at the time it was pure awesome. It felt like a real sport that could happen in the near future.

As far as Crash goes, I'm gonna sound like I'm trashing Sony a little, and perhaps I am, but Crash, Ratchet and Clank and Jak and Daxter were all cynical attempts to copy the success and style of Nintendo and Sega, before they realized they needed to switch to blatantly copying the style and feel of Microsoft and Valve.

All those attempts at "mascots with attitude" from Sony never had any appeal to me...Knack is the most recent and blatant offender. It's what you get when a bunch of suits who don't understand Mario, Sonic, and Kirby throw a ton of money at developers who don't like Mario, Sonic, or Kirby, to make a game to compete with Mario, Sonic, and Kirby.

That's my cynical take :P Sony has some great games...but they never did the charm and whimsy stuff well. (maybe Ratchet and Clank a little, maybe)

electrolite77

#79

electrolite77 said:

Some fine games referenced in this article. It's a testament to how good Mario Kart games are. It's like in music when people discuss the Beatles or Dylan or Springsteen, it's not just about their own work, it's the people they inspired. Good read NL, cheers.

electrolite77

#80

electrolite77 said:

@Action51

The characters aren't as good but Sony have some fine platformers, it's one of the main reasons I keep buying their consoles. Ratchet and Clank has generally been consistent, Sly and Little Big Planet are worthy titles.

Crash games were good when Naughty Dog were involved, the third one and CTR on the PS1 especially. Jak and Daxter meanwhile might be uninspiring characters but the first game in particular is marvellous. While it's no match for Mario 64 or the Galaxy's it was a real shock to me back in 01/02 because it's a better game than Mario Sunshine, it's contemporary. They never matched it but it's a great game.

To labour my music analogy though, you get a few bands who can come up with one album that matches up to Beatles standards, but they never do it consistently. Unlike the masters. So while J&D disappeared down a culdesac of emo characterisation and ill-advised GTA mechanics, Mario came back with the Galaxy games and 3D World.

PJR0cks

#81

PJR0cks said:

I haven't played the crash games or Diddy kong, but people comparing sonic to Mario kart series and saying it's better! funniest joke ever, if you actually believe that to be true you really have no clue what MK is all about.
I feel sad for Nintendo that they put so much effort to make such a polished racer and a lot of fans here can't even realize it. It's never been about the characters, the courses, or the Mario brand, it's been about it's game play.
And I don't feel like I wanna try Crash, why? because Mario Kart is always better than anything I can Imagine, starting tomorrow I will be playing MK8 and loving it. (I had 2 very busy days)

GreatPlayer

#82

GreatPlayer said:

Lots of gamers are comparing Sonic Transformed with MK8.

I just purchased and played MK8 because of the deal of getting another Nintendo game. I don't hate MK games but they are not just motivating enough for me to buy it alone.

When the first time I played Sonic Transformed demo, I immediately hooked to this game due to the variety of gameplay - kart, boat, and flight racing. Also, most of the tracks changes itself from lap to lap. The more I played it, the more I like the technical aspect of the game (you can drift 80% of the time in some track). The downside is the graphics is not as good as the PC version, and in one particular track (Sky of Acadia) there is occasional lagging in all the console versions (but not in PC version). I stop playing kart games since MK GBA and Sonic Transformed made me playing it again.

How should I say about MK8? First, it is less technical than Sonic Transformed, and I do like more technical games usually. People saying that the anti-gravity is more like a gimmick, and I also do not feel the anti-gravity effect. It is overall a very fine game, although I was not able to keep my boasting momentum while drifting from one turn to another turn (maybe because I have not mastered the game but the game does not have tutorials for me to learn... another minus for me). Also, there is an imbalance in punishment - I do not like the kart actually comes to a nearly complete halt when I was hit by a shell, while I can pick up my speed quite fast if my kart drops down a hill. If people feel that MK8 is more polished than Sonic Transformed I agree. But the MK series have not improved significantly from one game to another and the games start to feel generic to me.

Samurai_Goroh

#83

Samurai_Goroh said:

The problem with Transformed it's that it is filled with atrocious bugs. Yes, they had the right ideas, characters, good track design, drifting and flipping are neat, and it's very addictive to play, when things work.
When they do not, you get frame-rate drops, wonky physics when you go to a spot you're not supposed to and at least on Wii U complete console freezes. It could be the Mario Kart killer but it lacks polish. Unforgivable. Better luck next time (and I do hope we get a Transformed 2). Mario Kart 8 may not reinvent the franchise but it is a very polished piece of software that never disappoints.

ReigningSemtex

#84

ReigningSemtex said:

I would have to say that I think diddy kong racing did better mario kart 64 back in the n64 days crash team racing was a good attempt but didn't quite have that mario magic. Loving mario kart 8 so far

CaPPa

#85

CaPPa said:

Nothing matches up to Mario Kart for me. Sure other games have had more features, but they lack a certain intangible quality that Nintendo games always seem to have. It's the same with platformers, the Nintendo ones just 'feel' better.

Donjwolf

#86

Donjwolf said:

I've only played a few of those. Blur was blah, but the WipEout series and Sonic Racing: Transformed are awesome games. Sorry, I'm not a big Mario Kart fan, and these two games (well, one series and one game) are better than MK for me. Props for giving these devs the inspiration though.

GreatPlayer

#88

GreatPlayer said:

Graphically, Sonic Transformed is a much more intense game, with large monuments falling apart or changing while going through from one lap to the next. It is also designed so that for each track, those in the lead will face more obstacles than those fell behind. I was surprised that Mario Kart 8 did not implement any of these changes. If run on computers Sonic ran at the crisp 60 ftp with more details including intricate shading than Mario Kart 8. The shading of the kart shadows in Mario Kart 8 is somewhat incomplete and rudimentary.

If you want to compare graphics, you can simply take Ringroad in MK8 and Galactic Parade in Sonic Transformed. Galactic Parade is more vibrant and filled with details in Sonic Transformed.

GreatPlayer

#90

GreatPlayer said:

@Yorumi Rogue's Landing is my most favourite track. I even like the flying portion more than the kart racing. I can beat anyone on Rogue's Landing.

It seems that Sega originally did not intend Sonic Transformed to be on any particular console. If it was intended to a console, Sega would have scaled down the graphics and made it more capable for that console.

Rogue's landing reveals clearly what a console was capable (and incapable) of.

ACK

#91

ACK said:

@Yorumi I can see there is no point in going on. I'm simply stating my opinion about and experiences with Mario Kart and Transformed. I don't care if you agree. I clarified my own personal opinions with the perspective I've gained from playing with others. You are skirting a line of belittlement.

YOU have not said anything of substance in your comments towards me. I talked at length about both MK and Transformed. You haven't, simply asking me to back myself up and expand my argument. I have better things to do than regurgitate my opinions to make them more digest able to you.

ACK

#92

ACK said:

My issue was never with the definition of "anecdotal evidence", it was the usage. I was saying your assertion that my argument was just vague and anecdotal was backhanded and an inappropriate dismissal. Comprehension has nothing to do with it.

I was never trying to conjure evidence to support a conclusion. I was explaining my experience with Transformed, playing with MANY other people firsthand and how that colored my perception of Transformed's drawbacks. Those experiences made me questioned certain aspects of Transformed in ways I hadn't while previously playing by myself. Hence, those experiences influenced, in some way, my opinions about Transformed.

As such, I thought it worth bringing up as opposed to just ranting purely about my tastes. Anyways, it's not so black and white.

Yorumi

#93

Yorumi said:

@ACK I don't get it. Is your opinion based on nothing at all? You made a statement of fact "mk tracks are better designed." When I ask you for evidence you say it's belittlement. Opinions are still based on something is it not possible to back it up with anything at all about what makes the track design better? I don't get it you ask almost anyone why they think MK is better and they start throwing a fit and give you every reason under the sun why they're not going to explain how they've arrived at the conclusions they have.

Why is it such a controversial topic to discuss opinions of kart racers? It doesn't make any sense at all.

GreatPlayer

#94

GreatPlayer said:

@Yorumi @ACK I have heard many people saying that MK 8 is better designed, but I have not heard one substantive reason why it is better designed. I admit that there are flaws in Sonic Transformed, but the innovation in terms of design and far exceed its drawbacks. Here we are rating the actual game, rather than anecdotal evidence or the company that made the game. Therefore, I just come to one reason why MK 8 is better: stereotyping.

ACK

#95

ACK said:

@Yorumi What are you talking about? My opinions are based upon hundreds of hours playing Time Trials in Transformed along with my inability to enjoy multiplayer with various friends. I've already stated that. Your aloof, condescending tone does nobody any favors. Read post #62, I went in as much depth as I care to at the moment about the track designs. I don't have the time to write an essay about track design in a couple games. I've been tapping every post on my phone and still have been overly verbose...

Meanwhile, you have said nothing to me about either MK or Transformed. Not one opinion, not one piece of insight, not a anything. So why should I bother when you are doing nothing more than challenging my viewpoints.

Yorumi

#96

Yorumi said:

@ACK "Meanwhile, you have said nothing to me about either MK or Transformed. Not one opinion, not one piece of insight, not a anything. So why should I bother when you are doing nothing more than challenging my viewpoints."

you never asked for anything. My first question I stated that I was curious why you think MK is better designed and you've been attacking me ever since. You never once asked for any clarification, or what my opinions are or what I think about the games, you just went straight on the attack. You've typed essays about why you're not going to type essays and have spent more time on the attack than anything else.

If you want to have a discussion I'm happy to, but you're going to have to understand it's not a personal attack when someone asks you a question. If anyone has been making personal attacks it's you. If you want ask me about something then do so, but leave all the personal attacks out. Otherwise I'm done.

ACK

#97

ACK said:

It's a discussion... Not an interrogation. From my count you have posted three comments simply questioning my opinions and/or attacking my knowledge and insight. I've answered despite your assertions that I'm vague or said nothing at all. It appears you were more interested in passive aggressively dismissing or ignoring my words.

I posted five substantial posts exclusively dedicated to discussing these two games, clarifying my opinions, and explaining my stance/reasoning. Meanwhile, part of two posts are defensively devoted to establishing the hypocritical tone and overall lack of discussion on your part and I'm spending more time in the attack than anything? Please. Only one of us appears to be discussing/comparing racing games.

Yorumi

#98

Yorumi said:

I'll try one last time. Specifics, that's what I'm looking for. What specific part of tracks in sonic was bad, and why was it good in MK?

The way I see it both are about even, they have their good points and bad. Both are decent at implementing risk/reward but neither shines. Most shortcuts in both games are either trivial or too risky to use in any real race.

MK's item placement is bad, it's a wall across the track at multiple points in every track. This leads to item spam in all tracks, while sonic leaves gaps between item boxes so you can still get them they just arn't nearly as automatic as MK's. Many of MK's items are also skillless. Bullet bill, blue shell, red shell, lightning, parana plant, coin.

As far as tracks a lot of MK's from non-3d systems are terrible. Very tight, square corners and heavily favor handling over anything else. There's also some tracks that have bad camera angles that don't let you see, as well as blind corners into dynamic sections which give you little to no time to react. An example of this is the second fire spinner in bowser's castle in 8. You come around a blind corner and have no idea where the bars are until you're right no top of them.

Sonic also suffers in some areas. The burning rangers level has a lot of 90 degree turns in tight tunnels. Even with high handling cars you're usually slapping the wall a few times. The arcade track(i forget the name) that's one of the final levels leaves little to no room for maneuverering. Without items that wouldn't be so bad, but with items you just kind of end up being a sitting duck. The boating section of night's level leaves a lot to be desired as well.

Sonic's transformations are integrated into the core of the gameplay. Shortcuts are based on catching a transformation, and some sections allow you to choose your vehicle. MK's 3 modes are more graphical tweaks than anything truly in the core of the gameplay.

Finally there's the stunt boosts. MK gives you a boost for hitting a button at the right time and there's no risk for a failure. Sonic rewards skill, you have to land it or you'll slow down. You can risk more for more boost but you'll lose it all if you don't land it.

So ultimately I think they're about even. They have good and bad points as far as design goes but there's no clear winner.

ACK

#99

ACK said:

OK, I'm near ready to fire up the grill, but I will continue the discussion either later tonight or tomorrow by offering specific contrasts in a manner similar to your own. I will say I do agree with some of your points, but that I appear to see some aspects of SART as less beneficial than you.

One example that I will expand on quickly are the transformations as they nearly lead to me liking SART less than it's predecessor despite being hyped about the mechanic prior to launch:

To me, the brilliance of MK's (particularly 7 and 8) are how the mechanics are both similar yet nuanced. First of all, each dynamic has minor changes in physics and handling that alters maneuverability and requires adaption without any jarring transitions or unwieldy controls. Yet the real accomplishments are the subtle possibilities and opportunities afforded by these sections for those able and willing to master the mechanics, take risks, and experiment with their line.

That is, diving underwater at the proper angle to to carry a speed boost and slow your descent, allowing for unique advantages and creative lines. Maximizing your glider flight by kissing jumps or boosting your speed by ascending then diving. Bumping into obstacles and other racers (preferably after feeding them a shell/peel) to manufacture speed boosts and forge a dynamic racing line. These tricks are entirely optional and left for discovery, so the transitions are accessible and entertaining diversions for all, rather than dreaded pursuits for some.

By comparison, in SART the transformations are needlessly jarring and vastly increase the barrier to comprehension and familiarity with tracks. While thrilling, they often prevent newcomers from quickly grasping the mechanics of any of the vehicles, which is a massive problem for local multiplayer parties (my main use for arcade racers, outside of time trials) and probably not worth the demands of transforming tracks (as opposed to varied vehicles per track — which might have also multiplied the number of tracks while isolating the vehicles for those who desire them).

Additionally, these sections render already complicated tracks as somewhat indecipherable at times. Even after my 100th go at a TT run I will sometimes still confuse bends and mistake sections (the visual fidelity on consoles is a disservice, ad well). The effort to determining an ideal racing line (in time trials) is immense and demands too much effort, honestly, to result in a comparable entertainment value.

Meanwhile, the transformations do enhance track variety and appeal, but many individual sections are actually more restrictive than I'd like in a kart-style racer. The tracks tend to not have as many opportunities to create a shortcut out of thin air by boosting through off the track and/or threading some obstacles. And the shortcuts themselves are little rote in how they tend to demand mostly memorization of how to hit a few risky bends and/or a transformation rather than challenging racers to exploit various tricky mechanics while taking a risky line. To this end I certainly favor the more subtle transformations of MK 7 and 8.

OK, I REALLY need to go. I have much more to add, but I'll have to do so later.

GougeMan

#100

GougeMan said:

@Realgamer4life Not so much to ask since they are just sitting on all the NES/SNES ROM files trying to get $4.99 a pop for something that cost them nothing. Why not turn that into an advantage for the Wii U. If promoted right, people would buy Wii U's for that alone.

Yorumi

#101

Yorumi said:

@ACK my problem is I feel you're saying complex equals bad design. Furthermore you keep saying the tracks are indecipherable, which suggests that you can't figure out how to race them. Yet plenty of people have no trouble figuring them out. I can't think of any track where I had no idea where to go at any time, they're all pretty straight forward.

On top of that one of MK's cons is using bad camera angles or having the track block itself so you can't see what's in front of you. There's even a track where you come up a hill out of water into an immediate and sharp left turn totally blind. Without prior knowledge of the track you have no indication that's there.

It just seems like sonic is being nitpicked while every flaw in MK is being overlooked. I think it's also rather unfair to keep saying a core gameplay element is a gimmick while great design is something you'll barely notice any difference with.

GreatPlayer

#102

GreatPlayer said:

@ACK Every new game has changes from its predecessor. The fact that MK8 only has nuanced changes imply that the developer does not want to take risk. Yes, there are much more variety within a single track in Sonic Transformed, and this will take longer for players to be fully familar with them. I see it as a strength as opposed to the weakness which is apparent in the monotonous MK8.

I think you are also wrong when saying that Sonic Transformed does not allow users to create shortcut out of thin air. In most flying stages advanced users usually employ difficult drifting to gain additional boosting creatively. Also in flying stages players are encouraged not to follow a normal route and to discover shortcut by themselves. I found that even many online players have not exploited all these additional tricks.

Also, I have to say that the drifting control in MK8 is far from optimal. It is more difficult to pull off than Sonic Transformed. In addition, I am really disappointed that drifting does not maintain its momentum when swinging from one turn to the next. Instead, the kart (undesirability) boosts and goes off the track after the first drifting while a player may be preparing the second drifting that follows. In addition, often I thought I was pulling off a drifting but only later I realised that I was not. There is no reason for Nintendo to make drifting like a chore instead of a fun mechanic. Ugh...

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