We can't expect franchises to stay the same forever, but when the crowd-dividing Blue Shell was introduced to the Mario Kart series back in Mario Kart 64, maybe not all of us expected it to stay through to the modern day instalments.
Hideki Konno is one of the main players behind the series, having served as director for Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 64, and producer on Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart Wii, he's in a pretty good position to justify the inclusion of the power-up item that smashes into the racer who's enjoying the delights of first position, with less than a handful of ways in which to escape.
Speaking to Kotaku, Konno defends the power-up that has been responsible for costing players a place in the top positions before the race is over:
You know, with [Mario Kart] Wii, at least you can avoid it... The timing is tough, but at least you can avoid it.... Fundamentally we’re always playing while we’re making adjustments [to the games,]... We usually have some sort of theme to direct what we’re looking at. With [2008's] Mario Kart Wii, it was to create a race where, up until the finish line, you didn’t know. We wanted to create a race where everyone was in it until the end.
Noting that the development team had the same goal for Mario Kart 64 where everyone was in it until the end, the lack of processing power prevented Nintendo EAD from implementing a game mechanic that kept all eight racers relatively close together on-screen, countering the natural separation between players in the middle of a race.
Going back to the blue shell, it sounds like maybe [gamers] have some issues with it... I’m not trying to project or anything. I think in our next Mario Kart, we’ll be looking at the balance and I think we’ll come up with some answers and some solutions to make the game fresh and exciting as we move forward... I’m often asked, hey, in Mario Kart, could you please make a mode where there are no items. Let us race. But personally I think Mario Kart without items is not Mario Kart. Our goal, of course, is to keep the items in but just balance it well.
With the upcoming Mario Kart game for the 3DS, it will be interesting to see what new changes will be made, as well as what old features will remain.