Konami Krazy Racers (AKA Konami Wai Wai Racing Advance in Japan) is a largely forgotten Mario Kart clone that was also one of the original launch games for GBA. If you can imagine Mario Kart Super Circuit with Konami-themed characters and courses, you'll be on the right track with what to expect from this decent little kart racer. It's easy to become enamoured with the overall presentation and atmosphere if you're a fan of Konami franchises; right from the off you're able to play as cute versions of characters such as Dracula (Castlevania), Ninja (Metal Gear) and even the Moai stone head from Gradius. Typical of the genre, each character has a unique set of stats affecting their speed, acceleration and grip, so choose wisely. Or pick Ninja. Because he looks the coolest.
Along with the familiar faces, there's a decent variety of courses too, more so if you're a SHMUP fan as there's a ton of Gradius, Twinbee and Parodius homages together with all kinds of wonderful interpretations of famous Konami tunes, including a very twee remix of the Metal Gear theme tune. Graphically everything zooms along smoothly, and considering this is a GBA launch title it's really quite accomplished; as well as the mode-7 scaling courses there are '3D' elements present with the addition of sprite-scaled trees and obstacles to avoid along the way.
Being colourful, smooth and taking inspiration from various popular and classic franchises means Konami Krazy Racers gets off to a good start. But all that love and attention is meaningless if the gameplay isn't up to par. Thankfully everything stacks up; this isn't just a Mario Kart clone in looks alone, the handling is almost identical other than the lack of power-sliding techniques. All you'd expect to find is here; that includes boost starts and random power-ups to collect. Activated by driving over coloured bells there are two colours (types) of power-up; a red bell provides an offensive/defensive weapon, a blue bell a speed boost. This choice provides a modicum of strategy, but most of the time you won't really care what you run over. Weapons are as you'd expect and include homing missiles, shields and mines all of which act in similar fashion to Mario Kart. It's not a bad thing to crib so much from Nintendo's finest, and actually Konami did a really good job of balancing the AI and the difficulty to match. It feels fair and the only real disappointment is the lack of a power-slide, but you can hop along till the cows come home.
Grand Prix, single race, battle modes and time attack are all present and correct, however Konami did add in a little something of its own - license tests. In order to unlock later tracks you'll need to pass license tests. The tests consist of challenges such as one-on-one races or course times to beat. A welcome diversion, these go some way to making the single player game feel more fleshed out and are a welcome addition to the mix. There's also an item shop where you can purchase items to increase the usage frequency of particular weapons, which can help you gain the upper hand. Unfortunately on Wii U you won't be playing multiplayer anytime soon as you can't system link, so one of the most fun parts of the game is sadly inaccessible, making for a single player experience only. No online play exists either, which also means no online leaderboards for time attack or ghosts to download etc.
This is probably the real downside to Konami Krazy Racers – whilst the single player is admittedly rather fun and there's a decent amount of content to get stuck into, the lack of being able to access any of the multiplayer features does handicap the fun-factor. Once you've completed all the main game and obtained all gold cups, secret characters and found all shortcuts, there's little to go back to unless you're a huge Konami nostalgia fan.
The Wii U translation comes with no real extra features either; it looks and plays fine (if a little pixelly) but doesn't feel quite at home on a big screen; we much prefer using just the GamePad which is probably indicative of its GBA origins. Everything just feels more 'right' when played as a handheld game.
Konami Krazy Racers is hugely enjoyable and worth a look if you're into single player Kart games (and have had your fill of Mario and friends) or if you're a Konami obsessive. Featuring some really cool nods to classic franchises we know and love (and some obscure ones too) along with accomplished and finely tuned kart gameplay, there's plenty of joy contained within this cute and fun little racer. Just don't expect it to last too long and you'll come away satisfied. Finally, we defy anyone not to have a little sing-a-long to the intro song. You'll have it stuck in your head for days. You have been warned.