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Mario Kart: Super Circuit (GBA)
Mario and the gang are back to reclaim their checkered flag!
By - Andrew S. Bub

Ever since Nintendo's SNES Mario Kart debuted, Kart racing featuring cute characters have infested console systems without a break. From Crash Bandicoot to Disney characters, to even the cretinous inhabitants of South Park, there's an awful lot of choices when it comes to bigheaded, cartoonish, go-cart racing on almost any system you choose. The GBA is no exception, Konami's excellent Kracy Racers (Wai Wai Racing in Japan) came first, stealing a bit of Nintendo's thunder, but now Mario and the gang are back to reclaim their checkered flag in Mario Kart: Super Circuit.

You begin the game by choosing the type of game you want to play. Time Trial has you racing against the clock, and in repeated attempts, against the ghost of your best attempt. There's a single race mode that lets you try out one track, for practice or for fun. But the meat of the game, as always, lies in the GP circuit. First you must pick a class, 50cc, 100cc, or 150cc, which impacts how the karts handle in terms of power. There are four circuits of four races each, giving your sixteen unlocked tracks to start. Placing is worth points and gaining a first place trophy in each track wins you the circuit. Get first place in all three circuits and you'll unlock a fun and twisted fourth set of tracks.

Of Marios & Men

The game features eight familiar Mario Land characters, each rated in terms of speed and weight. Princess Peach, Yoshi, and Toad, are all extreme fast yet fragile. Bowser, Donkey Kong, and Wario are heavy and tough. And the two famous plumber brothers, Mario and Luigi, strike a balance between the two. Each character has their own cries of dismay or triumph, and is true to their respective personalities.

The tracks range from typically pastoral locations, an island-themed track, haunted tracks, and trips through the right angle and lava infested halls of Bowser's castle. As you race you must avoid pitfalls like quicksand, lava, or even roving crabs and vicious ghosts. You can strike boxes which give you power-ups that you can use against your enemies. Green tortoise shells function like missiles, red shells like guided missiles, mushrooms give you a speed burst, and banana peels function as a vaudeville inspired slapstick mine. Stars make you invincible, ghosts make you invisible, and there are also extremely rare spiked shells or lightning power-ups that confound and zap your enemies, respectively.

The controls are simple, and well laid out, A accelerates and B brakes, while the right trigger is used for jumping and the left for unleashing a special power up. While negotiating the turns and other pitfalls it's sometimes hard to reach that special attack, especially while trying to aim the straight line green turtle shell attack, but that only adds to the challenge in the game. Bumping rivals into pitfalls is a sound strategy, but being bumped robs you of coins, and once out of coins you'll spin out and lose valuable time. The action is always frantic and the races are generally challenging. Coins are also important because if you collect enough throughout the GP you can unlock a set of tracks from the original game! These require five laps, and they're shorter than you may remember, but it's a nice additional goal to shoot for.

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