The run of Super Nintendo-to-Game Boy Advance games continues with Mario Kart Super Circuit, an updated version of the Super Nintendo racing game that includes elements from Mario Kart 64.
Mario Kart legacy keeps
the thrills on Game Boy
By Wilma Jandoc
The game keeps Super Nintendo-style graphics, while characters, most controls and items are taken from MK64. There are four cup races with four racetracks in each cup.
Racers can hinder others with items like shells and banana peels to gain an advantage.
Collecting coins scattered along each track also raises your kart's top speed.
The tracks are variations on past ones, including the familiar Ghost House, Rainbow Road and Bowser's Castle. Super Circuit also has an extra Special Cup and hidden tracks, which are unlocked by how well you race and how many coins you gather.
New obstacles wait to trip racers, like falling bombs and critters that hang on to your kart to slow you down. Also included, perhaps because of the smaller visible playing area, are flashing arrows that warn of sharp turns ahead.
Graphics have gone up a notch, which is best shown in the Sunset Wilds course: The background scenery changes with each successive lap, starting with the setting sun and ending with a moonlit night.
But the real fun of racing is battling others, and the best part of the game is four-player battle.
Each player has three balloons that other players try to pop. The last person with balloons wins.
Even if you don't win, you can still have some fun. In MK64 if you lose all your balloons, you turn into an invincible, one-use bomb and can drive around to blow up other karts.
Super Circuit supports up to four players in two modes: single-pak mode, in which only one game cartridge is used and feeds to separate Game Boys; and multipak mode, in which each player has his own game cart.
The multiplayer game is extremely limited in single-pak mode -- Yoshi is the only playable character, and only four racetracks are available in a simple race mode.
Multiple carts are required to get the full range of racing options, including battle mode, but such a setup can get expensive if, say, you'd simply like to challenge your brother or sister.
Super Circuit also falls short of its predecessors in control. Things that worked in MK64 do not work with this game. Without the Nintendo 64's analog joystick, there are no turbo slides to boost your speed around corners; instead, the Super Nintendo's less controllable and difficult power slide, or "drifting," is used.
The worst difference is the lack of a trigger-type button on the GBA, which the Nintendo 64 controller had and made it easier on your hands when you wanted to "hold" items behind your kart.
The trigger button's purpose is now taken over by the L button, and you need to have serious manual dexterity to hold down the L button while steering with the directional pad.
And the GBA's dark screen combined with the rapid pace of racing games will wreak havoc on some players -- those who have a tendency to move the entire controller when racing will likely find themselves unable to see the GBA screen at critical times.
These Game Boy limitations put a damper on the game, but otherwise, Super Circuit still has the fun of its predecessors. But unless your friends have their own Game Boys and game carts, be prepared to play solo or spend a bundle setting up a good multiplayer game.
Wilma Jandoc covers the universe
of video games and anime for the
Star-Bulletin. She can be emailed at