Mario Kart: Double Dash
I was beyond excited when I heard of a Mario Kart coming for the GameCube. What made it even better was when I heard the concept: that two players could team up and ride in one kart, one as the driver, and the other as the weapons handler. I thought this was a wonderful fresh twist on the Mario Kart franchise....and as it turns out, it was!
The "Double Dash" twist aside, the game essentially is like playing Mario Kart 64. It still retains that classic feel and Mario Kart magic that its predeccessors contained...only the action is doubled (no pun intended).
Teaming up with a friend to play, again is a great mechanic and it works smoothly without you getting in each other's way. One player is the driver and the other handles the weapons, but you can positions on the fly. Being able to switch at will does keep you on your toes and stops you from getting bored being stuck in one position, although I guess it's hard to get bored when you have shells, banana peels, fireballs, and other projectiles flying at you from all directions. And of course, because we just love it so much...they brought on the Blue Shell to punish you for victory. Seriously, how does bashing the person in first place, help the person in last place?
The character selection was a treat, too. We have everyone returning from Mario Kart 64, as well as some new Mario Kart faces such as Toadette, King Boo, and Bowser Jr (of all Koopalings). We even have Diddy Kong! I guess Diddy Kong Racing wasn't enough, so he's joining the Mario Kart roster! (I mean this in a pleased tone.)
Aside from the new characters, there is now a variety in karts, rather than just the standard color-coded go-karts, we now have karts with actual designs which is another nice new feature this game brings. DK drives a barrel car, Wario drives his Wario Car from Wario Land 4, and Bowser drives what looks like a tank with his mug on the front. Vehicular variety is another postitive fresh aspect that makes this game one of the best, if not the best Mario Kart game to date.
In terms of the tracks, however, they all look nice but I personally only found a few interesting. Like its predeccessor, this game only has a total of sixteen tracks including the unlockable Special Cup. It wasn't until Mario Kart DS where they brought back the Retro tracks from past games in the franchise, as that would have been really cool in my opinion to play tracks from Mario Kart 64 and Super Mario Kart on Double Dash. Some tracks honestly, even feel sort of rehased from MK64 though. I know that Mario Kart franchise has some tracks that are in every game, like Rainbow Road, but it seems some of the tracks are just flat out taken from the 64 version; Mushroom Bridge is just like Toad's Turnpike to me but in the day time, and the Ice Track in this game is just like Sherbet Land to me, add the Ice skating Shy Guys and the agonizing Freezies scattered about. But only for a few tracks. The rest, they did at least get creative. I think the most unique is Baby Park, which is seriously just a small oval that you drive circles in over and over for a larger amount of laps.
Another drawback is that in single player mode, you can not race on any track at will with the computer players. Instead, you can only race with the computers if you're doing a Grand Prix. If you just want to skim tracks and race them individually, you have to do this on the Time Trial mode.
Another issue is that if you're doing a two player splitscreen where each player controls his own Kart instead of teaming up with the other, there is no audio for P2. I haven't played with 3 or more players on Double Dash, so I can only hope that they fixed that quirk in Mario Kart 64 where the music is not available when you play 3 or more players.
I've already touched on the items, but one more addition is that each character has their own signature item that only they or their character's partner can use; the Mario Bros. use Fireballs, Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong use Giant Banana Peels, and Wario and Waluigi have Bombs. Koopa and ParaTroopa's Special is to use the Triple Shell pack, so now I'm afraid that item is only exclusive to them. I thought this was a neat idea and helped to add some strategy. What I usually do is take the two characters with the best Specials and team them up, like Mario and Wario so I can use both Fireballs and Bombs. It just makes it that much more frantic. Aside from that, all the classic items return, however.
Also returning are the popular battle modes. There is balloon battle which is a Mario Kart specialty, as well as a couple new ones. These are fun when you're sick of racing and want to focus on combat, and the new modes are neat as well.
The graphics are spectacular for GameCube, and they've held up well. I think it's even safe to say that they rival those of Mario Kart Wii, it's successor! Very detailed and smoothly textured, as well as shiny and colorful. Absolutely no complaints in this department.
In terms of the sound, I like the character's voices and the music is...nice. Although I think the classic tunes of Mario Kart 64 were superior. I think Mario Kart 64's music was more adrenalin pumping and racing oriented, whereas alot of what you hear in Double Dash sounds like something that would play at an Amusement Park. It's catchy and fun...although I'm not sure for racing.
Overall: This Mario Kart is concerned as the best in the series by many fans, and I would have to agree. Every single Mario Kart game is amazing, but Double Dash just has this cool Double concept that just enhances it that much more. It's a tad disappointing that they don't use this concept in the games after it, which makes Double Dash the most unique.
Overall Grade: B