About the Game
Kart. Mario Kart is the longest and most successful karting game series in history. Fact. Many have tried to copy the formula and try to “improve” it over the years. The likes of Crash Team Racing and Diddy Kong Racing back in the day and games like Skylanders Superchargers and Sonic All-Stars Racing in recent times are great examples.
Never one to shy away from shaking up the formula, Nintendo decided to race ahead of the competition, and came up with Double Dash. But the question is, was it a success and gained a star? Or did they finish in last place after being hit with a blue shell? Here are three reasons why Mario Kart Double Dash is very good:
Reason 1: Two is always better than One...
Unless your a ninja, or fighting against the Hulk, or… you get the idea. The three video games that were released before (Super Mario Kart, Mario Kart 64 and the handheld Mario Kart: Super Circuit) hadn't offered much in terms of innovation from the initial concept. So Nintendo decided to be radical with Double Dash and as implied by the name, it has a completely new way of playing a karting video game.
Mario Kart Double Dash has special karts, which are much bigger than we had seen before. This is because each kart holds two characters. One character drives and second controls the weapons. Looking back, I really do believe that the two-characters-per-kart idea is one of the best concepts that Nintendo has ever put into the genre.
It's hard to explain, but it just adds something that is not present in any other Mario Kart titles. The concept was unique at the time, and it did split the fans (similar to what happened to Super Mario Sunshine). Some loved the radical new approach, whereas others wished Nintendo stuck to the traditional concept.
But being Nintendo, they stuck to their guns and made Mario Kart Double Dash the way they wanted it to be. But then onwards they went back to the normal gameplay. So they satisfied both sets of fans! The concept was so ahead of its time that it still remains a unique concept nearly 15 years on, with only Crash Tag Team Racing having similar gameplay.
Reason 2: Strongest circuit design of any Mario Kart game?
I don't normally have a rhetorical question as a reason, but it's hard one to answer. While the games preceding and succeeding Double Dash have some great tracks, I think that Double Dash has the most consistent design. But it's not just the track design that's excellent, oh no. The Gamecube may not of been as powerful as the PS2 or the Xbox, but it did have a massive graphical upgrade compared to Mario Kart 64. This in itself made the circuits look stunning to drive around and brought them alive like we hadn't seen before, even before you factor in the actual course layouts and other features.
So what is on offer in Double Dash? Yoshi circuit shaped like Yoshi’s head? DK Mountain which you get blasted to a top of a mountain (with a volcano!) and then travel back down? Daisy cruiser which the boat goes from side to side, which the item boxes move about too? It offers some of the best circuit designs in the entire series, with all the 16 tracks a winner.
From Mark Kart DS onwards, each track has some upgraded retro courses from previous games in the series. Since Double Dash, there has been four games, which means that all but four of these courses have appeared and upgraded. We don't know how exactly the tracks are picked for each new interrelation but I bet it's a good combination fan favourites and the developers themselves.
Let's not forget the music! While I find the soundtracks for Mario's racing games can be a little hit and miss at times, I thought that Double Dash doesn't have that problem. It has some great tunes, especially Mushroom Bridge, Waluigi Stadium and Rainbow Road. Will great musical scores to go along with some excellent tracks, you will like the circuits even more!
Reason 3: Characters + Special Items = Fun!
So the gameplay has been upgraded and it has great track design, what is the third essential ingredient to Mario Kart? So you may be wondering at this point about the characters. More specifically how many can you play as? Considering that now you pick two characters, you would expect an increase in number. Mario Kart 64 had 8 characters. So Double Dash has 10? 12? No. Mario Kart Double Dash has a whopping 20 characters! Quite a few of these are new to the series, with lots of choice to be had. Choices, choices, choices...
…but that isn't the end of the story. As alluded too earlier, these 20 characters are in sets of 2, and each prozess a special item that is unique to them. These special items range from your ordinary: (well as ordinary as Mario Kart can be) Fireballs and triple shells to your crazy: giant koopa shells and the golden mushroom. These special items come randomly via item boxes and to keep things fair, the more powerful the special item, the less likely you will get it in a race or battle. So no unlimited Chain Chomps I'm afraid!
This concept is cleverer than you think, think about it: What special ability do the characters have? How often do you usually get that item during a race? How heavy are the characters? Which Kart should I pick? What tracks are the character and karts good at? These questions offer something that isn't really a factor into other games in the series: strategy.
With strategy now a factor it makes Double Dash great fun to play all round. It feels more like skill when you win, rather than with luck that sometimes plagues other Mario kart titles. (Looking at you Mr Blue Shell in Mario Kart Wii…) It is great to play on your own, and it’s an absolute blast to play with friends too. Which can be fun and chaotic... all at the same time! I dread to think how many hours I spent with my cousin playing when I was younger!
With the revolution of the theme of “double is better”, it was certainly a game that split the fans. I liked the idea so much that I can say without thinking (too much!) that (brace yourself, here's an opinion) is my favourite game of the series. I still love it because it adds another layer to the tried and tested Mario Kart formula that shakes things up and makes it fun. I still think has yet to be beaten within the series, but that's ok because it's still Mario Kart.
My One Big Highlight
One of the craziest things I remember is in the course Mushroom Bridge. Just before the finish line, there is a massive bridge, with extremely large arches on either side. Wouldn't it be fun if you could drive on top of them, with boosts for those brave enough to try to boost past the competition? Well, you can!
Elephant In the Room
So you are wondering why the rating isn't higher? Well there are two main problems. Compared to later instalments it's quite short. With only 16 tracks, even Crash Team Racing which was released 4 years before had more tracks (18 for the record). Secondly, it's still doesn't have any sort of adventure mode, so your still just playing a few tracks over and over.