GameCube title “Mario Kart Double Dash” remains a system staple

By Z. Galaxy

Back when “Mario Kart Double Dash” released for the Nintendo GameCube in 2003, it was applauded for its masterful gameplay, attractive graphics and overall pleasant experience. Garnering a score of 87 on Metacritic, it lived up to and perhaps exceeded its expectations as a first-party Nintendo title.

The years have gone by and, though the visuals have not aged quite as well, the gameplay seems untouched by the flow of time.

It had been years since I had played. In a moment of intense boredom, my boyfriend and I decided that we would give it a try. We hoped that our experiences with “Mario Kart 8” for the WiiU had not soured the older game.

Thankfully, we had no need to fear.

The twists and turns of the tracks traced their way around the map and we, as racing opponents, made it our object to be in first. The only things we noticed out of place while we played were the distinct lack of bikes, which came to be a staple in “Mario Kart Wii.”Mario_y_Luigi_MKDD

The guard-rails were still there, ceaselessly allowing us to bash into them as we failed to turn fast enough. The roads still wound around obstacles and presented obstacles of their own. Even the Cataquacks remained, prancing around Peach Beach like they owned the place. Personally, they could have been gone and I don’t think many people would miss them.

There’s some insight as to how the variety of the tracks lead to the enjoyment of the game.

“Everyone can do 3D now, so the team behind Double Dash has been more careful, threading shortcuts up and down instead of just round the side, and, when it does give in completely and send us up, down, left, right, backwards, forwards and over the rainbow,” said Tom Bramwell in his 2003 Eurogamer review of “Mario Kart Double Dash.”

I think he was right in his assessment of the courses, as their relative complexity offered a lot of new ways to experience racing. Many look back on these tracks fondly, especially since some of them have been included in late titles.

But as we played, nostalgia wasn’t what kept us going. The most important facet of the game is that it is undoubtedly fun. There is something about it that makes the fast-paced gameplay less “hair-tearing frustration” and more “annoyed, but enjoying it.”

Perhaps those somethings are a result of two major things: the “respawn” rate and the item rate.

Respawning, which in this game is being picked up and put back on the track by a Lakitu, is much faster than the more modern “Mario Kart” games. In “Mario Kart Double Dash,” the return to the game takes only a second and, in all games preceding “Mario Kart 8,” offers a miniature boost to get back in the game for those who time it right.

Meanwhile, items also are more prevalent. The constant flow of items being tossed back and forth, as well as the presence of character-specific items with special effects, made for feisty fights between two kart-racers.

This is all forgetting “rubber-banding,” or dynamic game difficulty balancing, which the series has long been known for. “Mario Kart 8” suffers heavily from this, as does “Mario Kart 64.” Apparently, “Mario Kart Double Dash” found the sweet spot between having the AI-controlled players lose to you every game or having them basically glued behind you, no matter how far you get ahead.

The game feels fair and it feels fun, and that’s what made it the hit it was. I’d venture to say it’s a hit now, so go out and play it again!


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