Developer : Intelligent Systems
Publisher : Nintendo
Platform : Gameboy Advance
N.B. : This is not a review.
Mariokart Advance is a remake of the classic SNES game Super Mario Kart. It is not a direct port of the 16-bit game. The game revolves around go-kart racing between various characters from the Super Mario games - 'revolves' being the operative word, as the game utilises the 32-bit power of the GBA to deliver fast and smooth scaling and rotation. The courses are still completely flat, as in the original, but whereas the SNES (with the help of a custom DSP chip) was pushed to its limits, the GBA can perform all the graphical wizardry with power to spare. The artwork is greatly improved over the original with large prerendered sprites and colourful parallax scrolling backgrounds. In short, it looks the business.
The single player game offers a full GP mode (with 20 courses that can be tackled in 50cc, 100cc and 150cc class) as well as time trials and a quick race option. Thankfully the game features battery-backed memory so players are spared the hassle of a password system (unlike THQ's GT Advance).
The game also offers the complete range of multiplayer options. With one cartridge, it is possible to play 2-4 player games (albeit with a limited selection of tracks, and everyone has to be Yoshi). With one cart in each machine, the full set of multiplayer options is available (including battle mode). Furthermore, the game supports the 'Mobile System GB' link to mobile phones (although this has been removed- along with link cable compatibility with this version- from US and European version, Mario Kart Super Circuit).
It was always pretty much taken for granted that the GBA version of Mariokart would be good, but it's pleasantly surprising that the game has been improved in basically all departments. It was good nine years ago and it's still great fun now. There is of course the nagging feeling that as with all near-launch games, this hardly scratches the surface of what the machine can do. Not that I expect we're going to see a (polygonal) Ridge Racer Advance any time soon.