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Retro Redux: Mario Kart Double Dash

We’re going to keep things somewhat more recent with this week’s edition of the Retro Redux. I’ve been playing a lot of one particular game this week. Partly because my save files for the game have disappeared, but also partly because my kids wanted to play it with me. What game am I talking about? Well, it just happens to be my favorite game in the Mario Kart franchise. I’m talking none other than Mario Kart: Double Dash.

What You Need To Know

Mario Kart: Double Dash was the fourth game in the popular kart racing franchise from Nintendo, but the sixth racing game overall that they had created. The other two were two Japan only titles known as Famicom Grand Prix. It brought the popular racing game to the GameCube for the first time and was the first home console version of the game in seven years. It was first shown off at E3 2001 in the form of a seven second trailer that showed Mario and Luigi driving separate karts and no background elements. This, by the way, would be very similar to the intro to this game’s follow up, Mario Kart Wii.

It would be two years later in April of 2003 that the first in game pictures of the title would be shown revealing that it would be called Double Dash. The first time features like having two characters in the kart together would be shown was a few months later at E3 2003. The game would then be released during the holiday season in November of that same year.

I can remember very fondly when I got this game. My son had just been born a few months earlier. (It’s amazing how many of my most fond gaming memories happened around the time my children were born.) I got the game for Christmas along with a second GameCube controller. My oldest daughter, my wife and I would spend quite a long time that Christmas playing this game together. She was five and couldn’t really control the karts very well at the time, but she could fling banana peels and turtle shells from the back of the kart with the best of them.

There were a number of changes made to this game that hadn’t been seen previously in the series. The first, and most noticeable, was the ability to have multiple characters occupying the same kart. This would mean a number of different things for this game. The first being that you could now stock up on two items at any one time. It would give you a little bit of flexibility in how you dealt with the items on the track. You could keep two defensive items handy to give yourself a bit of an edge with the turtle shells started flying. You could protect yourself from multiple incoming items. If you were more offensive in your play style you could keep multiple offensive items in stock giving you an edge when you went on the attack. You could also mix it up a bit to suit whatever the situation happened to be.

Characters also had items that were specific to them. Some of these would be brand new items, like multiple turtle shells for the Koopa Troopas, and would become staples of the series. Others would be seen for the first time and haven’t been seen since, like the fireballs that the two plumbing brothers brought to the track. Some were variations on already established items. Bowser’s giant spiked shell comes to mind. This was very much like the traditional green turtle shell, only it occupied nearly all of the screen and it was spiky, which must have hurt more.

There were 20 characters overall to choose from and 11 new characters introduced to the franchise. These included baby versions of the Mario’s, Koopa Paratroopa, Petey Piranha, King Boo, Bowser Jr., Birdo, Daisy, Diddy Kong, Toadette, and Waluigi. The introduction of these characters brought in many new items and also just brought more variety to the roster. There was bound to be a series favorite among the group. Many times these characters were paired up with an obvious choice, but if you chose two different characters that didn’t normally go together you could get some very unusual match ups. It also allowed you to tailor your characters to gain access to multiple unique items. My usual choice was the combination of Luigi and the Paratroopa so I would have access to Luigi’s fireballs and multiple red turtle shells.

The track selection also included some of the best tracks ever seen in the series. Some of my favorite tracks, like Baby Park, would come out of this game. The inclusion of some of these tracks in later games would bring back a lot of memories. I really hope that Mario Kart 3DS will bring even more of these back. There were many afternoons spent by my wife and I playing through all sixteen tracks to see who could win the most. We came up with a very unique tie breaker as well. Should we end the series tied we would set the number of laps in the options to nine and race nine laps through Wario’s Colosseum. With the exception of maybe Dry, Dry Desert there weren’t many tracks that I didn’t like. There were shortcuts everywhere. Many of the tracks had multiple short cuts that you could take advantage of. Some of them, like the hidden tunnel on Yoshi Circuit would be very challenging to reach, but if you did you could make up a lot of lost time, or gain a rather substantial lead over the rest of the racers.

The traditional battle mode, made popular by Mario Kart 64 was back and featured a number of different modes. In addition to the famous balloon battle you could also take on your friends in a game of tag with a Shine Sprite where you would attempt to take control of the shiny star and hold on to it longer than anyone else. If that didn’t tickle your fancy you could compete in an old fashioned bomb throwing contest with a bunch of bob-ombs. It allowed for some variation the battle mode, but to be honest I had to put the disc in specifically to make sure it had a battle mode, because I don’t think I ever used it. I’m much more a fan of the racing that the battle mode. For the more adventurous players out there LAN parties were a chance to hook eight GameCube’s together and play 16 player games with two players per kart.

There really isn’t too much bad about this game that I could say. I loved the two player kart experience. It really allows gamers of widely varying skill levels to compete against each other and have fun. Anyone that wasn’t very good at the driving portion could hop on the back of another player and take control of the offensive and defensive capabilities. Drivers could zip around the track without having to worry about taking care of items as well. Sons could play with fathers, husbands could play with wives and everyone had fun. I really hope that one day Nintendo makes a return to this style of game and we see the chance to drive multi-character karts again. My biggest hope is that one day we’ll see a Mario Kart compilation that features all of the tracks, all of the characters, two player karts, single players karts, and motorcycles all in one. It’s a long shot, but you can bet I’d be the first in line.

I love Mario Kart: Double Dash and you can bet now that I’ve gotten the bug in me to play it again I’ll be coming back to it quite often, in between 32 race series’ in Mario Kart Wii with my wife.

Final Verdict: Find It!!!!

Mario Kart: Double Dash was released in 2003 for the Nintendo GameCube. It’s available in many vintage game stores and online outlets. It can be played in both the Nintendo GameCube and Nintendo Wii consoles.

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