Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Future of Mario Kart - Refreshing Additions of the Feature Base [Gaming]


Last month focused on the Grand Prix and ways to change it while keeping roughly the same focus. At the end of it, I said that I wouldn’t want Mario Kart to go the way of Crash Team Racing or Diddy Kong Racing and have a story mode with open hubs to explore. The reason for saying such a thing? Bringing back mission mode from the DS game.
The idea was to make use of the mechanics in a way that hadn’t been explored in a Mario Kart before – whether that be forcing the player to drive in reverse through a section of a track, one-on-one racing, or checkpoint races – or learning the player of mechanics such as item usage and power-sliding. There was even boss battles to complete. It was a varied mode that – like most features – never returned. Well, it inspired the online challenges in Mario Kart Wii, but wasn’t a fully accessible thing [and to me seemed less focused].
The return of it could see some of the missions revamped and new ones added. Bosses have a chance to be fleshed out more, and could pull inspiration from a wider selection of games than just Super Mario 64. Looking back to my first idea of refreshing the Grand Prix mode, the same style could be used here. Nine missions per level with a boss unlocked upon completion of all nine, with ten levels total – equalling 100 missions overall. Coin collecting and one-on-one racing would return, as would the item related ones. The powerslide missions would be changed to time-based considering the new mechanic for it, and would see how long in total you could hold them for. Checkpoint races would return, and underwater and gliding sections would allow for more diverse layouts with them. As for bosses, Odyssey seems a good inspiration for at least one with the Mechawiggler.

This post isn’t just to detail the new mission mode I want though, so into other features. Mario Kart TV has had a good start, replacing the regular replay feature with something a bit more interactive. However, it can be limiting in some respects. I’ve had some fantastic plays while on MK8 – including last second overtakes at the line – but due to how MKTV works in its tracking of racers sometimes will fail to show them off fully. While I’m not suggesting removing the simplicity from it, the case is there for a more complex system to be added. The system already tracks and records the full movement for all racers on the field, so allowing the player to manipulate the camera and get the shots they want wouldn’t be that difficult to have.
Another thing that could be given a touch more detail is the item toggle. Currently it works by selecting only a certain type of items – bananas only, shells only, frantic mode, no items – but by adding a true item toggle for friendly versus matches it allows for more varied races. Taking Mario Kart 8’s item selection, the Crazy 8 could be turned off, along with coins and all triple items. Taking it a step further, the item toggle could be similar to Super Smash Bros., where items can be set to appear with a higher or lower frequency than their normal rate. We all know the friendship-destroying blue shell is the bane of Mario Kart existence, but what if it was set to appear at a high rate of frequency?
Implementing a true Double Dash mode would be too much work unless it was to be the core of the game, and considering the mechanics of the series have been worked on since MKWii to be functional and solid, it wouldn’t be a good idea to throw all that away just to bring two-in-a-kart gameplay back. But in a way it’s already been implemented with 8 Deluxe, with the ability to hold two items at once. However, as tactical as having two items is when the coin has a very high chance of appearing, it is missing the one thing that made the way items were held in Double Dash even more tactful. Swapping between the two slots held the advantage of being able to remove items you didn’t need while holding onto the one you do. And just like in Double Dash, only double item boxes would give a second item if your main slot was filled. And as for item usage itself, I wouldn’t say no to removing the ability to trail items behind you like Double Dash did. Then again, the item mechanics of Double Dash were pretty unforgiving at times, such as having very little in the way of invincibility frames after being hit.

So far, all the features I’ve talked about have been bringing in old ones or expanding on previous ones. Adding new things to an established series such as Mario Kart can go either way. People grew to like the anti-gravity, and the glider and underwater sections have been accepted by many. One thing I can see being added are new ways to play outside regular racing and battle modes. Sure, pure arcade racing is what many people come to Mario Kart for, but outside of that is just battle mode [and no item racing if you want to add that]. A mission mode sort of caters to that already, but that’s nearly always a one racer deal. These modes keep all twelve racers on track. The only mode I’ll talk about is a score-based mode. Everything you do within this mode builds points as you race – whether that be attacking or defending with items, overtaking others, drifting, etc. – with the way to win being to have the most points at the end of the three laps. Negative effects such as driving the wrong way or falling off the track will reduce points, so it isn’t just a case of building them up with no consequence. New modes offer fun new ways to play without detracting from the main modes, and in a way offer new sorts of battles depending on how you look at it.

Next month I’ll be taking a break from Mario Kart to bring some Star Wars ideas. After all, it will be Star Wars month, so it gives me plenty of opportunity to cover that over the month. With E3 being the month after that, Future of Mario Kart will return in July. I’ll more than likely be covering characters and crossovers in that post, so keep an eye out for that in two months.