Is there a greater Catch-22 in the creative world than sequels? Sequels result from people clamoring for more of the same, yet people complain that sequels do not live up to the original. It is a certainty that this GameCube version of Nintendo’s beloved franchise, known as Mario Kart: Double Dash, still takes gamers on a thrill ride. It is just not quite as fresh, fun, and exciting as it used to be.
Mario Kart: Double Dash plays similarly to Mario Kart 64 on N64, with one major difference: you pick two riders for your kart, not one. You can switch between the riders during the middle of a race, which specifies who is the driver and who is the passenger. Since each rider falls into a weight class, and each pair of riders has a different special weapon, you can theoretically assemble many strategic combinations. And, yes, all of your favorite characters have returned, including Mario, Donkey Kong, Wario, Koopa Troopa, and Toad, along with notable first-time drivers, such as Waluigi, Birdo, Baby Mario, and Princess Daisy.
Like its predecessors, Mario Kart: Double Dash contains a Grand Prix mode, with racing against the computer, for one or two players; a Versus mode for two-to-four players; a Time Trial mode for one player; and a Battle mode for two-to-four players. Mario Kart: Double Dash is improved over Mario Kart 64, with shorter, tighter, more imaginative courses. Further improvements include better balanced AI and some cool special weapons. Disappointingly, though, the Battle mode in the GameCube version borders on poor. In spite of new types of play in Battle mode, it cannot be saved because of too small, too open, and too boring course design.
The biggest audio-visual improvement in Mario Kart: Double Dash, compared to the original SNES and follow-up N64 versions, is the frame rate. Mario Kart: Double Dash is smooth. Frame rate is not a problem in the multi-player mode. Smooth does not necessarily mean fast, however. The initial speed feels a little slow, but you will get used to it. The music and sound bites are similar in nature to the N64 version of the game.
The ingredients are here. New gameplay wrinkle? Check. More characters to choose from? Check. Better, smoother graphics? Check. Improved course design? Check. Less blatant AI cheating? Check. What prevents Mario Kart: Double Dash from achieving greatness is revealed in these three little details: 1) slightly slower gameplay, 2) seemingly less challenge, and a 3) disappointingly underserved Battle mode. The GCN version is better than the N64 version, but it does not quite live up to the good ol’ SNES version.