Tag Archives: racing

Animal Crossing x Mario Kart 8 Mini-Review

Even though it wasn’t featured on either of our individual lists, Mario Kart 8 was easily GIMMGP’s Top Game of 2014.  This comes as no surprise to us, since Mario Kart was the reason we purchased a Wii-U.  From the moment we first raced at a friend’s apartment, we knew we had to have this fantastic game.

As Laura mentioned in our first Gateway Games post, Mario Kart is aesthetically interesting, technically manageable, and “not the least bit concerned with the proper physics of a dinosaur riding a motorcycle.”  The approachable gameplay and familiar Nintendo characters make Mario Kart 8 an ideal party activity.  The wide variety of tracks and vehicle options kept our attention for months, and a healthy amount of post-release downloadable content ensured we would come back for more.

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There have been two packs of DLC released for Mario Kart 8 so far.  Each of these packs adds two grand prix cups (for a total of 8 new race tracks), three new characters, and four new vehicles.  The DLC also features plenty of crossovers and cameos from other beloved properties, like the Legend of Zelda, F-Zero, and Animal Crossing.

We eagerly downloaded the first pack when it released in 2014, and we have more recently purchased the second pack since its 2015 release.  Now that we have had plenty of time to digest the latest Mario Kart DLC, it’s time for a mini-GIMMGP review!

Favorite New Race Track: Big Blue

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Chip is so pleased to see another F-Zero staple make an appearance in Mario Kart 8.  As much as we loved racing in Mute City in the first DLC pack, Big Blue is our preferred Formula Zero flavor. The track features plenty of nods to its parent series, including damage barriers, energy refill pads, and AMAZING music.  The soundtrack for Mario Kart already impressed us with its live band recording, so the dueling guitars and brass of Big Blue are especially exciting. We are also pleased to see another continuous track that is divided into sections rather than laps.

Runner up: Ribbon Road. It is delightful.

Loathed New Race Track: Cheese Land

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We never played Mario Kart Super Circuit on the Game Boy Advance, so neither of us have any prior love for its tracks.  So when one of the retro-remake courses happens to come from Super Circuit instead of our beloved Mario Kart 64, we are less than enthused. Cheese Land is a lackluster track, filled with garish yellow tones, grating harsh turns, and obnoxious moving obstacles. At least it’s not another Rainbow Road.

Runner up: Neo Bowser City. It’s very pretty, we are just terrible at it.

Chip’s Favorite Racer: Animal Crossing Villager

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It’s no secret that Laura and I loved Animal Crossing: New Leaf.  It was our mutual summer obsession in 2013.  I love the aesthetic of the Animal Crossing series, so I was eager to see its inclusion in Mario Kart.  The Villager fits my racing style quite well: a lightweight racer with solid turning skills.  Plus, the addition of the chic City Tripper moped makes my Villager look quite fashionable while she leaves other racers in the dust.

Laura’s Favorite Racer: Dry Bowser

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I inadvertently picked Dry Bowser the first time we played this DLC. What started out as an accident turned out to be a beautiful moment of serendipity. Do you know the feeling of finding a character in a game that truly understands you? Sure, he is a particularly fast, but this goes deeper than that. We are soul mates. The way he bullies the other players on the track. The way he breathes fire when excited or angry. How ridiculous he looks riding tiny motorcycles. Truly, we were made for each other.

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Captain Falcon is a Hunter, Not a Racer.

Captain Falcon has become something of a meme hero these days, more iconic for his catchphrases and signature punch than his career of driving futuristic vehicles.  His current status as a cheesy action hero is mostly due to his inclusion in Super Smash Brothers, where his racing skills proved to have no correlation to knocking opponents off of various platforms.  But from the inception of the F-Zero series, Captain Falcon has been portrayed as more of a galaxy-renowned bounty hunter instead of a worlds-class racer.

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When F-Zero was released alongside the Super Nintendo in November 1990, it came with a rather hefty instruction manual for a racing game.  This is to be expected, as F-Zero was the first racing game to use the Mode 7 technology built into the Super Nintendo, and the start of the futuristic racing subgenre.  However, there was more than just controller guides and gameplay mechanics featured in this manual.  There was also an 8-page comic that told, “The Story of Captain Falcon.”

Written and drawn by Takaya Imamura, the character designer for F-Zero and Star Fox, this comic showcased Captain Falcon’s prowess as an intergalactic bounty hunter.  Within these few pages, the Captain wins a laser pistol duel, defends his bounty from a rival hunter, and arrests a high-level crime boss.  All of these feats occur mere moments before his first race in the Knight League, the initial competition that players face in the game.

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Since this initial glimpse into Captain Falcon’s life outside of the races, Nintendo has greatly expanded the universe of F-Zero through a 51-episode animated series and various bits of storytelling in game sequels and cameo appearances.  In spite of creating a rich science fiction world full of colorful characters and scenarios, there has not been an F-Zero game released since 2004.

Personally, I would love to see a F-Zero game with a combination of different gameplay styles.  Instead of just sticking to tournament races, there could be action portions where players can take control of Captain Falcon as he hunts down the scum of the universe.  The money earned through bounty hunting could be used to upgrade his signature racer, the Blue Falcon, as Captain Falcon tries to balance his careers as a renegade champion for justice and a Formula Zero racer.

As I continue to dream about a hybrid action/racing F-Zero game, be sure to check out the Video Game Art Archive, where “The Story of Captain Falcon” has been lovingly scanned and archived for your reading pleasure.  There is plenty of other amazing official video game artwork featured on this site, most recently including rare EarthBound and Kirby’s Dream Land 2 scans.  Please follow the Video Game Art Archive for plenty of gaming goodness, and if you’ve got a few bucks to spare, please support the VGAA through Patreon.  Great archival work deserves some support.

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The Majestic Music of Daytona USA

Most of my time spent with racing games has been in the form of dedicated arcade cabinets shaped like the virtual cars I am driving.  The feel of a steering wheel in my hands and a pair of pedals at my feet engages me in a totally different way than simply playing with a controller on my couch. However, there is a drawback to this sort of experience: obnoxious arcade noise.

Depending on the build of the cabinet and the strength of the speakers, a racing game soundtrack is easily drowned out by the ambient sounds of chattering children playing on other machines.  On the rare occasion that the music is cranked up to 11, the featured tunes are often licensed tracks from current pop music. This is a shame, because so many of these arcade racing titles feature original and immersive music that gets the adrenaline pumping.

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Recently, I became the proud owner of a Sega Saturn along with a handful of games.  Among the stack of titles included with this console was a port of my favorite arcade racer, Daytona USA.  A common cabinet across the United States, this game seemed to show up in every arcade, pizza parlor, and bowling alley around my home town.  In spite of dropping piles of quarters into this machine, I never heard the game soundtrack while playing until I hooked up the Sega Saturn.  As I started Daytona USA, I was delighted to hear this fantastic song:

This majestic ballad was used as the attract mode for the arcade cabinet, but I had never been called by its siren song before. Composer Takenobu Mitsuyoshi provided the vocals for the entire arcade soundtrack via synthesizer, and he went the extra mile for the Saturn port by re-recording each song with real instruments and re-singing all of the lyrics.  Mitsuyoshi was also a member of the Sega Sound Team Band, which gave him the opportunity to perform game music in front of live audiences, including the beloved Daytona USA soundtrack.

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Every song in Daytona USA is so earnest and filled with upbeat sounds that match the colorful racing so well.  From the first bellow of, “ROLLING STARRRRT,” I was ready to put the pedal to the metal in this virtual world.  The game was eventually ported to the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, where the popularity of its soundtrack led to the inclusion of a Karaoke Mode.  In this mode, players can sing along with Mitsuyoshi’s vocals as lyrics bounce along beneath the racing action.

As the arcade halls of my youth are fading away in American culture, I am a bit sad to see dedicated racing cabinets go the way of the dinosaur and floppy disks.  I will miss crawling into a bucket seat, taking hold of a steering wheel, and driving through a virtual raceway.  But I suppose being able to sing along with The King of Speed in the comfort of my own home is a suitable trade-off.

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Gateway Games: Racing

For 2015, we are debuting a new column here at Games I Made My Girlfriend Play: Gateway Games. Written by Laura, these posts will highlight different genres of video games and recommend specific franchises or titles to get folks playing.  To kick off this new series of articles, we are taking the next few weeks to discuss one of Laura’s preferred gaming genres- racing games!


Racing is a pretty broad genre of video games. The title of “racing game” can be applied to pretty much any type of game where the player engages in some sort of competition from point A to point B (using anything from snowboards to jet skis to dragons). In this case, we’re going to talk specifically about racing games with cars.

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I particularly love car racing games because their challenges can easily be completed in under 20 minutes. This makes racing a great introduction for new players, as well as a fun pastime for casual gamers or enthusiasts with limited time.

Generally speaking, most car racing games fall in a spectrum between arcade style and various degrees of racing simulations.

Arcade style games are more approachable to the casual gamer, particularly if they have no interest in cars or racing. The focus is less on a realistic experience and more on a fun and exciting one. The physics can be …inventive, the tracks…creative, and proper racing technique more or less irrelevant.

Semi-simulation games fall in the middle of the arcade-simulation spectrum. They push realism and physics, but still remain approachable to the average player. There is more emphasis on proper technique, but there are also aids in place (automatic transmission, anti-lock brakes, not blowing up when your car careens into a wall at 200 mph) that allow the player to focus on the race instead of micromanaging rpms.

True racing simulators focus heavily on vehicular behavior physics and proper technique. Games like the NASCAR or Formula One series, or iRacing are technical and more difficult to master. I don’t particularly enjoy this sort of game, so I wouldn’t advocate them to beginners or people are not into real life racing.

Also, for this purpose of this guide, I’m going to focus on game franchises rather than individual games. Most of the games listed below are available across multiple platforms in one form or another. The pros, the cons, and the spirit of each game remains constant across the series.

Here are five series that can pave the way to the world of racing games.

Beginner

While Mario Kart is not technically a “car” racer (it’s a “kart” racer, if you want to get specific) let’s crawl before we walk, shall we? This is by far the most approachable racing game I’ve played. Mario Kart was designed for all ages so it’s aesthetically interesting, technically manageable, and not the least bit concerned with the proper physics of a dinosaur riding a motorcycle.

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There are power-ups that imbue a player with temporary abilities that make it easier for less experienced players to place higher than they might based on technique alone. They also ensure that experience is not a guarantee of success (the blue shell humbles all). There are a number of challenges and little games that take the focus off of winning races and allow you to work as a team. Mario Kart is also great for parties. If you can get a group over for a party, you can apply the persuasive leverage of peer pressure to turn it into a full blown Mario Kart-y.

Also consider Burnout
The Burnout series is way less concerned with a player actually winning races and more about causing as much damage as possible by the laws of whatever physics engine the game employs. If your loved one needs a way to vent their suppressed road rage, this might be the ticket. If Mario Kart is go-karts, Burnout is bumper cars on fire.

Intermediate

Need for Speed an open-world racer which allows for a freedom of movement you don’t get in many other games. The missions are fun and face-paced and the cars are highly customizable, which adds an extra layer of fun. If you want to get your loved one invested in your Need for Speed game, let them design a car for you. Even if they don’t want to play, they may be more willing to watch you play with the gorgeous machine they made with their own two thumbsticks.

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Also consider Forza
Forza and Need for Speed are compared heavily to one another. They are both open world racing games with amazing graphics, but each satisfies different markets. Need for Speed is for the arcade crowd, Forza is more a simulator.  

Enthusiast

Gran Turismo might not classify as a “true” racing simulator (I don’t know enough about cars or racing to tell you why), but it is a solid choice for casual gamers and enthusiasts.

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Gran Turismo allows you to experience high speed racing without the guilt of potentially denting a $1.2 million automobile or careening off the side of a mountain in a ball of fire. A great deal of attention is paid to the appearance and performance of each vehicle, as well as the general feeling of each car. It is a very big game, placing high importance on proper racing technique with the largest collection of cars in a racing game to date.

These things may be intimidating beginners, but I can still recommend Gran Turismo to people with little experience. The game does a very good job of preparing the player for difficult races with its license-testing system, which barricades the player from progressing to higher levels without proving they have mastered the necessary techniques. That might sound menacing, but the learning curve is actually very gentle.

Additional Tips

  • Let loved ones watch you play. I started playing racing games after watching an old boyfriend play them. Sometimes, people will be willing to investigate something you like simply because they want to connect with you.
  • It’s easier to approach something new when you are with other novices. Invite a small group over for a Mario Kart party. People tend warm up to new experiences (and each other) quickly when they are all equally terrible at something.
  • Be nice and be patient. One disadvantage of co-op racing games is that you are usually in direct competition with one another, rather than working toward the same goal. I cannot stress enough the importance of being a good sport. Being terrible at something is only fun for so long, and that length of time has a direct negative correlation with how crappy a winner you are. Don’t gloat. Be encouraging. Cheer them on. We all like to have someone in our corner.

These are just friendly guidelines. Your loved one may love Mario Kart, but he might be completely disinterested in the other games on our list. She may have a particular affinity for the technical precision of racing simulators. She might love Need for Speed, but steer away from Mario Kart. This entire genre might not be to their taste.

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These games are just good starting points for you to test the waters. The key is to be receptive. Ask what they like about a game and what they don’t like. Are arcade style games too fast-paced? Are racing simulators too technical? Do they like customizing cars? The side challenges? You can use these responses to tailor your recommendations for them and find a common ground to enjoy together in the fast lane.

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Laura’s Picks of 2014

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As with my list from 2013, my top picks of the year aren’t necessarily games that came out in 2014 (technically, I think only one did). These are the three games that I spent the majority of my time playing in 2014. I’m not going into too much detail about them here because I want to do a full write up on each in the future. So let’s jump in, shall we?

Bayonetta 2

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I haven’t finished this game yet. I think I am nearly done and I have loved every minute of it. I can hardly follow the plot and I can barely scrape a passing grade at the end of each chapter, but Bayonetta 2 is such a joy in my life. Even moving around in this game is fun. If you enjoyed Bayonetta, this is more of the same (in a good way). It is still the bombastic, high-energy, firework display that the first one was with some new moves, weapons, and costumes. This is a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and I love that.

Gran Turismo 6

This is an odd choice for me. It is not my usual taste in games and I don’t generally don’t care about cars. But one day I was in a mood- I wanted to play a racing game, so I bought Gran Turismo 6 on a whim. I never played any of it’s predecessors, but it was exactly what I was looking for. It’s fun to play (even with no explosions or fancy lights). This game obviously had a lot of love put into it. I actually became mildly obsessed with this game for about a month straight, though I don’t think I play it the way it was intended…

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I don’t play online because I am not polite enough to play online. I buy cars only when I really need them or really want them; I don’t collect them or upgrade them very often. The few cars that I do have in my garage are black, with one exception (a flamboyant, glittery, orange/purple atrocity that I simply needed in my life). I have little patience for stats. As in life, my interest in cars is a purely practical one: Get me from point A to point B. Only now it is a matter of getting from point A to point B fast enough for a gold medal. I play for gold with such ferocious determination. I don’t play to complete a task, I play to conquer it…which might explain why I haven’t actually beaten this game yet.

Hatoful Boyfriend: A School of Hope and White Wings

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I played this game so much since it was released in English this year. For those who don’t know about this delightful little delicacy, it is a visual novel developed by PigeoNation Inc. You play as the only human at a private school for gifted, sapient birds. It is just ridiculous and you should totally play it.

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