The first arcade rendition of Nintendo's popular Mario Kart is trickling into arcades in North America, and now 1UP.com has taken a good look at the game. The consensus is that it's a good game, but it has more in common with Namco's design principles than those of Nintendo.
The rest of the game is also a lot of fun -- it's a bit strange to control a Mario Kart game with a steering wheel and pedals when you first sit down, but after a race or two it feels completely normal. Like how Sega took the F-Zero franchise to arcades with its own special touches, Namco has successfully shaken up the Mario Kart franchise for an arcade release (and we're not just talking about including Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, and Blinky amongst the playable characters).
I like the addition of some of the new items, such as the virus characters from Dr. Mario that cause the screen to distort, but the thing about Mario Kart is that it's always rooted in Mushroom Kingdom mythology. It's possible to dissect each game in the series and list which elements come from which video game. Some of the new items, such as the cream pie or the raincloud, seem out of place. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does break the pattern. Then again, that's because Namco is in the driver's seat this time around, developmentally speaking. I'm still hoping to stumble upon a Mario Kart Arcade GP machine someday, but I've also resigned myself to the fact that it's more likely I'll have to wait until some far time in the future when the game is legally emulatable on futuristic computers.