The following is an interview with Keith Scannell, winner of the Mario Kart 64 tournament at Anime Milwaukee 2014.
What were the rules and what was the structure of the tournament?
What are some things about Mario Kart 64 that make playing it different from other Mario Kart games?The tempo and rhythm of the game in general is much faster and harder to control than newer versions of Mario Kart. In the first round, my character felt out of control at times and it took a lap or two to get my kart moving the way I wanted it to. Also, there are some techniques that do not exist in the other games. A good example is that if a player runs over a banana while going straight, that player has a few seconds to press the B button in order to avoid spinning out.
What was your overall strategy for the tournament?As a child I used to play this game endlessly, so I have a vast knowledge of techniques and courses from those days. My strategy was to use that knowledge, show no mercy, and have fun playing the game I spent hours trying to master. I stayed calm, did not let items and misfortune throw me off, and focused on making comebacks when I needed them.
What was one of the courses where you needed to make a comeback?Toad’s Turnpike, I started off getting pelted with items and cars, but I used my driving skills to catch up and get first.
What were the races in the finals like?We played DK’s Jungle Parkway and Yoshi’s Valley on Extra (Mirror in newer Mario Kart games) where the courses were flipped-If you made a right turn in the level, you instead made a left turn in Extra. It felt odd, but playing DK’s Jungle Parkway on the Wii game actually made it easier for me to remember the flipped turns, and I won first place convincingly. The same could not be said for Yoshi’s Valley-I made too many errors and turned the wrong way too many times. It was embarrassing, and it was my only loss in the tournament, but luckily for me, my victory in the first race kept me tied for first place.
That means you had to play battle mode for the championship-what was your strategy for that and how did it play out?I didn’t really have a strategy until I realized what level we were playing on. We played on the Block Fort level (a fan favorite). In this level, staying at the top of the structure was the key. My goal was to stay on the highest bridges and shoot green shells into the lower levels, keeping an item for defense at all times. I would only leave the bridges to place bananas where I thought the opponent might slip on them, along with fake item boxes. The green shell strategy worked and I won the tournament.
What else did you do at the convention?I did a little of everything. I played other video games in the video game room and participated in the Super Smash Bros. Melee tournament (since there was no Super Smash Bros. Brawl tournament). I didn’t do that well but Mario Kart is more my game anyways. I played Yu-gi-oh in the tabletop games room a few times, went anime shopping on Friday, and went to the rave Saturday night. Basically, I spent the weekend with my four other friends and we enjoyed being silly and having fun together.
Mario Kart 8 comes out May 30th. What are your overall thoughts on the game?It looks stunning. I’m excited to see how they will use the new anti-gravity feature to impact the game while keeping it a true Mario Kart game. It looks like they are putting a lot of work into the game to make it great, and some of those new courses are breathtaking, like the underwater level and one that looks like a roller coaster. I’m curious to see what older courses they will be adding as well. The Wii U is in need of a groundbreaking game, so we will see if Mario Kart 8 is that game.
Nintendo recently announced the Koopa Kids will be playable characters. What kind of impact do you think that will have on the game? Do you think that might be too many characters?Mario Kart is a game that does well with many characters. Not only is it a nice reward for playing farther in the game but I think it makes the game more diverse and fun. Also, you can do more with the game if you have more characters-it makes the experience more personal and lets you have your own identity when playing the game. As for the characters themselves, I think the Koopa Kids are a great idea. It’s almost an appeal to older gamers since the kids were only in a few games and then dropped from the Mario series for a long time. It will be interesting to see what they will do in the game and makes you wonder if Bowser Jr. is still in there as well. I’m hoping for a Super Mario World based level for the Koopa Kids.
Some have argued that the series should be expanded to include other Nintendo franchises. What do you think?Absolutely! It’s one of the reasons why Super Smash Bros. is such a big hit among Nintendo fans. The levels, items, and even cars, would be much more creative and it would attract a lot more gamers to the Mario Kart series if it was done. You could even make it like Mario Kart: Double Dash where you can pair up your favorite Nintendo characters in one car with their own specials. The possibilities are endless.