First read this.
I must have been somewhere close to 15 or 16 when I first met Shane. I was told about his 1000$ Mario Kart challenge and instantly knew what kind of person he was. Through a series of unfortunate events, a game called Super Mario Kart was released in a time when internet play didn't exist for console games. In times like these, some players will continue to get better at a game until they have exhausted all the local competition. When this happens, some of these players are driven to put their skills to the test by taking on the world, enticing challengers with a risk free chance to win big.
I told Shane's story whenever I heard the words Mario Kart and "I was pretty good" in the same sentence. Everyone thinks they were "pretty good" at one game or another. If not, everyone has a friend or a friend of a friend who "can't be beat." Well, Shane Kukiattikoon now 25 years old, is the guy I know. He couldn't be beat. And unlike so many others who could talk big, he backed up his claim with a grand prize.
The last time I saw Shane in person was at a Super Smash Brothers Brawl tournament. In an epic struggle, he knocked me into the losers bracket only for me to come back and eliminate him near the finals. I talked to him about Mario Kart briefly, and we recalled good times.
A few months later, Mario Kart Wii came out, and I was inspired to write a few essays on Mario Kart. But it only just occurred to me that I knew the legendary Dr. Mario Kart, and that I could get an interview with him and share his story again.
KirbyKid: So you're a wiz a Mario Kart SNES, right?
Dr Mario Kart: At one time. Looks like the old site I had someone taking care of back when I was running around offering money to anyone that could beat me has been taken down. That wouldve been instructive for you to snoop around. It had my match record as well as a listing of events I had been to and some articles/pictures.
Dr Mario Kart: It was called the $1000 Super Mario Kart Challenge. I'd go to LAN parties and gaming events and set up a booth and give people free shots to try to take me down, with prizes varying from $5 for getting half my score, or $1K for a 7-0 sweep.
KirbyKid: How was the competition you found?
Dr Mario Kart: It was almost all blowouts. I won something like slightly over 98% of all the rounds I ever played, which was over 10 thousand I think. I had one person get half my score once, but he declined the prize.
KirbyKid: Have you kept up with the Mario Kart series?
Dr Mario Kart: only casually. I feel like physics and the game engine haven't really allowed for that kind of high level competition since
KirbyKid: what did you like best about Super Mario Kart ?
Dr Mario Kart: Its easy to like something that you are good at. I clicked with the game. It always came naturally to me. The battle mode was really a high level show of art and skill. Racing is more static, in that the conditions never change. When you are battling someone and have to respond to your opponent, it's a different situation. I always found that there was an inverse relationship between how good you were at racing and how good you were at battle. I played against some of the world record time trialers and I couldnt scratch them in a race, but they couldn't battle at all.
KirbyKid: Getting attacked wasn't common in the versus racing mode at a high level?
Dr Mario Kart: The shells didn't follow the road back then, they could only be used in a very local proximity for the most part. The top racers would get SO FAR AHEAD of me from the very start that I could never hit them.The battle arenas were more confined, so even if they were good at running, I can catch them with tricks or traps.
KirbyKid: Where did these top racers come from that could beat you, and why didn't they win the 1000$ prize?
Dr Mario Kart: All over the place. My challenge was for battle. I never got into racing. Racing was more popular because you could do time trials by yourself especially later on when the community was small and spread out.
KirbyKid: Is the community still alive today, and how many do you think are in it?
Dr Mario Kart: I imagine it has continued to decline, but even without checking I am sure there are still some people who never gave it up. There numbers are too small to estimate. Definitely an endangered species.
KirbyKid: Were there a lot of glitches or exploits for the racing and/or battle mode?
Dr Mario Kart: Not really. But there were some mechanics of the game that were not really understood well. I did hear later on that someone had developed quite a few game breaking glitches using an emulator, but I don't know if it ever made the transition to being usable on the actual console. Emulators can be goofy sometimes. For instance, how it decided what items it would give you from those seemingly random boxes. I would often get accused of getting things in long streaks. I think my record was 12 green shells in a row
KirbyKid: So even the feather jumping tricks were all legit?
Dr Mario Kart: Yes, I cant think of anything that was game breaking enough for anyone to talk of banning
KirbyKid: Where there differences in the characters in Super Mario Kart?
Dr Mario Kart: There were 8 characters arranged in a 4 column, 2 row grid. The 2 characters in each column are re-skinned clones. Across the columns, they differ in things like max speed, acceleration, and turn handling.
KirbyKid: Even though the stats weren't displayed right?
Dr Mario Kart: Right. I think the manual might have had some generic number of stars to represent their ability in things though
KirbyKid: Was the range significant in actual play, or were the characters largely the same?
Dr Mario Kart: It was significant. Some characters were better suited to either battling or racing. There were definite "tiers". Counterpicking was never an issue. The way turtle shell physics worked, the shells moved quicker when fired based on how fast you were moving, so the differences in how fast you could move at max or how fast you could get there matters.
KirbyKid: Who was the best and worst?
Dr Mario Kart: Everyone played Koopa Trooper or Toad (They are the same). I think they had the lowest max speed and probably the lowest acceleration as well. They were all about handling turns, which allowed for some trickier shots that just wasnt possible with other characters. The battle arenas were a bit cramped, so the quicker characters were harder to not hit a wall (and slow down) or handle in general.
KirbyKid: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.
Dr Mario Kart: I havent played in a good couple of years now.
KirbyKid: No problem.
Dr Mario Kart: I'm actually opening the new Mario Kart for Wii as we speak.
KirbyKid: Be careful. Did you play double dash?
Dr Mario Kart: A little bit.
KirbyKid: Did you like it?
Dr Mario Kart: The games are all generally fun, but without a competitive battle mode, I lose interest quickly. And maybe [they were] competitive, but everything falls so short when compared to the original.
Shane has put Super Mario Kart up on the shelves of his past. Now, he's taken up Smash Brothers, and becoming competitive at Brawl is a new goal that we both share. In the grand scheme of things, people come and go, and stories blow by in the wind unnoticed. Sometimes, someone will pick one up and post it on their website or blog. But unlike everyone else, here at Critical-Gaming, we fight for and against each other because we actually play games. We don't just talk about them.