3, 2, 1…Goemon. Mario Kart clones are ten-a-penny, but Konami Krazy Racers remains one of the very best.
Let me tell you a story about the summer of 2001.
Actually, it isn’t that interesting so let’s skip forward to the midst of a long family holiday and a supermarket that sold a plethora of reasonably priced Game Boy Advance games. It was here I picked up Konami Krazy Racers. Unashamedly modelled on Mario Kart and featuring a cast of colourful, vaguely recognisable characters, it’s fair to say my expectations weren’t high.
Yet Konami Krazy Racers makes a very decent go of being one of the earliest handheld racing games for the Game Boy Advance – indeed its efforts are even more impressive given the game arrived several months before Mario Kart: Super Circuit, meaning there was little precedent set for a portable version of the Nintendo franchise.
The mechanics are immediately familiar – eight racers line up on the starting grid; there are a series of power-ups such as speed boosts and homing missiles, the tracks are littered with coins to collect…you get the idea. Konami Krazy Racers wins few prizes for originality, but it makes good on a winning formula.
Player progression is slightly different and actually a little more involved than Mario Kart. Unlocking new tracks relies on obtaining an improved drivers licence, which is achieved through a series of objectives – generally winning a competitive race or using your experience of the tracks and racers to beat a time trial. The obligatory unlockable characters are also obtained in a less conventional manner than in Mario Kart. Throughout the game, you’ll receive cryptic hints that secrets lie within some of the courses. Explore off the map (enough as is reasonably possible in a racing game) and you’ll find a gem that holds a hidden character – then it’s pedal to the metal as you need to complete the course and retrieve your prize.
Ultimately the replay value of Konami Krazy Racers, as with other racers on the GBA, depends on how much you like the courses. The local multiplayer mode was solid, but finding a link cable now is probably going to be the least of your problems in trying to play anything other than the single player mode.
A sequel, Krazy Kart Racing, was released for iOS and Android in 2009, although it has since disappeared. The original is available for purchase on the Wii U Virtual Console – although these days there are much better handheld racers available. Let that take nothing away from Konami Krazy Racing though: the graphics were great, the races were speedy and the soundtrack was nothing short of killer.