Posted By: wraggster
Segments of Mario Kart Wii’s Rainbow Road ripple beneath you, which skilled players can use to chain together a run of stunts.
Humans have long seen rainbows as signifiers of promise, be it a fabled pot of treasure to claim, the cessation of Biblical-scale ecological cleansing, a bridge to other worlds, or simply that the sun will be waiting when the rain finally clears. After 22 years and seven console games, the Mario Kart series carries its own implicit promises, not least of which is that there will always be at least one Rainbow Road to test you among its track list. The reward at this rainbow’s end is a coveted one and, true to at least one legend, it’s usually a shiny golden prize: the Special Cup.In 1992’s Super Mario Kart, Nintendo laid down Rainbow Road’s fundamentals: a track that is both visual set-piece and ultimate challenge. From the earliest moments you put tyre on tarmac in Mario Circuit, the designers have begun to play with the idea of not hemming you onto the course and the critical path, but it isn’t until Rainbow Road that you’re suspended over black void without a single barrier and left at the fickle mercy of a jostling pack of racers and deadly Thwomps. Kicking off a lasting aesthetic legacy, meanwhile, the ground is mesmerising, a shimmering parade of technicolour that contrasts strongly against the sucking gulf of space beyond. SNES Mode 7 graphics offered a wondrous faux-3D perspective, too, but its limitations left this Rainbow Road pan flat, and the series’ purest test of driving skill. It’s short, taut, and unique among its peers for having no counterpart, which is also a fitting description for the game credited with sparking off the kart-racing genre.But reinvention has proved key to the track’s evergreen popularity, and everyone has a favourite version. A radical overhaul for Mario Kart 64 brought a dash of stardust and neon, but more crucially the additional N64 processing power allowed the road to shift to semi-translucent and wending, stomach-churningly rising and falling through 3D space. Yet in a retrograde step, star barriers came plastered to every edge, all but eliminating the possibly of unforced falls. So early on, the track’s reputation for extreme challenge threatened to spin out, even if vicious Chomps and lengthy turns provided some of the toothy handling requirements fans expected. It wouldn’t last: from GBA’s Super Circuit on, a sizeable portion of every track has been left open to treacherous falls into space, ensuring steady employment for Lakitu and his fishing rod.