Pokemon Already Made A Kart Racer, But It Was Awful
Pokemon has loads of spin-off games. We collectively forgot about most of the Wii ones. To those who didn’t desperately want to forget My Pokemon Ranch, sorry if I just reminded you of those horrific 3D sprites. Some spin-offs are great, don’t get me wrong. New Pokemon Snap is better than most recent main series Pokemon games. I’d kill for an official emulation of the Pokemon TCG Game Boy game. But some people are never happy.
“They should make a Pokemon version of Mario Kart,” is one of the requests/yells/cries for help (delete as appropriate) that I hear most often. And I get it. A little Bulbasaur zooming round a Cinnabar Island-themed map? Yes please. Gengar in a spooky car zooming through barriers and levitating across shortcuts? Sign me up. Eevee evolving into Jolteon halfway around a track to get a speed boost and zapping nearby racers with a bolt of electrifying energy? The possibilities are endless – and all of them are great. The problem is, Nintendo already tried this, and it was kind of bad.
‘Kind of bad,’ is me being generous, folks. Pokemon Team Turbo released on PC in 2005, but it looks like it’s 10 years older than that and feels worse than 1992’s Super Mario Kart. It doesn’t help that the top-down racer only has six excruciatingly simple courses that aren’t Pokemon themed in any way. You don’t even drive cars, every Pokemon sprite just sits in a different-coloured Poke Ball as they go around the three or four corners of a track. There are a couple of speed boosts to collect, but other than that, Pokemon Team Turbo is one of the worst racing games ever made.
“But it was released in 2005,” I hear you shout. “Cut it some slack!” Shadow of the Colossus released in 2005. “But that’s a different genre on far superior hardware!” Superior to a PC? Sure. Mario Kart DS released in 2005. Animal Crossing: Wild World. King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie. All of which are stone cold classics and bloody good games. Pokemon Team Turbo is neither of those things.
If the generic courses and steering-only racing mechanics weren’t bad enough, each course is sandwiched between inane minigames. Crosswords, dominos, and word searches need to be completed in order to progress for some reason. It’s tedious and pointless, but at least this bit is actually Pokemon themed.
I know this isn’t what people mean when they ask for Pokemon Kart. They want fast-paced third-person racing on a Rapidash’s back, they want reimaginatings of classic two-dimensional cities as 3D race courses, and they want customisable karts with a variety of wheels, wings, and whatever else Pokemon adds to shake up the formula. But if we forget the past we could be doomed to repeat it, and nobody wants to play another Pokemon Team Turbo.
A Pokemon kart racer would be great, yes. If the game is anywhere near the quality of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (DLC excluded), then it would be a hit, and have countless fans playing for decades to come. It worked for the plumber, so why not the electric rat? And it may seem simple to overcome the things that made Team Turbo so bad – don’t include the word puzzles for starters – but Mario Kart set the bar so high that it’s almost impossible to imagine anything taking its crown, even if that racer is based on the biggest franchise in the world.
It’s hard to imagine Pokemon making a bad kart racer if it really puts its mind to it in this day and age, but imagine if the company decided to remaster or re-release Pokemon Team Turbo instead of just starting fresh? That would be a monkey paw and a half. Instead of using a Potion to repair your kart at a pit stop or hitting an X Speed for a cheeky speed boost across the finish line, we’d be stuck doing Sudowoodokus forever. Please no. Anything but that.
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