Almost every game company and franchise had a kart racer a decade ago. Now that Konami's overlooked portable kartstravaganza is now available for download on Wii U, let's put our engines in reverse and have a look back at this charming pocket-sized racer.
It's hard not to smile when you first boot up Konami Krazy Racers because it's bursting with fun from the opening sequence where a penguin delivers you a message to the toe-tapping funky menu music. Once you dive in to see what you can do in this little game, the colourful cast of characters, interesting selection of modes, and variety of unique track themes will surely leave a good first impression. Speaking of characters, you can choose from eight classic Konami chums right off the bat that consist of Goemon (also known here as the Mystical Ninja), Pawapuro-Kun from Jikkyo Powerful Pro Baseball, Pastel from Twinbee, Nyami from Pop'n Music, Takosuke from Parodius, Ninja from Metal Gear, Dracula from Castlevania, and Moai from Gradius. Although very well hidden, you might also unlock Beartank from Rakuga Kids, Ebisumaru from Goemon, The King from Pop'n Music, and finally Vic Viper from Gradius. Most of these characters are generally unknown to western audiences but any Konami fan is bound to recognize at least half of them. It's a fantastic and diverse cast that's great fun to play around with.
If you've played any mode 7 kart racers such as Super Mario Kart or Mario Kart: Super Circuit then you know what to expect when it comes to gameplay. The most surprising part about it is how well everything works. You would think that no kart racer could outdo Mario Kart yet Konami Krazy Racers comes close. As expected, you control your kart by tapping buttons to steer, accelerate, break, hop, and use item pick-ups. The tracks feature many different hazards such as baseballs that can flatten your racer, lava that burns you upon contact, and strategically placed jump pads. In addition to these hazards, power-ups can be collected by driving into bells from TwinBee. These sometimes have hilarious results such as turning all of the other racers into pigs. Each of these dynamics has the potential to advance you to first place or be demoted to the back of the pack in an instant. Either way, you know you're in for one wild ride.
Even though there are technically 16 tracks, only nine of them have unique themes. In other words, seven tracks look similar yet their layouts are different. This may not be an impressive variety, but it is satisfying enough to explore and master each one since it'll take a while to start feeling repetitive. The main mode consists of four Grand Prix events with four races in each. However, you'll eventually need to take two license tests in order to advance through the whole thing. Completing all of that won't take that long but there are a few extra modes to add some needed replay value. As you race, you collect money that you can use at an item shop to purchase additional power-ups that assist you in the races. Time Attack and Free Run modes allow you to choose a character and track to race either with or without the pressure of a timer while "Mini Battle" mode contains two enjoyable mini-games. The first one called "Bomb Chaser" is basically an arena combat match where you play tag with three other racers while the second one (appropriately titled "Chicken") just requires you to brake at the right moment without driving off a cliff.
Konami Krazy Racers may be a heck of a lot of fun, but it does have its issues. The first of which is that the single player experience is way too brief. There really isn't anything to do after you complete the four championships, take all the license tests, unlock the additional characters, and play the mini-games a couple of times. On top of this, a few of the license tests can be downright brutal since they require more luck than anything. One such test is a time trial on a track that features loads of hazards. Dodging fireballs that rain down from the sky devolves into a luck-based endeavor and the extremely strict time limit makes no room for error, so good luck trying to pass that within a few tries! Anyway, you could always play against a friend, but doing so is impossible on the Wii U. Also, it only has multi-pak multiplayer so even if you own the original Game Boy Advance cartridge, you still need a second copy.
When it comes to portable kart racers, you can't get much better than Konami Krazy Racers. Although it has a few downsides that hold it back from being great, its solid gameplay and lively presentation make it a must-buy for any kart racing enthusiast.
- + Brimming with colourful charm and fun
- + Solid mode 7 kart racing gameplay
- + Nine unique track themes and twelve classic Konami characters to choose from
- - Short single player experience
- - Some license tests can be unfair
- - Two copies of the Game Boy Advance cartridge are required for multiplayer