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Editorial   

O Snaking, How I Mourn the Loss

Why Mario Kart 7 has me down.

Well, it's official, snaking is officially gone from the Mario Kart series. After Mario Kart Wii, it was up in the air if future iterations would provide players with such ability, but it appears Mario Kart 7 solidifies the permanent omission. As an advocate of snaking, this is a sad day.

It's a gameplay feature that's nearly universally reviled, so it's no surprise that it's been removed for good. Just a mention of the term is enough to spark an enraged debate. For those not in the know, snaking is the act of continuously powersliding from left to right in order to move faster.

As an advocate of the technique, it's only fair that I give you a bit of background. I've been playing Mario Kart regularly since the release of Mario Kart 64. While I played the original game on the SNES, it wasn't one that I ever had the pleasure of owning until recently. While I enjoyed each and every Mario Kart, Mario Kart DS was the first in the series I played in a competitive fashion.

After beating the game and achieving all gold trophies in all of the cups across all of the speeds, I decided to take on the staff ghosts. I've always known them to exist, but after being defeated by a large margin in past games I had mostly dismissed them. But Mario Kart DS was such an exceptional game; I was looking to maximize play time. As per usual, the staff ghosts proved to be at a skill level much greater than my own. So how could I possibly beat them? Well, that's where snaking came in.

In an organic fashion, I realized that along straightaways and coming off turns I could execute a boost or two to get around a bit faster – it was a much needed edge. My brother Rob also got into the game pretty heavily and we began a friendly rivalry. He learned of the snaking techniques as well and suddenly, we found ourselves pushing to maximize boost potential in order to achieve faster times.

 

And then it happened – the once familiar tracks were completely foreign again. My standard racing techniques were no longer valuable, I had to assess each turn, consider each straightaway and calculate just how quickly I needed to execute a powerslide to achieve a certain number of boosts before the next bend of the track. Once inaccessible shortcuts could be utilized without a boost handy, new shortcuts could be made thanks to a little progressive snaking. Everything was different and it was exciting.

Getting online, I realized it wasn't just my brother and I - but many others - and the competition was stiff. I went on to further hone my skills, eventually beating all of the staff ghosts and three starring every tournament in the game. It was a remarkable experience and my time with Mario Kart DS won't soon be forgotten.

But when I shared these stories with other players, it was quite apparent that not everyone felt the same way. Apparently, I was a cheater. I didn't play by the rules and I was ruining the online experience. To this day, I still don't understand it, but it's clear who has "won," given Nintendo's design of the past couple games in the series.

For me, much of the magic that Mario Kart DS held is lost in these iterations because I can't go back and attack all of the courses with the same degree of scrutiny. Regardless of the lack of snaking, there's absolutely depth to the experience, but I'm certain that Mario Kart 7, like Mario Kart Wii, won't get that second wind to keep it in my eye for quite the same amount of time.

Best I can tell, most of the complaining stems from the fact that the online mode of Mario Kart DS was ruined by folks like me who enjoyed the game in a different way. Despite my feelings on the matter, I can understand the complaint. Unfortunately, rather than listening to the fans and providing the proper solution, I feel Nintendo listened and did exactly what the most boisterous fans asked for.

It seems to me that Nintendo could've simply developed a more robust online mode that would separate snakers and non-snakers. As such, everyone would be accommodated. I'm not quite sure how this would be done, but it seems it would be possible. Perhaps two different powersliding mechanics, one like Mario Kart DS and the other like Mario Kart Wii? Whatever the solution, more options could've made the game more inclusive, particularly to stalwarts (like me) who will miss the features of past titles.

This inevitably leads into a bigger discussion about how Nintendo fans often complain that Nintendo makes games too accessible to casuals, but praise such decisions when it applies to something they deem to make the game more accessible for themselves. Nonetheless, I will miss snaking and Mario Kart DS will remain best in the series until another can dethrone it with the same level of depth.


 

Comments

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

12/05/2011 at 12:18 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

I, for one, will not mourn the loss of snaking, but I understand your argument. I also never viewed snaking as 'cheating.' It's part of the game, and required a fair amount of skill.

I also don't really think you'll ever be able to relive that experience you described. It sounded like a lot of it hinged on rediscovering the game with the new exploit your discovered. The next game, you immediately tried playing it the same way you had previously learned, so it's not like you missed out on discovering something new, they just removed what you had previously discovered. In other words, the chances of rediscovering another way to play another Mario Kart game in the same way is just very improbable.

Nick DiMola Director

12/05/2011 at 12:37 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

This is true, it will be tough to discover such depth in another Mario Kart game via a different mechanic. I'd be more than happy with a return of snaking, just as an advanced technique of sorts. As it stands, I don't think the current configuration will have much life beyond the online matches, which aren't really my cup of tea anyway. I'm sure I'll be exchanging ghosts with my brother again, but it definitely won't be the same.

Kathrine Theidy Feature Writer

12/05/2011 at 07:03 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

I don't think you gave Mario Kart Wii a chance. I definitely discovered that rethinking of the game thing that you experienced with Mario Kart DS after I experimented with the new drift mechanic and understood how it works. There's definitely skill to it, even though it may not seem like it at first, it's just a different kind than before. To me, it sounds like you saw the mechanic had changed and didn't even bother trying to learn it.

I don't disagree about having options, though. I've always felt that many games, including Mario Kart, need more gameplay variations and choices. I'm still waiting for the day when Nintendo realizes that true accessibility lies in providing many options, not this "one size fits most" mentality.

Nick DiMola Director

12/05/2011 at 07:28 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

I did play quite a bit of Mario Kart Wii and discovered that most of the depth came from the bikes, specifically one of the bikes that seemingly controlled terribly. It had the weirdest of the drifting mechanics, but could take turns on a dime and was fast, way faster than the rest of the bikes.

Instead of snaking, you'd constantly pop wheelies, but I just didn't like it. It wasn't quite as deep as snaking and though it encouraged analysis of the tracks, I don't think it allowed for quite as many options. In any event, I did play through the entire game and took on many of the staff ghosts. It just wasn't for me. For what it's worth, I think Mario Kart 7 is the better game (compared to Wii).

In any event, yes, options are a long time coming to the Mario Kart series and quite frankly, seven entries deep it shouldn't have to be requested.

Matt McLennan Contributing Writer

12/05/2011 at 10:10 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

I think I already mentioned this to Nick on twitter, but I do not mind at all that the snaking is gone. While some people will miss it, its not a deal breaker. To me, it changed up how you drifted in Mario Kart DS, but at the same time it didn't feel 'natural' to me. Natural was the thrill of making a tight turn and building up your boost. Double Dash and Wii did this so well, and from the looks of it, so does Mario Kart 7. Snaking did nothing for me. I appreciate change (see SMB2 USA post in Mario Mania if you need further proof), but this wasn't a wildly appreciate change for me. Interesting? Yes, but not my favorite.

X-Mas time = Mario Kart 7. Super excited and I can't wait for the community to start!

Kathrine Theidy Feature Writer

12/06/2011 at 09:42 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

You're probably talking about the inward-drifting bikes. They are indeed broken, as combined with wheelies they are vastly overpowered. That means it takes a lot of skill with a kart to beat them, and I've met some people who definitely got into a competitive spirit due to that. Though trying to win with an inferior vehicle is a different story.

I'd say that the timed mini-turbo mechanic demands tighter racing lines than snaking. Since you need to drift for a specific amount of time for each turbo boost, if you mess that up, there's no second chance to get the boost. Since the boost can be done so quickly in Mario Kart DS, racing lines don't matter as much since if you mess one up, you still have plenty of time to do several more.

Nick DiMola Director

12/06/2011 at 11:34 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

I guess we'll agree to disagree. Snaking requires the same level of perfection for the best possible times. I might not have made this clear, but I play Mario Kart mostly for Time Trials, so every move counts.

I suppose in terms of a competitive race, I can see where that perfection isn't as necessary and Mario Kart DS allows snakers an unfair advantage. But even still, better snaking will likely lead to a better position in the race.

Kathrine Theidy Feature Writer

12/06/2011 at 11:56 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

Well there's your problem. Who plays Mario Kart for time trials? :P

Kyle Charizanis Staff Alumnus

12/07/2011 at 12:07 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

I know a guy who used to have a few world records in Double Dash. He would pretty much never stop snaking the entire level. Kind of scary.

Nick DiMola Director

12/07/2011 at 09:14 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

Haha. It's not the most popular way, I'm sure of that, but I don't derive any enjoyment from playing online with voiceless strangers. I don't mind a local race with friends or family, but I don't care to waste time online playing race after race against strangers.

I like being tasked with a very specific, invariable challenge. If the courses aren't being traveled by AI or human racers and there aren't items in the way, I can run consistent laps and figure out the best possible routes.

Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy the zaniness of multiplayer races, but those don't happen very frequently, so I've grown accustomed to enjoying the single player aspects of the game.

For Mario Kart DS at least, I played in a couple tournaments, which had no crazy rule sets, just general races. Lost to my brother in the local one and placed second in the national tourney. It was all snakers in the top 3 of course, but the degree to which I got beat in the national tourney was astonishing. I beat the game with a 3 star rank and I had beaten every staff ghost in the game by a significant amount (who also snaked in MK DS). This guy made it like it was my first race in the game, he beat me so badly. It was unbelievable. So as I said, even in competition, snaking perfectly is unbelievably important to being the best.

Anyway, I think I've beat the point to death. I think what draws me to snaking and not the new version of boosting, is that the current version of boosting is so much more straightforward and it simply comes down to one variable, which is perfectly racing through the track. Snaking added in the variable of needing to continuously execute the boost, race along a much less defined line and often, breaking the standard boundaries of the course to reach the finish line the fastest.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to preference, and like I said in the editorial, I will mourn its loss, though I know I'm clearly in the minority. Good news, Mario Kart DS still works just fine and I can enjoy it indefinitely.

@Kyle

If he's got world records, that's the only way. That's exactly how I play MKDS - if you're not snaking, you've got problems. Try snaking through some narrow sections of a course or on light bends, it's insanely hard to do effectively while trying to hug the edge to reduce travel distance.

daRth_kiLL

12/09/2011 at 08:57 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

Oooooh, I'd be PISSED to lose to someone due to an exploit...snaking certainly sounds like an exploit to me. Still though, I'm sure it's fun to be on the giving end of it!!!

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