Here at Ars, we’re big fans of emulators and ROM hacks that actually improve on the limitations of classic games in some way or another. Today, though, we’ve found ourselves enamored with a Super Mario Kart ROM patch that easily makes the game much, much worse.
Longtime Super Mario Kart hacker MrL314 calls Resident Evil Kart “the worst thing I have ever created,” and it’s not hard to see why. As implied by the title, the ROM patch replaces Super Mario Kart‘s usual over-the-shoulder tracking camera with something more akin to the awkward fixed-angle “perspective shots” of the original PlayStation 1 Resident Evil games. The perspective automatically jumps between these fixed cameras around the track as your racer moves from section to section, forcing you to judge turns and obstacles from very skewed angles.
MrL314 writes that the idea for this hack arose from time spent “researching how the camera system in Super Mario Kart works” as part of the development of the impressive-looking Super Mario Kart Deluxe. He first posted a concept video of the fixed camera system in SMK last July, before sharing an early prototype with his Patreon supporters.
Back then, he said, “this thing is a NIGHTMARE to play, but honestly I might actually release a polished version of it, since it is kinda cool honestly.” On Wednesday, he followed through with that plan, releasing a final version of Resident Evil Kart to the public as a ROM patch (which requires an original, unheadered, US Super Mario Kart ROM to be playable).
Watch where you’re going!
After playing the newly released public version of the hack this afternoon, we feel that MrL314 is, underselling just how difficult the fixed camera angle makes the game. The vagaries of the Super Nintendo’s Mode 7 scaling mean your racer is often reduced to a small blob of pixels that only give a vague indication of their true position and orientation on the course (a combination with that high-resolution Mode 7 mod might have helped on that score). Then, just when you’ve kind of gotten used to navigating from one perspective, the camera suddenly jumps to a new location and angle, forcing you to realign yourself on the fly.
Still, after a little practice, I found this “Nightmare” mode wasn’t impossible. With a few practice races, I could finish in first place on the first two Mushroom Cup tracks (at 50cc, at least) before finally giving up on Ghost Valley 1 and its destructible side barriers. Players who find it all too overwhelming can also cheat by glancing at the fixed, three-quarters Super Off-Road-style map view on the bottom half of the screen.
If nothing else, Resident Evil Kart makes us wonder what other classic games might take on new life just by changing their camera angles. Already, we’ve seen versions of Super Mario Bros. played from a first-person perspective and Virtua Racing played from the game’s dynamic “Live Camera” perspective. But how about reimagining Star Fox 64 as a top-down shoot-em-up or a first-person, VR version of Bubble Bobble? The sky’s the limit here, people.