Vroom Vroom. Those loud and powerful car sounds will always haunt me in my memories and take me back to that fateful and confusing afternoon of December 16, 2012. My name is Marvin and since 5, I enjoyed playing Mario Kart- it was that one game that kept me challenged and yet delightfully entertained. Since the introduction of Mario Kart DS in 2005, I've played every Mario Kart game conceived right up to Mario Kart 8. The karts, the use of items, and the tracks never failed to disappoint me and brought me back to play again and again. However the one that I had a bond to was Mario Kart 7.
The reason why it's my favorite was that it was fun. Racing with customized karts on land, air, and water took the physics of Mario Kart and my sense of fun to a completely new level. I ran from school to my house every day just to hear the boing-boing noise of shells or simply to race in a cup with a new cart every time to beat my opponents. It was exclusively available to the 3DS which brought me face to face with Mario Kart on a scale never experienced before and it was a refuge from my social anxiety disorder. It filled my days with joy and while it lacked important characters (Waluigi for example) I played night and day with my favorite character, Koopa.But the afternoon of December 16 of 2012 changed my perspective on that game for good.
On that day, my beloved parents were accomodating room for the Christmas tree. I remember playing Mario Kart 7 as usual in the living room of our apartment (we were not wealthy at the time) in front of the bookshelf. The sounds of drifting and coin collecting rang in my ears as I
tackled the Mirror Mode Special Cup which was a pain but very enjoyable. As I was racing on Rosalina's Ice World, my mother came from the bedroom carrying the box that contained the Christmas Tree. Suddenly, either the box was too long or my mother was clumsy because the box knocked over the nearby bookshelf (our apartment is cramped) and it tumbled over me. Being an unaware kid, I was too busy playing to notice until the contents knocked me over. You might think, "Just a couple of books." Yes but add a series of encyclopedias plus the house phone, awards, and a portable laptop and see if you can get up. At that moment, I blacked out with my eyes settling into darkness.
I didn't know how long I was knocked out but the first thing I noticed was that my mother wasn't there neither my father and the bookshelf was back in place. The house was quiet however my vision was somewhat foggy and I didn't have the ability to stand up. I then looked down and saw my 3DS. It was surprisingly intact after the accident however the screen was pitch black. I pressed the power button and it turned on which also surprised me. However the menu was almost empty save for the Mario Kart 7 cartridge. I pressed over it and while the icon of Mario driving popped up, the game did not yield a sound. But- no it did... I recall hearing the trace of a woman's scream however it was very faint which made me doubt it happened. Another fact was that Mario looked less smug and his face had a look of stress or anticipation of something. I booted up the game and looked forward to complete that Special Cup.
All was not well the moment I saw a loading screen (reserved for online use) appear and it only said, "...". This sent me into an internal panic- I only saw this screen online but what was it doing here at the beginning of the game? The unfamiliarity of its message did not help me. However I shrugged it off as the screen brightened and suddenly I found myself on a treeless island surrounded by lava and a dark sky. What the hell is this course? I said to myself. The game skipped the menu (and the course introduction) as it seemed that I already had a character and a cart- Koopa with the Soda Jet and the Slick Wheels however the glider was never shown. There were 7 characters along with him although I cannot recall who they were. More oddities. The Grand Prix theme did not play but rather the creepy Time Trial theme played which sent shivers down my spine. The countdown started but Lakitu did not appear but I didn't care.
The race started. I quickly sped off however the 7 CPUs did not follow- in fact they never left their starting positions. I laughed but at the same time I panicked as I feared that the game might crash but it never did. The track was a loop since I constantly drifted . It was nothing too interesting such as leafless black trees but the path disturbed me. It was a bloodchilling red although I shook off blood as the reason. The music for this track sounded exactly like Banshee's Boardwalk which always gave me the shivers when I was a kid; it sounded paced up which seemed to express an urgency. When I checked the map, it showed that I was driving within a giant question mark and the characters did not appear save for Koopa. However his name was not shown but rather the word "Drive" which didn't scare me at the time. The lack of items and creativity made me wonder, "What a dull track this is." At one point, as I went into the third lap, I checked the paralyzed CPUs but surprisingly other than the lack of movement and sound, they appeared normal. No blood or face changes. Nothing. I completed the track after 3 laps but no celebration music played nor any point chart appeared as the screen went instantly black. I was drenched in sweat as the screen continued to be displayed for a long time.
I could have sworn though that the screen changed for just a couple of seconds. During those couple of seconds, I saw Koopa and his kart just standing in one of the battle arenas (I couldn't recall the name but had the look of Mario Circuit 2 from the SNES). As the screen faded to black again, he was suddenly hit by a shell but no sound emitted. Whoever threw the shell or the importance of this remains a mystery to me (no other characters were there).
After a long time, the screen brightened again and this time I was on a track surrounded by a forest. The Grand Prix theme started (nope it wasn't the Time Trial theme this time). However the background proved much more spectacular. It consisted of mountains set against a blue sky with a lake or sea in front of it which in turn was surrounded by a coastline. Now this was going too far I thought. The only other participants were Mario and...well...Koopa.
Okay the timer was a bit different but it wasn't important at that time. I set off however Mario dashed...literally dashed ahead of me. I tried to catch up to him but he was already gone. The music started once the race began -it was remarkably beautiful like Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata or a song dedicated to nature. The track was incredibly rugged as the Slick wheels failed to drift as much (hated those wheels). This track seemed to go on forever which started to bore me. About 1 minute into the first lap, the theme for the 5th-8th place players suddenly played and Koopa became melancholic. Wondering what the heck was going on, I checked the map (I couldn't control Koopa anymore) and saw that question mark again but the map displayed the number of laps completed as 3. Mario was also nowhere to be found. This was starting to get ridicoulous and a bit unfair as I swore that I was only in my first lap of that track. I was also disturbed that Koopa's name on the map changed to "Too bad." However those thoughts disappeared as the screen faded to black once more.
Again, the screen changed for just a couple of moments. During those moments, I saw Koopa standing on the bridge from what appeared to be Toad Circuit. What I saw directly in front of him surprised me - an identical Koopa with the same kart facing him. The two did not do anything and as the screen faded to black, the identical Koopa suddenly for a moment changed to Metal Mario.The huge Toad balloons were also gone and the colors seemed to be washed out. The screen faded so fast that I didn't know the change happened until now (Metal Mario's kart was the one many online players use).
The screen suddenly changed color again which almost made me drop the 3DS. I was now in a track similar to SNES Bowser Castle 2 however it only went in one direction and it was surrounded in a dark abyss. This time no time timer started and there were no other characters just Koopa. He seemed more hunched over than ever before as if he was carrying a huge burden besides his shell. His colors were more lighter and his cart was now a Cloud 9 with mushroom wheels which baffled me as I didn't do anything to get this. His name again changed but this time to "Trapped." I decided to go forward however throughout the entire time, Koopa kept looking back as if something was following him; he had a look of profound agitation of which I could not explain. It wasn't me, it was fully an aut- omatic movement . At one point, I tried to go back but the command wouldn't work so I kept moving the circle pad and pressing the "A" button. No thomps were in sight as well as jump ramps. This track also had no music and when I looked at the map, my heart sank. The question mark was still there but the number of laps was at 3 and then I saw something behind Koopa that made me want to jump. It was another character...based on the icon, it was Bowser however the map did not show him in the character box...just Koopa. That freaked me out but at that moment, I saw a castle (like in the original Mario Bros series) up ahead. Koopa stopped right at the front of the castle (there was also a small sign but it contained unintelligible text) and started to act out his "defeated" movements which were bowing down his head and sighing. The screen cut to black and the last thing I remembered hearing at that stage was a Bowser laugh.
What I saw next will truly shock me for good. Koopa was automatically driving on a cliff that led to a sea of lava. As he approached the edge, the cart turned itself around and I saw the characters from the first track all staring at him from the mainland. They showed absolutely no emotion and did not move at all but their karts were standard with the color of pure black. The screen started to flash a brilliant white and then at a brief moment, showed Koopa falling into a void. It was the last thing I saw before my eyes closed although I swear I heard several angry whispers as I blacked out.
I remembered waking up in a hospital surrounded by my parents and a nurse. I couldn't hear what the nurse said to my parents but she smiled and patted my father's back. I spent my Christmas and my New Year at home trying to figure out what the game did. I did anything to bring the tracks back but the game was normal and never acted strange again. When Mario Kart 8 came out in 2014, I enjoyed it immediatly but I cannot figure out what my favorite game was trying to tell me or how it even acted like that. Was it a representation of something or merely a glitch never to occur again?. I never figured out the importance of the tracks or the cutscenes and it still baffles me to this day. I still play Mario Kart 7 however the vibes never came back and playing with Koopa didn't seem fun anymore. Either it's just my imagination but at night, I can hear a faint Bowser laugh coming from the 3DS.