Mario Kart director philosophical about need for the blue shell

Mario Kart director philosophical about need for the blue shell
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Mario Kart director philosophical about need for the blue shell

Enlarge / Love it or hate it, Mario Kart’s director see the blue shell is a necessary part of the Mario Kart formula.

Since its introduction in Mario Kart 64, the blue shell has become a universal shorthand for the perils of video game rubber-banding; an item I called “scourge of the skillful and the great white hope of the novice” in my own Mario Kart 8 review. Targeting the first-place player with a nigh-unstoppable projectile from anywhere on the course is a perfect encapsulation of the series’ focus on giving everyone playing a chance rather than letting pure racing skill win the day by default.

Love it or hate it, the blue shell is a necessary part of the game, according to Mario Kart 7 and 8 director Kosuke Yabuki. In a recent interview with Eurogamer, Yabuki said Mario Kart just doesn’t feel like Mario Kart without the item.

“We’re always experimenting with what new elements to introduce or what elements can be removed,” Yabuki told the site. “We have tried—or we are trying—to see what the game’s like without the blue shell. When we’ve experimented without the blue shell, actually it feels like something’s missing. Like there’s something not quite enough in the game. So for now we’ve kept it in.”

For Yabuki, the meaning of the blue shell even reflects back something about the meaning of life. “You know, sometimes life isn’t fair,” he said. “Sometimes in life you have something where you feel that’s not right, and that’s frustrating.”

This isn’t the first time a member of the Mario Kart team has defended the blue shell from its detractors. In a 2011 Kotaku interview, Mario Kart series director/producer Hideki Konno said the item was originally created as a way to “create a race where everyone was in it until the end.” The blue shell was a kind of shortcut way to do that without forcing all eight racers to be on the screen at all times (which would have been tough on the Nintendo 64’s limited processor).

In the interview, Konno suggested the developers might look for new balance solutions to get around the blue shell “problem” for the then-upcoming Mario Kart 7 on 3DS, including a possible item-free racing mode. So far, though, those blue-shell-free ideas don’t seem to have come to fruition in the series.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not impossible to avoid a blue shell when you’re in first place. The super horn item, introduced in Mario Kart 8, can nullify the projectile just before it explodes, and invincibility items like the Starman can deflect it, too. A perfectly timed mushroom can also dash away from a blue shell explosion in Mario Kart 8 as well as previous Mario Kart games.

Eurogamer’s full interview with Yabuki contains more about the need to balance frustration with joy in Mario Kart, as well as extensive discussion of Nintendo’s new fighting game Arms.

Mario Kart director philosophical about need for the blue shell

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