Ever since, back in the late 70s, Nintendo began its journey through the video game industry, the company that gave birth to Super Mario has not stopped innovating. Throughout these years, their fans have witnessed such imaginative changes that they represented an authentic revolution to the established, from the portability of Game & Watch, through that first 3D of Super Mario 64, the risky Virtual Boy, the sensors movement of the Wii or more recently products as different and versatile as Ring Fit Adventure. This Friday, Nintendo presents Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit, a new step in its innovation that uses augmented reality to turn our living room into a racing circuit. Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit will be available starting October 16 for Nintendo Switch.
It’s a completely different Mario experience, a new twist that proves that the company has imagination left for a while. Using augmented reality, the game blurs the boundary between the virtual world of Mario Kart and the real world of our living room. We can drive a physical kart using the Mario Kart controls and experience the action in first person thanks to the integrated camera, which transmits the images directly to the Nintendo Switch or to the television. Our living room will soon be transformed into the depths of the ocean, into a desert with dunes … and many more settings from the world of Mario Kart!
Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit it’s quick to set up. When starting a session, players will first have to place all four arches in their chosen locations and then drive the kart through each one to create a circuit layout. With the track set up, it’s time to start playing. In each race, the elements of the game affect the physical kart itself, taking the fun of Mario Kart to a whole new dimension: what happens in the game will affect the way the kart moves in reality. For example, if we use a mushroom, our kart will accelerate, but if an opponent hits us with a red shell, it will stop.
The game offers multiple modes:
- Grand Prix: Players can test their driving skills against Bowser’s minions, in eight cups with 24 different courses in total.
- Custom race: This mode gives players even more room for creativity, designing not only the physical layout of the track, but also adding hazards, elements, and more to bring truly unique creations to life.
- Time trial: Players create a circuit and then compete to set the fastest time possible, competing against their personal best or handing over the controller to another player for an exciting head-to-head time trial that requires only a Nintendo Switch console and a copy of Mario. Kart Live: Home Circuit.
- Mirror mode: For those up for an added challenge, this mode allows all the Grand Prix tracks to be played back in a mirror image, with right turns turning left, so the familiar becomes unfamiliar.
Developed jointly between Nintendo and Velan Studios, Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit includes a kart, with Mario or Luigi in the driver’s seat depending on the kit chosen, plus four bows, two curve signals that can be used to enhance your tracks, and a USB charging cable for the kart. The software comes as a free download from the Nintendo eShop, which, once downloaded, syncs with the physical hardware of the kart. With multiple Nintendo Switch consoles and copies of Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit, up to four players can race against each other in Grand Prix or Custom Race modes.
But … how does it work?
For the Velan Studios team, it all started in 2017, while conducting an experiment with a remote-controlled car equipped with a drone camera. Although many things failed, the game experience and its originality were the spark they needed to understand that it could be a new Mario Kart game.
In the following video, the Velan Studios developers tell the process of creating a product that is much more complex than it seems. “For practical purposes it is like a mini-console on wheels,” they explain. The fact that it interacts with the objects and mechanics of the virtual world and that they also impact the physical kart (that it stops, accelerates, etc.) implies a radical change that opens the doors to a whole potential of new interactions; a revolution similar to what was once the arrival of 3D. “Creating such a complex mixed reality game means crossing a new frontier in video game creation,” they say from Velan Studios.