Mickey's Speedway USA

Developer: Rareware
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: November 13 2000
Regions: NA, PAL, JP
Genre: Racing
Multiplayer: 1-4 players
Cart Size: 32MB / 256Mbits
Saving: On-Cart
Rumble Pak?: Yes
Expansion Pak? No
- Required? No

Does Mickey's own kart racing game finish 1st or does it lag behind its competition?

Rareware was an absolute powerhouse of a developer during the SNES and N64 days. They were the ones responsible for the excellent Donkey Kong Country series on Super Nintendo, Diddy Kong Racing, Banjo-Kazooie, and Conker's Bad Fur Day, among several other stellar titles. One of the less talked about Rare games is Mickey's Speedway USA, released in late 2000. Like Diddy Kong Racing, Mickey's Speedway USA tries to emulate the fun of Mario Kart and put its own spin on it. Released almost exactly 3 years after Diddy Kong Racing, how does Rare's second attempt at a kart racing game stack up? Let's find out!

Initially you'll notice this is a licensed product. This is by no means a bad thing but in this day and age we tend to view licensed products as automatically underwhelming efforts, as most developers with licensed games are just looking to use the name for a quick cash grab. However, this is Rareware we're talking about. They made the incredible First Person Shooter, Goldeneye in 1997, which was so good you didn't even realize it was a licensed product. Disney games tend to be hit or miss but few things attract a young audience like the faces of Disney stars Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Donald, as well as a few others. Everyone enjoys kart racing games, right? So why not just make a safe but fun kart racing game and throw a bunch of Disney characters in as racers?

Well, that's precisely what Rareware did in this game. That's not to say it's a bad game - it's not - but I can't help but feel like there was a missed opportunity here. Especially after experiencing Diddy Kong Racing with its excellent adventure mode and creative courses, I couldn't help but expect more from Rareware, seeing as this is the same genre of game from the same team. While I did find Mickey's Speedway USA to be a solid kart racing game, it does seem to be a little lacking. To start, there is no adventure mode to speak. Now, this could easily be forgivable since Mario Kart has never had an adventure mode of any kind, even the newest entry, Mario Kart 8. The adventure mode was a nice addition in Diddy Kong Racing but its exclusion is not the only thing that makes Mickey's Speedway USA feel like a missed opportunity.

Let's start with the presentation. On the cover, it looks like a Disney racing game. Nothing wrong with that. It's sure to attract kids and adult alike. However when you load up the game and play around a bit, you begin to notice that for a game named after Disney's most iconic character, there is very little actual Disney flair in the game. Every course that you race on feels a little on the barren side, and has no resemblance to anything Disney-related. In fact each track is just based off a location in the United States. It's almost as if they decided to make Cruis'n USA and turn it into a kart racing game and put Mickey and crew on the cover. The only real Disney-related material in the game seems to be the characters themselves, which is a real disappointment in my opinion. The game certainly could've benefited from more Disney personality but instead it just comes off as a generic kart racer with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and a few others as drivers.

Graphically, it looks pretty good. It's not flashy by any means, but it's clean, and is generally a good looking game. It won't "wow" anyone but the visuals do the job well. I rarely, if ever, noticed a significant dip in framerate, which is usually pretty decent. All of the Disney characters represented here look as they should. As I stated before, the courses tend to be a little lacking in terms of personality, but what's there is good and it works well.

The sound is one of the better qualities of the game. The music is mostly forgettable, but none of it is bad and suits the game well. Just don't expect to be humming any tunes long after you turn the game off. The voices of the characters are completely authentic, however, and it's initially quite pleasing to hear the characters comment as you drive, whether they scream when they get hit by an item, or cheer as they pull into first place. However, after a while you'll get tired of hearing the same lines of dialogue over and over, and they're very frequent. In fact it almost seems that the characters never stop talking. But, luckily, there's an option to turn off the voices in the options menu, which can certainly help some people. Overall, the sound is very good in both the music and soundtrack departments.

The gameplay is perhaps where this game stands out the most. While it doesn't do anything new, it controls very well. In fact, I'd say it's the best controlling kart racing game on the N64. Driving is a lot more responsive than both Mario Kart 64 and Diddy Kong Racing, and none of the characters feel completely broken for being either too overpowered or underpowered. While I miss the upgradable weapons from Diddy Kong Racing, grabbing and using weapons is as simple as in Mario Kart. It doesn't do anything spectacularly but controls are tight and everything works well. Aside from those points, the racing does feel a bit on the slow side, but not unbearably so.

One thing good racing games excel at is luring people back again and again. Even after 18 years, I keep coming back for more Mario Kart 64 and Diddy Kong Racing. The tracks in those games are all enjoyable and the games are a blast to play with others. However, I did not feel similarly with Mickey's Speedway USA. While I was playing it, I did enjoy it, but as I said before, the tracks feel too generic and forgettable to make me want to come back to the game again and again. As far as modes go, the game offers pretty much the standard - grand prix, time trial, practice, and battle. Grand Prix is divided into 3 initial cups, with 2 others you unlock along the way. Time trial is your standard "race to get the best time" mode. Practice is just a course where you practice driving. Battle mode, called "contest" here, is similar to Mario Kart 64 in structure but I ultimately just did not find it as fun. One thing I did like, however, is the battle mode supplies bots to battle against. Beyond those modes, that's pretty much it. I played through the entirety of the game in a few short hours and I can't say I'll have any real desire to keep coming back to it, whereas Mario Kart 64 and Diddy Kong Racing are perennial favorites.

Presentation: 5.0
While it's nice to see Mickey and friends at the wheel, the game is sadly lacking any real Disney flair, and the tracks all feel generic and forgettable. I just can't help but feel this was a missed opportunity in this regard.

Graphics: 8.0
Graphics won't impress but they work well and are very clean. The framerate seems to stay pretty steady which is a plus. Mickey and friends all look as they should.

Sound: 8.5
The music is good and fitting for the game, but ultimately forgettable. The voices are authentic which is great, but the same lines of dialogue get old quick. Luckily the voices can be turned off.

Gameplay: 8.5
Controls are tight and responsive, and this is probably the best handling kart racing game on the N64. Button set-up is identical to Mario Kart 64 and Diddy Kong Racing, which makes for a smooth transition from one kart racer to the next. One downside is racing feels too slow at times.

Lasting Appeal: 6.5
It will only take a few short hours to get through everything, even with some unlock able content. Most of the races provide too little challenge for anyone but children. There aren't too many modes and the generic feel of the race tracks don't compel you enough to keep playing after you've unlocked everything and seen every course.

Overall: 7.3

Written Mike Pellegrino
August 8 2015