the artistry and psychology of gaming

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Rainbow Road (Mario Kart 64)

Rainbow Road (Mario Kart 64)

Today, we’re going to explore a racetrack.  As mundane as that may sound, the location is from a popular racing circuit known for its unusual tracks.  Some are the standard asphalt, but others include races around castles, across large icebergs, through active volcanoes, along beaches, over deserts, and even into outer space, like the one I’ll be talking about today.  Most of the time, you’re racing through these areas as quickly as possible, and have little or no time to pay attention to anything other than upcoming obstacles or opponents.  If you get the chance to take a leisurely stroll, however, you’ll find that a lot is missed in transit.

Rainbow Road is exactly what it sounds like: a solid rainbow that acts as a highway through outer space.  The sides are lined with a yellow, star-shaped lattice.  The race begins at the summit of a high hill, and the descent is so sharp that it usually leaves one airborne for much of it.  It’s almost like flying along the tracks of a prismatic roller coaster.  Soon after, you pass through a circular rainbow gate through the middle of which the track passes.  Right after passing through the gate, you go around a sharp curve.  In the distance, the free-floating neon forms the faces of some of the heroes of the Mushroom Kingdom.  A little further along the rolling rainbow, you can see the track spiral upwards around a large, smiling star.  On the approach, you can see neon forms of a mushroom and a ghost, which the residents call Boo.  Spiraling up the path gives a nice view of the area around, and it seems as though you can see for light years into the depths of space.  After reaching the top of the spiral, neon forms of three other inhabitants can be see around another curve.  After descending, then rising again, a typical member of the species known as the mushroom people can be seen in neon, as well as yet another well-known inhabitant of this world.  The road continues on, curves in one direction, then sharply curves in the other for a full 360 degrees, rising gradually, then sharply to meet the summit once again, completing the circuit.

Rainbow Road is one of the few racetracks in this circuit to have had several different incarnations.  In its very first incarnation, it was made of colored blocks, placed strategically to create the illusion of a rainbow.  As the years passed, the blending of the colors became smoother, and the scenery changed from stars, to neon formations, to prismatic statues, to planets, asteroids, and other celestial objects.  Rainbow Road has always been beautiful, because the bright colors of a rainbow are even more gorgeous against a black backdrop, such as outer space.  However, as space became more decorated, it also became brighter, as did the colors of the road itself become lighter, causing the stark contrast of color on black to gradually fade away.  Its first incarnation was too rigid, but all iterations after the one of which I have spoken today were too soft.  Everything flowed together a bit too smoothly, and a great deal of beauty was lost.  That is why, even to this day, many prefer this particular incarnation of Rainbow Road.  Many cite nostalgia as the basis for this preference, but I believe this beauty to be the true determining factor.  If you get the chance, it would be worth your while to enter the racing circuit to explore these worlds.  Adventuring isn’t limited to running, jumping, climbing, and fighting, you know.  Just beware the free-roaming chomps.

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