Some love for the blue shell

Ah, the blue shell’gaming’s most infamous power-up. It makes grown men cry. It gives the worst player in the room a fighting chance. It punishes the skilled. And it’s pretty darn funny. On the eve of Mario Kart 7 Weekend, I’d like to stand up for the poor, misunderstood blue spiky thing (no, not you, Sonic) and show some appreciation for the weapon everyone hates unless they happen to be wielding it.

No one likes to be blue-shelled two yards from the finish line and suffer a humiliating, unfair defeat at the climax of an otherwise perfect race. Particularly when it’s accompanied by Yoshi’s annoying taunt as he flies past your somersaulting wreckage.

BUT…picture the other side of the coin. How many times have you been approaching the finish line in fourth place, staring hopelessly at the closely-packed leaders, figuring you have no chance…and then you hear the familiar, approaching whoosh. You see your salvation heading for the pack. And you smile, quickly adjusting your racing line to take full advantage of what’s about to happen. And you laugh as you leave tire treads on your once-smug adversaries and zoom across the finish in a blaze of glory.

Appreciation of the blue shell requires long-term memory. Keep that in mind the next time you’re about to throw your controller (or 3DS) against a wall. Your turn will come.

There’s certainly a difference here between single player Grand Prix and multiplayer; the implementation of blue shells in Mario Kart Wii’s 150CC single player mode was pretty brutal. But, in multiplayer, it’s highly effective at keeping the pack close together so that the crazy onslaught of item deployment and player taunting remains intense right through the final lap.

Remember, Mario Kart is as much a comedic brawler as it is a racer. And keep these Blue Shell factoids in mind:

1) If you’re far enough ahead, no blue shell (or two) is going to rob you of a win.

2) It’s completely possible to escape a blue shell with a well-timed boost. This requires perfect timing. I’ve only managed it twice.

3) The Thunder Cloud, POW block, and Mega Mushroom were nearly as aggravating, and they’ve been removed for MK 7.

4) The time will come when you’re actually praying to receive that little blue cupid from the next item box. The only one hating the blue shell is the driver in first place.

Mario Kart is not a game of pure luck; skillful driving greatly increases your chance of winning a race’it just doesn’t guarantee it! You need to laugh’however feebly and forced’when fate deals you a cruel blow in Mario Kart. Losing with grace in the face of total unfairness can be good for you; it’s a life lesson. Sorta.

So, as you race around those awesome new tracks in Mario Kart 7 this weekend, remember that Nintendo usually knows what it’s doing with these games. Imagine what recent Mario Karts would be like without blue shells–Pretty sweet, right? Okay, on second thought, don’t imagine it. Just kick back and enjoy the chaos. And the next time Donkey Kong steals victory from your grasp close enough for you to actually tumble across the finish line in 8th place, thank Nintendo for the continuing exercise in perspective: It’s just a game, and your turn will come.