As any professional road racer or weekend canyon carver can tell you, nothing gives a bigger boost to a car’s performance than a great set of tires. Taking that idea to its illogical conclusion, toy manufacturer Takara Tomy figured the hottest ride must be an eraser car. And one styled like a Mario kart, no less.
The “Bato-Keshi!! (Racing Erasers) Mario Kart 7″ sets drifted into stores in Japan this month. Three sets are available, each with Mario and either his super brother Luigi, love interest/repeated kidnapping victim Peach, or series stalwart…Kinopio? Ah, so that’s what they call Toad in Japan.
After picking your racer, it’s time to prep their machine. Keeping with the plug-and-play format that served Nintendo so well during its golden era, all you have to do is insert the plastic slider into the grooves on the bottom of the eraser. Next, scatter some pencils or rulers across your desk to mark the track boundaries, and you’re ready to drop the checkered flag.
Unfortunately, at a sale price of 420 yen (US$4.30) per set, there’s no tiny, functional rubber engine block and pistons putting power to the wheels. Instead, the set comes with a spring-loaded “shooter cap.” Everyone on the grid takes turns smacking their car towards the finish line, and whoever crosses first gets the victory.
Of course, there are two things that set Mario Kart racing apart from, say, the heavily-regulated world of F1 or NASCAR. First is its more enlightened entrance policy. While Danica Patrick still attracts controversy just for being a woman, Mario Kart’s competition field has been fully integrated across the animal and plant kingdoms since 1992, with not a single derogatory remark leveled at any of its dinosaur or sentient mushroom racers. And second, Mario Kart lets its drivers use special items to spice up the race.
Each set comes with a multi-sided “item cap.” Stand it up endwise on the track, and whoever knocks it down gets whatever item is shown on the side facing up. Power-ups include mushrooms, fire flowers, banana peels, and green and red turtle shells (no blue, thankfully). Effects range from “move again,” to “change the direction your opponent’s car is facing” and “smack into another car to make it lose a turn.”
Each set comes with a different item cap, so shoppers looking for 100% completion will want to pick up all three. And since Takara Tomy hasn’t perfected a system for downloading additional eraser content yet, random booster packs featuring Bowser and Shyguy, along with alternate versions of Mario, Luigi, and Peach will go on sale in June for 210 yen (US$2.15) for one racer and item cap.
So, why do they call the shooting and item pieces “caps?” Well, the shooter and item caps can be stored on the tip of a pencil, making the whole set an essential part of any earnest kid’s school supplies. Just make sure the teacher’s back is turned before you start stacking up textbooks to recreate the overpass section of Suzuka Circuit.