‘Mario Kart: Kihei Roundabouts’ Coming Soon


ROUND & ROUND: Moderate traffic on the new highway roundabout in Kihei on Monday, with the majestic Haleakala in the background.

Video game giant Nintendo has announced that its newest edition of the super-popular Mario Kart racing series will be focused on a famous feature of the Valley Isle: traffic roundabouts.

Mario Kart: Kihei Roundabouts is scheduled for release in the fall, in time for the busy holiday season, according to officials for the Japanese game-maker.

"We kept reading about this mysterious new roundabout on a highway in Kihei, island of Maui, state of Hawaii,” said Ichiro Warai, director of marketing for Nintendo and a key designer in the Kihei Roundabouts release. “So we sent a team to check it out, and Holy Bowser! That big one has to be killer to navigate when highway traffic is heavy and droves of high school students are nearby.

“Then our team cruised down to Safeway on break, and they saw another traffic circle right there, off the highway!” Warai said. “Our first thought was, Who builds roundabouts on boring neighborhood streets? But then it hit them: they’re designing a race course to attract future Formula 1 races to Maui.”

With so many Mario Kart game versions, Nintendo has struggled in recent years to come up with fresh ideas for the new editions that are needed every holiday season for profit reasons.

The company previously explored the Road to Hana for a version, but ultimately the route proved way too complicated. “Why don’t they straighten that sucker out?” Warai asked. “And what’s up with all the 1-way bridges?”

So Mario Kart: Road to Hana was canceled, and Nintendo shifted the funding to research and development, and once again wound up on the Valley Isle.

Mario Kart: Kihei Roundabouts follows Nintendo's popular Mario Kart Tour releases, which introduced courses from all over the world, including from Los Angeles, New York, Paris, London, Tokyo, Sydney, Berlin, and Vancouver.

Over time they learned that Mario Kart players much prefer going in circles over and over, as opposed to a long drawn out track with separate start and finish lines.

"We read about the Portland woman getting stuck in the Kihei roundabout for hours, until she ran out of gas," said Shoshei Joku, manager of the new design team. “It hit us just how much Mario Kart fans like to drive in circles all day and night. And the Kihei roundabouts provided a perfect opportunity.

“If they don’t want to drive straight, they can just drive in circles in a roundabout all day and night, and maybe shoot those little turtle shells at each other, or leave banana peels behind.”

Added to the typical cast of Mario Kart racers, like Mario, Luigi, Wario, Peach, Yoshi, Toad, Koopa Troopa and Donkey Kong Jr., will be 2 new characters with a Maui element: Karen, who will have an option to shoot complaints to government managers at any time during races; and Imavisitor, a cautious racer who competes to just get in the way of other racers.

The Kihei Roundabouts game lets players choose from 4 distinct courses: North Kihei to Wailea Back ‘n’ Forth; Connecting the Kihei Roundabout Dots; Save Darren From the Middle of the Traffic Circle; and The Kihei Loop-de-Do.

North Kihei to Wailea Back ‘n’ Forth is a straight Mario Kart race from those two Maui towns, but repeatedly back and forth so it seems like going in a circle.

Connecting the Kihei Roundabouts is a race to initially feature the 2 roundabouts currently in Kihei, but also to incorporate the 2 new traffic circles that are planned for a connection of Liloa Drive funded by federal “infrastructure” money. Later versions might incorporate the Maui Lani roundabout.

Save Darren From the Middle of the Traffic Circle is a different type of game for Mario Kart, where racers compete not in a race, but to see who can be the first to get local Kihei houseless resident Darren from his entrapment in the center of a roundabout.

Finally, The Kihei Loop-de-Do features randomly placed construction projects so drivers must work around delays, orange rubber traffic safety cones haphazardly placed all over including in vacant lots, and weird detours as they compete.

Mario Kart: Kihei Roundabouts is expected to be released in the United States after Labor Day, the company announced.

"Drivers who love Mario Kart and roundabouts will be excited with what we came up with," Joku said. "Just like in the other Mario Kart versions, racers’ karts can fly off the course at certain spots, which drivers need to know, because if played right they can land way ahead of other racers. We think the jump from the new highway roundabout to the Piilani Shopping Center traffic circle is particularly challenging. If they jump too far they plop in the lagoon behind Long’s. Too early, and they might bounce off that tall cult building near the DMV.”

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