I am (still) playing Mario Kart DS.
I don't usually like aleatory events to play important roles in the outcome of skill-based games. Lots of players don't. Especially if those events ruin the players' performance. In fact, some would say that would be a case of flawed game design.
So how can I be so tolerant with MK`s power-up scheme? Sure, I do complain when I spot the blue flying shell that will make me go from first to fifth place on the final lap. Or when I'm in second place, get the last power-up in the last curve and it turns out to be one of those fake boxes.
Still, this intromision from luck feels natural to me. One of the possible reasons is universe the game is set on. Magical things can happen in Nintendoland. But I guess there is something more. Do I like playing with fate? Is it because I can easily restart the Grand Prix? And because it takes only a few minutes, anyway?
Everytime I miss a box I feel like my chances of winning were considerably reduced. Do they make me dependable on power-ups? So I can't blame others from using them and claiming the game is unfair? Is my positive thinking, the good vibes I send everytime I wait to see what I've got, part of the fun I'm having with the game? In any case, I don't think it's flawed game design at all - and I think it's one of the most interesting things of the game.
Is the "power-up surprise" significant part of the emotional core of Mario Kart DS? For me, it is. Taking away the control from the player is a powerful way of generating emotional response - If you know how to make it feel right.