Mario Kart Wii
The showdown has begun. Mario Kart Wii vs. Grand Theft Auto
4. Personally, I’m thinking GTA4 will edge out the Kart, but with the sheer
number of Wii systems that have been sold, Mario Kart has the potential to
outdo the competition just from playing the potential numbers. My mom has
already mentioned buying it for my youngest cousin, so I know the word has
certainly spread amongst the Wii’s significant casual player base.
While only time will tell who will win in terms of sales,
what I can tell you is the ups and
downs of Mario Kart, with a hands on review. I hope Richie will drop his two
cents in too, since he’s the racing expert. But I’ve dabbled in all of the Kart
games to date, and every opinion is valid. So let’s have a look, shall we?
On your marks…
Mario Kart Wii is a game that requires two reviews: one
review for the game, and one for the peripheral, the steering wheel.
The wheel is very simple, and thankfully, free with the
purchase of the game. Extra wheels are available from Nintendo for an MSRP of
$14.99. Personally, I don’t know that I would invest in the extra wheels, they
seem like another needless accessory that’s just out there to pad the Big N’s
margins. I know friends who have picked up an extra wheel so that their wives
don’t get jealous when they play together, but while a fun little visual
accessory, I don’t think they’re necessary as an aid to game play. Other
reviewers have said it really helps with the control, but from my own
experience, the Wii-mote works fine on its own, and all of the buttons are well
positioned for play without the need for the extended B-button on the bottom.
So the steering wheels remain a fun little piece for completion-ists and
collectors, but are really needless in the long run. In fact, if you want to
buy mine for $10, I could use the discount on the game. (Note: Already sold.
Well, some folks out there seem to really like the wheel add-on. I’m just
But onto the game itself, which is a more satisfying
investment than its hollow, plastic accoutrement.
The biggest change in this edition of Mario Kart is
obviously the motion control. Happily, this works very well, the controls are
very simple, smooth, and accurate. They don’t have the stupidly gimmicky feel
of something like Donkey Kong Barrel Blast, and has precision, fun game play,
unlike GT Racer, the Wii’s previous wheel-packed excursion.
Of course the
controls aren’t perfect, either. I have had an instance where, in the middle of
the Special Circuit, the Wii started reading the alignment of my remote about
40 degrees off center. Holding the ‘mote in neutral position, caused me to drag
the left wall. When I check the batteries, they were fine, so it was indeed a
game glitch; resetting the system took care of the problem. Controls are good,
but mistakes do happen, sometimes at frustrating moments. The system will
sometimes just lose track of where the central axis of the controller is, and
flip you around. It’s usually a quick fix, but if you’re in the middle of Rainbow
Road, this can lose you the gold, a fact that
might have some chucking their ‘motes through their TV’s.
tremendous change in control style, the game feels much the same way the
previous series installments did, and if you really have trouble with the
motion control you can revert back to Gamecube controllers, or use the Nunchuck
for its analog stick.
In addition to the play alteration, this Kart is different
for all of the extras packed into it.
Most notably, this is the first game in the series that
includes motorcycles in addition to the carts. The bikes have a lower top speed
than the carts, but have a quick acceleration and great cornering. They can do
wheelies on straight-ways for a speed increase, and also get huge acceleration
boosts off of successfully performed tricks.
Oh, did I not cover the tricks? Tricks are a very simple,
fun addition to the series that can make or break a race for a player, and give
a particular advantage over the computer, which typically forgets to perform
them. In both bikes and cars, you can ramp off of just about everything you can
see. Curved walls, ramps, bumps, and obstacles in the tracks, when something
sends you airborne, just give a quick tug back on the wheel and you’ll flip,
spin, and pose. The more air you get, the better the trick you’ll pull off, and
the better the trick, the bigger the boost when you land. As far as stunt games
go, its no Tony Hawk, heck, its no BMX XXX; but it’s an interesting little
addition that can help those who can’t master the drifts. Between these two and
the drafting system, there are three mid-track boost systems that take little
practice to become skilled at.
Gone is Double Dash’s function of two riders to one vehicle.
This time, variety is added into the game by the vehicles at your disposal. In addition
to the motorcycles, there are several different weight classes of cars, from
basic karts to full-on roadsters. Immediately, each driver has six classes of
vehicle to choose from, with more being unlockable. Each one has a vastly
different driving style, so pick the one you’re best at, and teach the computer
a lesson. In multiplayer, you can mix and match the weight classes, too, so
each player can pick the car that suits them best, and no character is
completely limited to being a ‘heavy’ or ‘light’ racer.
One of my personal favorite additions is the utilization of
the Miis to pepper the background. Not only can you eventually unlock your Mii
as a driver, but also the Miis you have saved into your system memory pop up as
spectators, obstacles, and shop owners around the racetrack. With the abundance
of celebrity Miis out there too, you never know whom you might see around the
track. I hear Abe Lincoln has a Frogurt stand in the Coconut Mall.
Speaking of the Coconut Mall, its just one of the many tracks
available in the game. And how do they compare to the tracks of the prior Kart
games? That’s a difficult question to answer, because so many of its tracks are from the prior games. About 1/2 of the
tracks are from other Karts, from the N64’s icy Yogurt Paths, the Cube’s DK
Mountain, all the way back to the SNES’s Haunted House, complete with old
school boost arrows and falling side rails. While many of the tracks aren’t
original, it does have a who’s who of courses that even includes ones from the
Advance and DS versions. All of these tracks are also tweaked a bit for
smoother race, or even just a few new ramps and hazards. All of the revised old
tracks look wonderful. The N64 era tracks look especially nice smoothed out by
the Wii’s superior graphics.
So I played a weekend full of Mario Kart, and I enjoyed it.
I don’t know that its one you need to rush out to purchase, especially if you
already have the old ones from the VC or on the Gamecube. There are lots of
nifty new features, but I don’t feel like the fun factor has been ramped up
very much from prior installments, and it isn’t as different from its
predecessors as, say, Smash Brothers Brawl was from Melee. But then, I enjoyed
Double Dash, which seems to have gotten a lot of shit from people over the
years. This one definitely has a feel to it that’s more like Mario Kart 64, so
if you preferred that installment of the series, you should give this one a
While it isn’t the immediate top of my list I would still
call it a ‘must have’, especially if you play a great deal of multi-player
games. If you like the previous Kart games but don’t own one, then hop on down
to your store and buy it. It can’t top Smash Brothers or Mario Galaxies in its
fun and inventiveness, but one can’t deny the game is quality fun that holds hours
and hours of entertainment within.
More than any other racing game of the current generation,
this one will warm your motor coils.
Graphics- I will say that the game does show off the
limitations of the Wii system. The spectators are flat, 2 frame animation
blurbs, and if you hit a ramp near any of the piranha plants on the course, you’ll
see that they, too, are 2-d, cardboard cutouts. So, the game relies on
illusions rather than full 3-d models to achieve its look.
That said though, the game does still look pretty
spectacular. While the Wii is limited in its graphic power, I’m still always
impressed at what Nintendo is able to squeeze out of it, and this is no
exception. The sprites are all well animated, and all of the tracks are very
colorful. As long as Nintendo sticks with cartoony visual styles, all of their
games will look wonderful. So no, its not next gen level, but for what it is,
the game is beautiful. A work of art, in fact.
Sound- Donkey Kong sounds like he’s gotten brain damage.
Some time after DK Jungle Beat, he spent too much time in a garage with the
engine on and the door shut, and now he’s pretty much unintelligible. Aside from a few rather bizarre SFX choices, everything here
is good. The music is wonderfully fun, and the remastered tracks from older
Kart games will have your ears alight with the joys of nostalgia.
Gameplay- I would have really liked it if the once rare
lightening bolt hadn’t become a common item. Or the POW block. Or all of the
items that cause ever racer on the track to simultaneously stop. It happens far
too often, and give high acceleration a big advantage over top speed cars. Nit
picking aside, the game is still very fun. I’ve found myself addicted to it
already, and with the supremely fun multiplayer additions, its well worth the
Replay- Unlockable characters, bikes, cars, and tracks.
Yeah, there’s a lot of reason to play through the game again. And with the
battle and time trial modes awaiting you, at home as well as online, you’ll be
sure to visit the Kart over and over. Its addictive to a slightly lesser degree
than Smash Brothers, but Kart 64 is still played by my friends a decade later,
and I’m sure this title will go the same way.
Overall- I stand by my previous statements, you may not need
to rush out right away to get Mario Kart Wii, but make no mistake you should
have it in your collection. Kart is a staple in Nintendo’s arsenal, and there’s
good reason why. It’s a racing game that both racers and casual gamers can play
and enjoy. It puts emphasis on game play over car collection, fun over style. It
doesn’t, for my money, draw me in as much as Super Smash Brothers, Mario
Galaxies, or maybe even Zelda: TP, but it’s a title I’m glad to have in my
library, and will recommend to others.