Posted by: Tha Square | June 1, 2008

Mario Kart Wii Review

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What do you get when you cross Mario with a kart and a Wii? No, not a dead body… it’s Mario Kart Wii! The series first started back in 1992 with the release of Super Mario Kart for the SNES. Since then, a Mario Kart title has appeared on every major Nintendo system except the Virtual Boy. New and improved features have been introduced since the second title dropped, and this game is no different. There are 16 new tracks to race on, an online mode, motion controls, and more characters than Mario can shake his mustache at. So does this game take home the checkered flag or is the series overdue for a pit stop?

 

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As the Wii version marks the sixth console and handheld title to date, it’s safe to say the Mario Kart series certainly has been around the track a few times. It’s even reached past the boundaries of home consoles and made its mark in arcades twice over.  So is there anything new that this game brings to the table? Well, for the first time, you can play against racers from around the world! Oh wait… Mario Kart DS did that three years ago. You can play with new motion controls! No, Mario Kart GP debuted that feature three years ago in arcades across the globe. It does, truthfully, mark the first time Mario and the gang hit the streets on entirely new type of vehicle.

It’s not just Mario Kart anymore; it’s also Mario Motorcycle! Now you can crush your opponents on two wheels instead of four! Each of the three weight classifications has its own set of karts and bikes. The only real differences between the vehicles are the bikes’ ability to pop wheelies and the karts’ ability to hit a second level in power slides. Other than that, there isn’t anything truly outstanding between the two. Still, they do add a whole new twist to the gameplay and are welcome additions to the title.

Speaking of twists, Mario Kart Wii allows players to perform stunts. Just pull up on the steering wheel or press a button on the D-pad with the other control schemes to get your character to do a back flip, 360, or another one of their various poses in midair. It’s a pretty sweet feature that does occasionally give you a leg up on the competition. There is a small problem though; if you’re on a bike while using the motion controls, stunts can easily be misconstrued as wheelies, potentially sending you off into the pit below. The most heinous problem is on the Mushroom Gorge track as there are plenty of black holes to fall into. Other than that small problem, the stunts are a great bonus.

The bikes and stunts might be a breaths of fresh air, but they’re definitely not the reason to run out and pick up this game. That’s where the online mode comes into play. With stat tracking capabilities and worldwide leader boards, the online mode is definitely one of the best Wi-Fi experiences on the the console yet. Completely obliterating the lag fest we know as Super Smash Brothers Brawl, players can join Versus and Battle matches on the fly or connect with a few friends with hardly a hiccup. Just choose your desired mode, select your character, and hit the raceway! There is a problem where other racers’ cars will jump from location to location, especially in the Worldwide matches. It’s not exactly my biggest woe, but if one jumps right at the finish line, it could mean you’ll be losing some points. You can also compete in monthly torunaments via the Mario Kart Channel.

Of course, the usual single player experience is also available. This mode houses all the grand prixs, ghost races, vs, and battle matches against the computer. It’ll probably be the first and last stop on the Mario Kart circuit you’ll be visiting. Since this is the primary place to unlock new features, you’re going to want to hit it up first. After you’ve unlocked all the secrets, it’s likely you’ll be hightailing it out of there for the online mode. It’s also home to the most… dare I say cheap, area in the game.

The 150 CC Grand Prix is a frickin’ cheater. The computer will usually award itself the hardest hitting items in the game to take you down by any means necessary. For some reason, it will sometimes stack up three or four items and release them all at once potentially ruining the entire race for you. Once, I was hit with five consecutive items and thusly pushed back from the top spot to the last. Needless to say I was not a happy camper. And it’s not just me who is complaining about this; hundreds of other players have reported the same problem. It almost seems like the odds are stacked against you but then again, there are 11 racers being piloted by the computer.

There is also multiplayer mode where you and three other friends can duke it out. You can do everything here that’s in the single player area of the game other than the ghost races. You can drive through the actual races or fight for glory in the battle mode. However, this section is one of the biggest disappointments of the game. For many gamers, including me, the best thing about Mario Kart was the balloon popping mayhem that was the Battle mode. Now, it walks the thin line between entertaining and boring.

Nintendo completely shattered everything the Battle mode once was when they removed the one vs. all option, implemented a set time limit,  and allowed beaten players to respawn once all their balloons had been popped. Now every match is a three minute long, team based cluster ****. It’s especially disheartening when you take into account that the single player vs. matches allow you to choose team based or all vs. all. Sure, it does have the “Coin Runners” mode along side “Balloon Fight”, but it’s just not the same as it once was.

Another disappointing aspect is the fact that the motion controls don’t always work. Yes, it’s great we get a steering wheel packaged in with our game, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that the controls need a bit of work done. The biggest problem is in the power slide maneuver. You must be sure that your character has begun to turn before you start the drift. It’s a big pain in the you know what in “S” turns and a few other areas. There’s also a problem with held items as the D-pad is quite sensitive. Reduce the pressure you place on the button in the slightest and the item you were dragging behind you can shoot off. However, those two issues and the fact the “look behind you” button is awkwardly placed, are the only issues I’ve found. The controls overall work pretty well and will be a major hit when friends are over. If you’re looking for some serious control in competition though, I’d recommend using the GameCube controller.

On top of the “new” motion controls is the robust cast of characters. Mario Kart Wii  has quite a few new faces this time around including your own! For the first time in Kart history, you can go head to head with all the Mushroom Kingdom celebrities with your very own Mii. After completing a certain task in the single player outing,  your saved file’s Mii will become available for play. There are also several other newcomers that don the lineup including Funky Kong, Rosalina, and Baby Peach; all of which require you to complete a task of some sort. Each character falls into a specific weight catergory and have 10 different karts and bikes to choose from.

So has the series lost its shine? I think it’s safe to say not at all. The latest entry features an impressive amount of gameplay and unlockable content. From new vehicles to a stout online experience, Nintendo really seems to have listened to their consumers this time around. Yes, there are a few corners the Big N seems to have cut in regards to the Battle mode and the motion controls but it’s still a pretty complete package. With Mii support, new tracks, new vehicles, new items, new stunts, new controls, and a flushed out online mode, there is plenty here to keep coming back for more. If you haven’t picked up this gaming phenomenon, then race to the closest store and pick it up! Don’t blow any red lights though… not even blue shells will keep the cops from running you down.

Graphics– 8 – They’re pretty good for a Wii game. Still, there are many instances where the GameCube did better in Mario Kart: Double Dash.

Audio – 8 – The music is always a great attribute in the series but the constant “Yippies” and “Wahoos” kind of grind on the nerves.

Gameplay – 9 – The motion controls might be a little iffy but overall they’re a great addition. Plus Mario Kart online, with Mii support, and online stat tracking? Score!

Lasting appeal – 10 – There is so much content here. It should come to little surprise that this game has some major staying power.

Overall – 8.75 – This is a definite purchase in my book. If you haven’t gotten this game already, do so as soon as possible!

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Responses

  1. Hey this is an excellent and enjoyable review, you gave it a 10 for lasting appeal though, I wonder if this is the same for people that have played every other Mario Kart? For me, it just does not add anything “new” to keep me playing like I did back on the N64.


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