Mario Kart Wii
Nintendo may not have a lot of street cred with the elitist 'hardcore' gaming crowd but there's no denying that the Big N has established itself as a major force in the current generation of gaming.
- Addictive and fun racing action — you can't play just one round.! The roster of characters is great. Just wait until you see some of the characters that you can unlock! Seriously, it's Mario Kart, people. Do we really need to convince you of how awesome this game is? We didn't think so.
- Some of the items are way too powerful. How the blue shell made it through beta testing is beyond us. The game rewards stragglers too much. Trying to maintain a lead is way harder than it should be. The graphics won't blow you away and they get worse when you go to split screen.
It's fun, it's addictive, it's Mario Kart — what else do we need to say?
After seeing its status in the industry suffer at the hands of Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo returned to the scene with its revolutionary Wii, a console that is breaking all the established rules and filling the company's coffers with what the hardcore crowd would call 'phat l00tz'.
The secret to Nintendo's success is this: it produces amazing games. As interesting and unique as the Wii Remote is, and as novel as the motion sensing controls have been, the Nintendo Wii would be nothing more than a gimmick if it didn't have a solid library of worthwhile titles.
And as we've long maintained, no one does Nintendo better than Nintendo. Take a look at the best-selling titles in the Wii's library and you'll see that more often than not, it's a first-party game. And fresh off the heels of its immensely successful Super Smash Bros. Brawl comes yet another guaranteed hit: Mario Kart Wii, a title that's dripping with charm and stars an all-star cast of loveable Nintendo characters.
The refined gameplay, the super-slick presentation and the flexible controls all add up to one of the finest racing experiences ever. Sure, it has its fair share of problems, but they're easy to overlook because the game is just plain fun. Whether you're blasting around a track in a souped-up kart or pulling insane tricks on the slick motorbikes, Mario Kart Wii has that same sense of magic that made all the other great Wii titles such a blast: it's instantly accessible, incredibly deep and insanely addictive.
The gang's all here
Mario Kart Wii isn't your prototypical racing game. It sits in the middle ground between realistic simulations like Gran Turismo and arcade-focused speedsters like Burnout. But it has something those other titles don't — the special Nintendo style that makes it stand out from all the rest.
The best example of this lies in Mario Kart Wii's roster of racers: the cast of characters is composed mostly of Nintendo all-stars like Mario and Bowser with a few nice surprises (which I won't ruin) thrown in. Each racer also has access to a variety of vehicles, each with their own individual stats. Sadly, the characters don't have as much individual personality as they do in games like Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Strikers Charged, but you do have a nice variety to choose from.
You spin me round round
From a gameplay standpoint, Mario Kart Wii doesn't deviate much from the formula set by the previous titles in the series: in short, it's tons of fun. There are two types of events: races and battles. Races are all-out sprints to the finish line, while battles consist of racers roaming around an enclosed space, tossing shells and other weapons at each other. If you've played any of the previous titles, you'll be on familiar ground. Even if you are new to the series, you'll still be able to master the game's racing action after a few sessions.
Drifting, where you slide around the track at an angle to generate a speed boost, is still the name of the game, and using it effectively is often the difference between racing in first and puttering in last. If anything, all of the tracks are built for drifts so it just makes sense to use them. Items also play a huge role and run the gamut from simple banana peels to the powerful Bullet Bill, which transforms you into the classic ballistic enemy from Super Mario Bros. and rockets you around the track.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely
Of course, this brings me to my number one complaint about Mario Kart Wii: The game goes out of its way to reward racers who fall behind. Say you're in last place and you run over an item box chances are you'll get some uber power-up that'll help rocket you back into contention. That's great if you absolutely suck but what happens if you're good enough to jump out into the lead? You'll be assaulted by all manner of shells, bombs and lightning strikes. The worst part is that the game will arm you with lame power-ups like banana peels if you're in first, so it's hard to defend yourself.
This leads to a lot of frustration and I lost a lot of races simply because my opponents got lucky with some power-up. The penalty for getting hit is also way too harsh: get struck by a shell or run into an obstacle and you'll come to a dead stop for a few seconds, which proves especially deadly in the later races. Falling off the race course is even worse; it takes forever to get reset and you'll spend the rest of the race trying to catch up. Fall off the track multiple times and you might as well quit and start again.
Presentation wise the game fails to dazzle, with graphics and audio that get the job done but won't blow you away. Also, when you go split-screen for multiplayer, things start to get pixelated and fuzzy, which is sort of disappointing.
One more time
And yet, even with these faults, Mario Kart Wii is without a doubt awesome. I always judge a game's worth on whether or not I find myself going back to it time and time again and I definitely found Mario Kart Wii to be addictive, even with its minor frustrations. All the unlockables definitely help — getting a new vehicle or a new character is a great reward for the work you put in.
Mario Kart Wii also has a huge ace up its sleeve: online multiplayer: I didn't get to test it out because no one else has the game as I write this, but unless it's completely broken, I can't see how it won't be a great addition to the series, the complexity and fickleness of Nintendo's online service notwithstanding. The Mario Kart Wii channel is also a cool little widget that sits in the Wii menu and lets you access online stats without needing to boot up the game. I hope to see more games take advantage of this cool feature.
There's no denying it: Mario Kart Wii is just the latest example which proves that, when it comes to designing an amazing Wii game, Nintendo has the secret formula down pat. It's a fantastic title that's fun, accessible and should prove to be a big hit with casual Wii gamers and hardcore racers alike. Whether you play solo, with friends or with strangers online, Mario Kart Wii is a great title that all Wii owners have to check out.
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