Monday, May 12, 2008

AH! Video Game Review: Mario Kart Wii

By Tom Daymont

I have given myself the title Resident AH! Video Game Expert, and thus I feel I need to review a game that I know at least one other AH! contributor owns. It's Mario Kart Wii for (you guessed it) the Nintendo Wii.

It's either the sixth or eighth installment of the franchise, depending on if you count Japanese Arcade titles and it's the first version of the game on the Nintendo Wii. What is interesting about the Mario Kart series is they have never made a Mario Kart more than once on any one system (again, besides Japanese Arcades). That's interesting because that means there is usually at least three years between any two Mario Kart titles. And since every time they put out a Mario Kart they make buttloads of money, it seems like they could pump these out more often and make even more money than buttloads, assloads perhaps.

Anyways, Mario Kart Wii's big addition to the Series is two-fold. The Wii Wheel and Online Multiplayer. The Wii Wheel is essentially a piece of shit plastic that you can put your Wiimote into and use it as a steering wheel. It definitely makes it more fun to use the wheel when you are playing on the same TV as someone, but when you are playing against the computer or twelve year olds from Canada I tend to use the Wiimote-Nunchuck combination. It's easier to steer, do tricks and powerslide in my opinion. I might be getting a head of myself here for the average AH! reader. Let's go back a bit.

Mario Kart is the game series that popularized, if not invented, the genre of weapons-based go-kart racing. It's a great party game as it's easy to pick up and is always good for a laugh. In this version, the races have up to twelve characters where as before it was only eight. Also new this year is the ability to choose motorbikes instead of the usual four-wheeled kart. The basics of the game are pretty much the same, you pick your Mario Brother's based character, Wario, Koopa, Yoshi etc. and you race around outraces courses shooting a plethora of crazy weapons.

Don't get me wrong I have never played a Mario Kart I didn't enjoy, but there is one thing that has always bothered me: the unbalanced items system. Everyone knows that when you are first you constantly get single green shells or single banana peels, and when you are last place you pick up a variety of stars, golden mushrooms and lightening bolts. That's the way Mario Kart plays and has always played, but this time around it seems even more ridiculous and more unfair than ever before. The key to winning Mario Kart is to try to be around 6th or 7th place about halfway around the third lap, that puts you in prime position to get the three red shells and drop a couple people as you make your way to front right as the dreaded blue spiky shell takes out the front runner.

Mario Kart Wii has more tracks than any other Mario Kart before it. There is a total of 32 different courses, of which half are brand-new for the Wii and the rest are versions of classic levels from previous games. It's great to have these classic maps to reminisce but no offense to the NES maps but when there are insanely new fun courses with jumps and short cuts, giving me a flat track from the original is often a disappointment. But for every person like me there is another who is pissed there weren't more classic tracks.

From a game play perspective it's essentially the same power-slide-around-the-track-collecting mystery-boxes-and-shooting-shells-at-enemies-while-avoiding-the-inevitable-green-shell-that- comes-bouncing-back-at-you game play we all grew up with except for a few differences. The new powerslide system is not based on how fast you can wiggle the thumstick but more on how long you hold the slide, this might piss off some older, more experience players but I think it ads to the fun factor. Another difference is the addition of the tricks the character can do off of the jumps. Flicking the Wiimote as you exit a jump makes your character do an extreme X-games style trick and then provides you with a considerable boost when you land, it's a welcomed addition as it provides one more hilarious opportunity to hit someone with a shell.

All the items that you remember are there, the mushroom, the triple mushroom, and the golden mushroom. There are a few newcomers that some might call a little "too powerful," these items include the thunder cloud, which will automatically shrink you after several seconds unless you ram someone to pass it off onto them. The POW block, which temporarily stuns everyone ahead of you and makes them drop their items, and the mega mushroom, which makes you grow to a huge size for a shot period of time to flatten other racers beneath your tires.

Online play is really where it earns it's keep in my opinion. I love playing against people around the world and taking them down with my trail of banana peels. There isn't any voice chat capabilities which kinda sucks since Mario Kart is perfect for trash talking. I just let my Yoshi Dirt Bike do all the talking.

I am not going to get into the battle modes because it has never been the reason I play Mario Kart. TwinsWin83 if you have any info to add about the battle modes feel free or anything you want to add about the game in general. I don't have my Friend Code in front of me right now but give me yours if you want to race around the tracks a bit sometime.


haasertime said...

1. every mariokart that comes out will be compared to N64 version

2. this version is very fun. the tracks are wild, but

3. it's hard to stay in first, as daymonster pointed out.

4. I have no idea how to VVVEEE slide. I am a connoisseur of the trick on the 64 version, but havent figured it out yet on wii.

Pat said...

This is completely off topic - but I have been recently exposed to Haas' theme song.

Don't Stop Me Now by Queen

I am on a mission to make this the only song played anywhere at anytime.

I have no idea how I've never heard this song before. It is so freaking absurd that it is perfect.

TwinsWin83 said...

Im not a huge video game person (I tend to stick to the classics like RBI Baseball, Perfect Dark or GoldenEye is about it for me), but Ive really dug Mario Kart Wii over the past week or so. This is also probably why I like using the Wii Wheel because it makes it pretty simple.

A couple things I dont like on this version though is
1) on 150cc it is nearly impossible to maintain a lead matter how well you are racing
B) the blue turtle shell that seems to penalize you for being in first
III) When you are on two player you cant race an entire Cup, you have to pick each individual race.

Other then that this game is pretty cool. Im one of the people that wishes there were more classic tracks.

As for the battle stuff I dont really get into that but they seem to be much more difficult to compete in then N64 battles.

Whats the Wii slide?
And also, about the only trick I know how to do is a flip off a jump where you quickly tilt the Wii wheel back. Is there any other tricks you can do using the wheel?

haasertime said...

ha, thats pretty good pat. I;m going to karoke that song one day. I wish today was not monday.

twinswin, you should definitly try the nunchuck style. it is much more precise than the wiiwheel.

also, the blue turtle shells name is the LEADER KILLER. It's been around since 64, and it sucks when you;re in first, but i've gotten used to it.

the power slide, or Vee slide as i call it, is acheieved in 64 by holding the jump button as you turn. i pity anyone who doesn't know that.

But like i said, I don't know how to do it on wii. someone said its automatic but uh...

speaking of automatic, has anyone tried the manual transmission on wii? is it fun or faster?

tfrezac2002 said...

Yeah, Don't stop me now is a great song. Queen can really rock.

TwinsWin83 said...

well i know what the jump turn is on 64 but I have yet to see how to do that on the Wii version.

The blue turtle on the 64 version doenst completly blow you out of the water like it does on the Wii.

Ill have to take you up on the numchuck thing mike.

jake said...

Nice review Tom. With any Mario Kart title, it's all about the little things. 'Drifting' (as it's now deemed), drafting and tricks off the jumps, all add up and determines if you get 1st or 5th. Shorter courses have a larger "luck" factor, due to quick wrath of the items. Longer courses appear to be a better measure of skill. Yes, I agree getting screwed by a series of 5 items is hateful, but mainly emphasizes the need to separate yourself from the pack early on. Blue shells are overcome by the fact that the pack spends most of it's time attacking each other and not the players in front. Overall great title. Online game play is awesome, very simplistic and easy to get in a game.

p.s. this is only a second hand account, I can't even imagine what it's like to invest countless hours playing as Peach against 8 yr olds.

Daymonster said...

Yeah, drifting, powerslide, jump turn are all the same thing, you jump into the turn and hold that until your tires burn orange and then you release.

bizmarkie507 said...

Hey graff when we play this I call peach