Review by kirkinout
"Solid game, details inside."
Mario Kart Wii has been highly anticipated since its announcement. Each console has had a Mario Kart title in its library, and each game experienced a good amount of success. Starting from Super Mario Kart for the SNES, Mario Kart 64 for the Nintendo 64, Mario Kart Super Circuit for the GBA, Mario Kart Double Dash for the Nintendo Gamecube, and Mario Kart DS for the Nintendo DS. Mario Kart has proven to be a strong franchise with much popularity. Mario Kart Wii should be no exception and here's why.
The first major difference to note about the game is the use of bikes in addition to karts. Bikes provide a somewhat different style of game play since you can do wheelies on a bike to gain speed, however in terms of racing and handling, their difference from karts aren't very apparent. In fact there are only two bikes that have a different style of driving when compared to kart, and that's only because drifting is much sharper. Otherwise, they are almost identical to karts. I still see them as a good addition and they do provide some variety in the types of vehicles, and they have nicer tricks, even though they produce the same boost upon completion. This introduces the next addition to the game: tricks. Whenever you go over a jump, you can perform a trick. Tricks improve the overall rating you get at the end of all the races in the cup, which will be discussed later. Tricks also give you a small boost upon landing, which generally makes them worth performing in a race to get ahead. The tricks are a great addition to the Mario Kart franchise, as they provide another skill for you to master to become a good racer. A few new items were introduced into this game, such as the pow-block, or the giant mushroom. Almost all the items featured in Double Dash are featured in this new installment with the exception of Bowser's giant turtle shells and Mario's fireballs. The item selection is a good fit for the game, though a lot of items such as the lightning bolt seem to have lost a lot of their effectiveness. With these new additions to the game, Nintendo decided to remove some of the ideas implemented in Double Dash, which includes the specialized item set for each character, and the idea of two people per Kart, among other lesser changes. This means items are randomized again, and only one character can be chosen per player. I view these as positive changes though, so if you liked them then it might be good to know of their removal. Lets breakdown the big part of game play though:
Mario Kart Wii houses the same game types as any other Mario Kart: Grand Prix, Time Trial, Versus, and Battle. Lets talk about each one individually:
Grand Prix: 9/10
Similar to every Mario Kart, there are three different classes to play in, except in this game, there are 8 cups to race for, per class. The first four cups, which are the familiar Mushroom through Special cups, include new tracks, though some are similar to older tracks from previous games. The next four cups include tracks taken from all the other Mario Kart games. Each cup has 4 tracks for a total of 32 tracks in this game. A lot of the new tracks are refreshing and have some great ideas implemented for really enjoyable races. A few new tracks feel like they are just rehashed versions of tracks from other game. The retro tracks are pretty well chosen and represent their source tracks well. To clarify, the older tracks are pretty accurate and are very nostalgic, keeping the music from their originals. The tracks even include most of the little shortcuts from the originals. Overall the tracks for this game are pretty nice and make for a lot of fun races. Something new to the Mario Kart series is that each Grand Prix race now has a total of 12 racers per race, rather than the conventional 8 racers. This makes the races a bit more hectic, but the increase is well received in my book. At the end of each cup you receive a ranking or C, B, A, one star, two stars, or three stars, where three stars is the best ranking you can receive. Three stars is pretty difficult to receive, and one star is relatively easy to receive assuming you get first in every race. The rankings really hold no significance except to show off for on-line play, which I will talk about later. The biggest disappointment I saw in Grand Prix, was that you could no longer play Grand Prix mode with two players, as you could in almost every other Mario Kart. Though you can play versus mode with 12 characters in a race, you must unlock everything in single player mode.
Time Trial: 10/10
The time trial system is the best I've seen so far. In time trial, you can race by yourself on any course provided you've unlocked them, and try to get the best time possible, set personal records. Each time you race on a track without hitting anything or falling off the stage, you can save a ghost, which is basically a replay of your best effort. The game also comes with ghosts already loaded, that you can play against, and try to beat. If you have a record you really liked you can send the ghost file to a friend and see if they can beat it. Time trial makes for great competition and even has some unlockables tied into it.
Versus is where you can play with up to four people and compete on any stage. You can even break up the game into teams and try to race for the most overall points. The versus mode is the best I've seen of any Mario Kart simply because you can play versus with the computers for a total of 12 racers per race just like in Grand Prix. Previous Mario Kart games featured versus mode where any four-player game only included four players.
Battle mode is pretty fun. Nintendo seems to have tried going with the same type of battle featured in Mario Kart 64, which was the most successful Battle Mode in my opinion. The battle tracks are pretty nice, which is a giant leap for the poor battle tracks used in Mario Kart Double Dash. In battle mode, the objective is to try to attack other players. Players have three balloons attached to them. When an item such as a shell or banana hits a player, they lose one balloon, and the attacker gets a point. When a player loses all of their balloons, they lose a point and are reset on the map with all three balloons again. Battle matches are timed and the player who has the most points at the end wins. One thing to note is that players aren't eliminated from battle when all balloons are lost which was the case in previous Mario Karts. Overall I think the battle mode is a nice visit to a successful formula with a few good changes.
The Controls: 10/10
Every control scheme for this game works pretty well. Most people say that the Wiimote + Nunchuk combo is the best, however I prefer the classic or Gamecube controller instead, though the Wiimote is better for performing tricks. The newest control scheme is the Wii Wheel where you can attach the Wiimote to the wheel to try and get a better racing experience. The game comes with the wheel for no extra charge. The wheel is surprisingly good in handling and steering, and is pretty easy to use. It might be a bit difficult to actually win races with the wheel, however; Though the steering was well implemented, it is a bit harder to pull off techniques such as drifting, and mini turbos, so you might want to stick to using one of the other control types for the early stages of the game, when you're unlocking everything and trying to improve your rank. Save the wheel for when you have nothing to do and just want to have a good time. The learning curve for this game is pretty small, though it might take a bit longer to learn some of the techniques such as drifting and mini turbos. Speaking of which, in Mario Kart Wii, you can now select between an automatic control type, and a manual control type. The difference between the two lies in drifting. Automatic is more for beginners, where you drift automatically when turning. With manual, you have to drift using buttons. The bonus to using a manual control type is that while drifting you can initiate a mini turbo, a small boost, when blue sparks start toe fly from your kart. If you hold the drift for longer, the blue sparks turn orange, and when you release you get a slightly larger boost. Snaking still exists for more experienced players, but it is a bit less effective since mini boosts take a bit more time since it is dependent on the time and amount of turning done.
The game isn't too difficult unless you're going for a three star ranking on everything, in which case, good luck. Otherwise the difficulty isn't too bad. Be warned, however, in 150cc the computers become very annoying. They race well and become ridiculously cheap with items. By the time you get to 150cc, you'll be ready for it though, unless you start with 150cc, which would be pretty bad. Still the AI in the game provide for challenging races, and you'll love that feeling of relief when you get hit by a shell right before the finish line, and just barely manage to get first. Then again maybe not.
I think the graphics really do the game justice. Everything is bright and colorful, and crisp, as it needs to be. The attention to detail is pretty nice, and all the tracks look pretty...well they just look pretty. By attention to detail I mean how vibrant the game is and also the amount of effort put into how accurate the tracks are that were taken from previous Mario Kart installments. Nintendo also decided to incorporate Mii's into the game which I suppose is a nice touch, though sometimes its annoying to see the Mii of a friend costing you the race you really needed to win. In all the graphics were done well and the game looks great. The game looks like Double Dash except with a nicer finish and I view that as a step up considering Double Dash looked great in its own right.
All of the tunes in the game fit their respective stages. That being said, a lot of them aren't really memorable and some just get on your nerves. I enjoy the music in about half the stages, and there are a few that I can really get into while playing. Using the
original music for the retro tracks is a very nice touch though. Otherwise the music can get kind of repetitive and annoying. I still feel that the music deserves a 8 though because of they way it fits with the game and because I'm trying not to bring it down based on my personal preference.
The main reason I feel like this game is a huge success. The online for this game is pretty great. You can participate in tournaments online, race and battle against strangers, and friends. The Wii friend code system is still as bad as usual but the fun had with this game's online play definitely makes up for it. I've yet to have a race with any lag, which I view as fairly impressive. Also with the game comes the Mario Kart channel, where you can see online rankings, tournaments, and many other features without actually accessing the Mario Kart game. Also you can gauge your own rank with other people. If you happen to earn one star rank on every course in Grand Prix mode, there will be a star next to your name when you play online. If you get two stars on every course, two starts appear next to your name, likewise with three. You can also go online and check time trial records and rankings. The online play for this game is pretty nice and worth playing.
Naturally you can play the game as many times as you want, though once you get everything you might not really have motivation to play it. It receives a high score for the fact that it's a great party game. My friends and I to this day still play Mario Kart 64 during the summer, and hopefully this game will be played the same way.
Mario Kart Wii is already proving to be a great game. Every feature seems to have been perfected from previous titles, though a few still need to be worked on. The game is well worth purchasing, and even comes with the Wii Wheel for no extra charge. This Mario Kart looks to experience a vast amount of success, and I've already had a lot of fun with this title. I highly recommend this for anyone who needs a good party game, or just a fun game in general.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 05/09/08
Game Release: Mario Kart Wii (US, 04/27/08)
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