Review by CrimsonGear80

"Alright, I'm going to win the rac- hey, what the hell is that blue thing above me..."

Ladies and gentlemen, we have Mario Kart. Yep, Nintendo has graced us once again with another installment in it's highly successful multiplayer insanity racing funtime! With this new Wii edition, Nintendo added in some new features, but at the same time took out some old ones. So should you take this around a few laps, or throw a blue shell at it as it's about to cross the finish line?

KRAZY KART GAMEPLAY

Now if your like me, you saw the new Wii wheel that Nintendo was shipping out with every copy of MK and said to yourself: “What are you doing, Nintendo? What are you doing? Yet another gimmicky accessory that I will never use.” Well, after spending time with the wheel-shaped shell you put the Wii-mote, I must say that it's not all bad. This works in part to the very tight and responsive steering motion controls that have been implemented. It may take some getting used to, but steering with the wheel makes winning races a pretty rewarding experience. If you still can't stomach using the wheel, then you can also use the traditional Wii-mote/nunchuck configuration, or even a classic pad or Gamecube controller. Still, I urge you to give the Wii-wheel a chance, you just might enjoy it.

The last console MK game, Double Dash, added in many new innovations to the MK gameplay. Two different characters could ride on one kart, and two-players could play a co-op match and control each rider individually. There was the ability to steal items from other players by bumping into them, drifting around corners to perform mini-turbos, and specific special attack items for every character. Well Mario Kart Wii…pretty much gets rid of all these except for drifting. The more simplified and classic gameplay limits you to one character per kart, no special items, and a much easier drifting system. You just have to hold the B button and turn into the drift until the sparks coming out of the kart's wheels turn blue or orange, then release the B button to give your self a turbo boost. While the exclusion of these things may upset Double Dash fans, the core gameplay is still, at the most part, very satisfying.

The main single player mode in MK is Grand Prix, where you choose a speed class (50cc, 100cc, or 150cc) a Nintendo character, a kart or bike (I‘ll get to those later), and a cup to compete in. Each cup contains four tracks to race, and the goal is to race 11 other racers on each track in order to get the most amount of points for the cup. Of course, finishing each race in a better position gives you more points. Have the most points after the fourth race in a cup and you win the gold. There are 8 cups to race in, 16 of the tracks being new and the other 16 taken from previous Kart games and given Wii facelifts (except for the ones from Double Dash). Just like all the other Kart games, you have the ability to pick up various items during races to slow down your opponents or give yourself a huge boost. Besides the classic green and red (homing) shells, banana peels, speed-boosting mushrooms, fake item boxes, stars, and the ever so infuriating blue shell, Nintendo has also added in quite a few new items as well. Bullet Bill lets racers in last positions fly through the track automatically knocking other racers out of the way, the POW block knocks every racer into a tail spin and causes them to lose any items they may have, the mega mushroom causes your racer to grown in size and literally flatten other racers, and there are a few other new items that might prove interesting. Also new is the ability to do tricks when going off ramps and such by shaking the Wii wheel as you go off of them. Landing after doing a trick will give you a nice speed boost. Also new to Mario Kart…Bikes! Yep, the 100cc speed class is bikes only, but besides letting you do a wheelie by tilting the wheel up and needing a little more effort to perform drifts, they're not much different from karts. Still…BIKES!! *Shifty eyes*. Rounding out single-player modes is time trial, where you race by yourself on a track to beat the fastest time.

So while the gameplay in MK is still pretty fun, there is one nagging problem that has been brought over from previous installments, and that's the cheap-ass AI you'll eventually be facing. In the 50cc and 100cc speed classes it's tolerable, but in the 150cc class you'll be amazed how the racer AI just seems to KNOW what your going to do and seems to ALWAYS get the right items to use at the right time. One time I got into first place on lap 3 and about five feet away from the finish line. I was just about to celebrate my hard earned victory when all of a sudden…blue shell followed by red shell followed by POW block followed by another red shell!!! I ended up in 9th place, and my Wii wheel almost ended up lodged in my wall. It's not in many racing games that your actually PUNISHED for being in first place. Don't get me wrong, 150cc is still entirely winnable, just be prepared to retry until your wrists and fingers become numb.

It wouldn't be Mario Kart without the multi-player. Up to four players on one Wii can compete in Vs. mode or battle mode. Battle mode has two modes: balloon battle, where you use items to pop the balloons on the other teams karts, and coin runners, where you race to collect coins around the stage and the team with the most coins wins. That's right, you can only do battle mode in teams, which may disappoint the “every man for himself” lovers out there. However, if you've got no friends, then Nintendo has added in the best new feature included in MK Wii: online play. Once you connect to Nintendo WFC, your presented with three options: worldwide, regional ,and friends (all of which are pretty self-explanatory). You can then choose to do regular races or battles, and the game will then search for opponents. The game was pretty quick in finding opponents for me, and even cooler was that it showed where your opponents are located in the world (represented by their Miis). I've done many races and battles online, with the maximum amount of players (twelve for races, four for battles) and I must say that every match has run lag-free and extremely smooth. Seriously, after the mixed bag that was Super Smash Brothers Brawl, it great to see Nintendo actually succeed in online play in one of their titles. Even the awful friend codes are a little easier to deal with. Sure, you still have to enter them in, but for friends you already have registered on your Wii, all you have to do is send them an invite and have them send you one back. Also included in the online package is the Mario Kart channel. Here you can register friends, race downloaded ghosts in time trial mode, take part in special tournaments that Nintendo will hold, and check leaderboards for the time trials and tournaments. You even have the option to install the channel right on your Wii and check it without having the disk in the system. So besides occasionally having some long wait times while races started, this is by far the best online game for the Wii so far. You'll be seeing a ton of hours just fly by in no time.

KRAZY KART GRAPHICS

Not a huge leap from Double Dash, but still pretty nice nonetheless. Most of the sixteen new tracks, like Coconut Mall and Wario Mines, are very well designed and colorful and a blast to race on. The classic tracks (including one of my favorites, DK Mountain), are also pretty nice. It's cool to race on an old SNES track here and still have it have that retro feel and look to it. Some tracks though, like Luigi Circuit and a few others, are pretty much just NASCAR circles you go around in and are pretty boring. Still, the good outweighs the bad here. The game also implements the Miis on you console quite well, putting them in the crowd and such. The game runs in full widescreen in 60fps (it goes down to 30 when three or more players play on the same console though). Not an eye-melter, but still very nice.

KRAZY KART SOUND

Truth be told, the whimsical compositions that play while you race in MK get on my nerves. I'm sure some Nintendo purists love them to death, but not me. The only track that sounded decent was the techno track that plays while your viewing an online match waiting for it to end so you can join. Still, sound effects and voices are fine and run in Pro Logic II, so it's not all bad. I would throw on your own tunes while you throw down, however.

I'VE GOT A FEVER, AND THE ONLY CURE IS MORE MARIO KART!

Besides all the fun you'll have online and with local multiplayer, single player has three speed classes to win gold trophies in, time trials and ghosts to beat, and many unlockables to unlock. You'll have a Gold Wii wheel next to your name online in no time.

So while some gameplay exclusions and cheap AI rear their ugly heads, Mario Kart remains the ”driving” force in fun!! Wii owners (especially those with Wi-Fi connections) shouldn't wait to add this to their collections post haste!!

KEWL
+Gameplay is still a blast!
+Cool new items to use
+New and classic tracks are mostly awesome
+Using the Wii wheel is actually quite fun
+Decent graphics run in 60fps
+Best online game for the Wii so far
+Lots of replay value

LAME
-REALLY cheap-ass AI in 150cc class races
-Removal of Double Dash gameplay innovations may upset some
-Pretty terrible music
-Some boring tracks
-Friend codes are still a bad idea


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 05/05/08, Updated 05/06/08

Game Release: Mario Kart Wii (US, 04/27/08)


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