Review by ArkfellerKonan

"Sometimes it's great, and other times it's downright lousy."

Nintendo's long-running Mario Kart series has been on their consoles ever since the days of the good ol' SNES, and the sixth game promises a new twist on the gameplay as well as lots of retro goodness.

Graphics: 9

The Wii's capabilities when it comes to graphics is quite obviously very far ahead of the Gamecube's or DS'. Everything looks fine. The characters are vibrant and quite distinguishable from one another (except, of course, some characters and their baby counterparts). The tracks are richly diverse. There's really nothing more to say here. The graphics for this title (considering the Wii's technical limitations) are superb.

Sound: 10

The two composers in this game, Asuka Ohta and Ryo Nagamatsu, really deserve all the praise they get for their work on this game. Older, more nostalgic tunes (some recreated) have been attached to their respective tracks, while fun and rather addictive melodies have been composed for tracks introduced in this game. You're likely to be humming along to the music as you race. I did, anyway.

The voice acting is sublime - you're too busy racing to concentrate on what Bowser just growled, but it somehow sticks you all the same. However, the main thing that bugs me here is the Mii voices. Even though you unlock the Miis a while after you start playing, their voices are just horrible - it sounds rather fake and annoyingly... squealy.

Gameplay: 7

Now, the thing about a racing game isn't sound, nor so much as graphics, but gameplay. While Mario Kart Wii still manages to preserve some of the characteristics that made the older ones stand out, features have been added that make racing a downright pain.

Mario Kart Wii comes with a few modes that will no doubt keep you interested for a while. There's Grand Prix - which is the same deal as earlier games - where you race in a series of 4 races (called a cup) to get a ranking and first in every race. There are 4 parts to this - 50cc, 100cc, 150cc and Mirror. Second, there's Time Trial. Third, there's VS. And fourth, there's Battle (Balloon Battle and Coin Runners).

You would have doubtless received a Wii Wheel with this game if you bought it brand new from a store - not rented or preowned. The Wii Wheel does what it should (make it easier for you to steer), but it does introduce some difficulties, especially when you're playing online and things are as hot as they come. The B button, while being more accessible and easier to press, is now a gigantic lump. The Bullet Bill you were saving up would accidentally be unleashed, along with the banana you were trailing behind you. It's not a huge problem in the beginning, but once you get to 150cc, it will really put you at a disadvantage. The Wiimote also lets you down in spectacular fashion here: you tilt it too much, and the game sends you driving the other way. Even when Nintendo went through dozens of tests, figuring out what would be the perfect shape and weight, they still manage to make mistakes such as these.

The last thing anyone needs in a game is extraordinarily resourceful AI. Unfortunately, cheating AI becomes increasingly prevalent towards the later stages of the game (understandably), and is guaranteed to make you feel inclined to throw your controller at the open window/wall. So here's the scenario: you've made it a goal to get 3 stars in every cup you come across. You blitzed the 50cc and 100cc cups, you've done half the 150cc cups when you realise the AI have suddenly become rather cruel and unforgiving. Next minute, you're constantly being knocked over by Bullet Bills, invincible AI and flattened by extra large karts which just used a Mega Mushroom. After a few hours of tearing your hair out, you finally get to first place. A sense of triumph and a hell lot of adrenaline comes, only stopped when you hear a red shell alert getting louder and louder. Suddenly, you're in eighth place and forced to restart the cup. In fact, anytime you spin out in the harder races, you'll be pushed back to at least 4th place, and you'll have a hell of a time trying to get your position back. When you do, you're blue shelled and left to tail everyone else again. And what's more, you can't avoid it (unless you have a mushroom... in 1st place). It gets rather daunting at times, and to this day I still have not finished the last 150cc cup purely out of frustration. Unless you're a virtuoso with whatever control configuration you are using, you'll just have to wish that you aren't plagued by a POW block, then a red shell, followed closely by a blue shell, and finally a 'friendly' shoulder rub from a Heavy character. And once you're cruising along in last place resigned to the worst, the AI will still hate you, isolating you with bombs, bananas and whatnot. Sometimes it sucks to be playing alone.

That's why we have Versus! I have no major gripes about this, but the problems from single player are still present. However, the game should really include an option for switching between horizontal and vertical 2-player screens.

Mario Kart Wii uses the Nintendo WiFi Channel, or WFC, for online play. It's stable enough to last you a good number of races without anything out of ordinary happening, but is still riddled with problems. If your internet connection is subject to heavy traffic, your best bet will be NOT to go online at all, since the load times are absolutely ridiculous, even on a faster connection. At times, it will simply let you into a race, but disconnect you a few seconds later, dealing a heavy blow to your Race Rating (Race Rating is simply a number that increases and decreases with every race you win or lose - everyone starts on 5000), which can be hard to get back.

Overall Score (not averaged): 7

This game is enough to last one person a good amount of time. Play it with friends, or family, and you'll get even more. But the problems in this game are pretty hard to ignore, so buy it only if you don't mind problematic AI and have a good stable internet connection.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 01/05/09

Game Release: Mario Kart Wii (AU, 04/24/08)

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