Mario Kart games for the SNES, N64, GBA, GCN and NDS have been successfully followed on by a game for the Wii, aptly named Mario Kart Wii. Despite the rather unimaginative title, the game has impressed me already: first, because it has "Mario Kart" in the title (and that's always a good thing); second, because of what it has to offer, in comparison to every other game in the series thus far.
Karts. Characters. Tracks. Items. Battles. Multiplayer modes. The usual stuff that tends to make up Mario Kart games. Except in better graphics.
Karts. Characters. Tracks. Items. Battles. Multiplayer modes. The usual stuff that tends to be added to newer Mario Kart games.
Specifically, new designs of kart have been added to the Wii version, as well as the addition of bikes. You can also perform stunts on either karts or bikes, giving you a speed boost. 16 new tracks and 5 new multiplayer arenas are added, as well as 16 "retro" tracks and 5 "retro" multiplayer arenas. There are new items and new effects to old items, and a few tweaks made that allow you to play a few different modes on the Nintendo WFC.
Karts. Characters. Tracks. Items. Battles. Multiplayer modes. You get the picture.
While many of the popular characters make a return, such as (obviously) Mario, Luigi, Peach, Bowser, Yoshi and Donkey Kong, sadly you do miss out on about half a dozen. You can now no longer play as Donkey Kong Jr. (but he hasn't been missed), Koopa Paratroopa, Petey Piranha, R.O.B. (ROB64) or Shy Guy. However, for the first time, you can race with Baby Daisy, Baby Peach, Dry Bowser, Funky Kong and Rosalina. In other words, a good trade (except that R.O.B.'s karts were pretty awesome...)
Yet again, each character has a weight class, which affects how they can be driven. For example, lighter racers will tend to give their karts/bikes an acceleration boost, but a noticeable lack of top speed. Conversely, heavier characters have higher top speed and lower acceleration. So while the potential is there for each character to become a megastar, odds are there's only one good kart or bike out there per character.
A staple of the Mario Kart series, these could make or break your karting career. Ahem. As before, you can get bananas, shells, lightning and Starmen. We have lost the functionality of special items from Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, such as Bowser Shells and Chain Chomps. To replace them, POW Blocks, Mega Mushrooms and Thunderclouds make their début here. Much respect.
There are 42 tracks and arenas in Mario Kart Wii. 32 of them are for use in Grand Prix races, Time Trials and VS Mode racing. The other ten are for use in multiplayer battles. Half the tracks and half the arenas are borrowed from past games (why they couldn't have included Tick-Tock Clock from the NDS is beyond me...) and the other half are completely new. These are from all different locations within the Nintendo canon, and then some: we see Bowser's Castle a couple of times; the Rainbow Road returns with another new layout; Mario, Luigi and Daisy each have their own circuit, and Peach has her beach; and so on and so forth.
Grand Prix, Time Trials, multiplayer racing on one console. Yawn. What's different is a new Battle mode: Coin Runners, which replaces Shine Runners, Bob-Omb Blast and Shine Thief... but there's no replacing the ever-popular Balloon Battle. The new Balloon Battle isn't a last-man-standing game anymore, though: you've got three minutes to burst as many opposition balloons as you can. The Nintendo WFC has also been given a significant role in the game: play against anons or friends online, take part in competitions, download ghost data for use in time trials, and challenge the world's best racer for each track.
I've only ever really "played" Mario Kart DS - that is, it's the only game I've clocked. I've dabbled a little in the original Mario Kart games for the N64 and SNES, but not much else. So my impressions come as an almost-first-timer to the series. It seems bloody similar in almost every style to Mario Kart DS, except of course with the new additions and the 12 players per race thing. It seems that Nintendo has tried to jam as much as they can into races to give players more mayhem while trying to race. And hell, if four players crammed together trying to shoot those fucking blue shells at each other, cursing each other at 140 decibels and swearing revenge afterwards isn't fun, then what is?
Previously, console games allowed for four players per console, meaning essentially four human players to x CPU players. Now it's pretty much the same, except you can get human players from around the world and make it a 12-human experience. Though with lag and some of the tricks that expert Karters can pull off, it will almost seem like a 1-human, 11-bot game. (Bot, not CPU. Big distinction there.)
With the Wiimote being motion-sensitive, it is obviously a good idea to include a steering wheel accessory, right? Wrong. The Wii Wheel fails in pretty much every way. By removing the ability to control everything with a thumb - which is quite intuitive for gamers - they've made it into a drivers' game. Also, the Wheel is variously over-sensitive and under-sensitive. There's no middle ground, and half the time, WE NEED THAT MIDDLE GROUND. Twitching something with a thumb is so much easier. Thank the gaming gods that Nintendo included an option to play with Nunchaku (is this the proper term?) instead of the Wheel, otherwise I'd be up Cheep Cheep Creek without a Starman. Ahem.
So, with all that, I guess I'd better score this thing.
- Graphics: 9/10. Substantially better than any other Mario Kart game. Unrealistic, but then again, when has any Mario game ever been realistic? Unfortunately I can still see a couple of polygons here and there.
- Sound: 9/10. Pretty much the same for any Wii game with me. It's dependent on your TV's sound system, but I find with a really shitty one, the sound does a good job.
- Playability: 8.5/10, but drop it down to a 6 with the Wheel. Games will have no trouble. Newbies will, but not for long. It's a Wii, FFS.
- Lastability: 9.5/10. Excellent replay value. I suspect that the reason I'll stop playing this game is for rage-quit reasons1, rather than "I've hundred-percented this thing".
- Total: 36/40. Very nice indeed.
1 Specifically, getting so angry I somehow defenestrate the (very resilient) Wiimote. But that won't happen.