Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mario Kart Wii

The kart cult will live on !!

Ask a Nintendo fan-boy about his favorite racing game. In nine out of ten cases, a Nintendo fan would say : *Mario Kart Wii !!* Now we get to see the awesome Wii-version !!

April 11 : Mario Kart Wii was released in Europe. I went to the local electronics store. I got one of the last copies before it was sold out. Played it. Loved it. A superb online-mode, a spectacular multiplayer mode, and lots of unlockables....

Pros (Latin for good) :
  • Huge number of courses, including some of the most imaginative yet
  • Deeply integrated online play
  • Easy to jump into for players of any skill level
  • Fun and strategic trick system
  • Motorcycles provide a great alternative to go-karts.
Contras (Latin for bad) :

  • Nostalgia doesn't save most of the classic courses from being boring
  • Items are more unbalanced than ever, especially on new tracks
  • Battle modes are now exclusively team-based and timed.

One may wonder why Nintendo would add motorcycles and dirt bikes to the game series that popularized, if not invented, the genre of weapons-based go-kart racing. If you're one of the fans who balked at the inclusion of two-wheeled vehicles, a midair stunt system, and motion controls, rest assured that despite these changes, Mario Kart Wii is still very much the game that you have come to love over the years. But even if you haven't been on the receiving end of a blue shell before, the extensive multiplayer options, deeply integrated online functionality, multitude of controller schemes available, and simple gameplay make this latest Mario Kart great fun and quite possibly the most accessible one ever.

The main event of Mario Kart is the Grand Prix mode, which in you must play in order to unlock some characters, karts and more. There is the 50cc, the 100cc and the 150cc mode. You can also unlock the *Mirror Cup* , where all tracks and signs are mirrored. This is very fun, because you aren´t used to it. But this one broke the Mario Kart tradition : You can only play the Grand Prix mode solo (rather than multi-player) !!

16 new, and 16 retro tracks are available. The combination of both new and nostalgic retro levels makes Mario Kart the cremé de la cremé in track choosing. One of the major new features is the midair stunt system, which is activated by flicking the Wii Remote at the very moment you leave the ground from a ramp-assisted jump, making your racer perform an extreme-sports-style trick, such as a 360-degree spin, which upon landing rewards you with a considerable speed boost. To facilitate this new mechanic, most new tracks include huge half-pipes, rampant ramps, a multitude of moguls, and a plethora of pits, all of which are deliberately placed to encourage extensive stunt work. While this new system itself isn't flawed and in fact injects a great deal of fun and new strategy into the gameplay, its influence on course design has made certain items even deadlier, as you're that much more likely to be blasted uncontrollably into lava or other hazards due to how much time you spend in the air.

Online integration is deeper than most other games on the Wii, and you can join matches of any game type with friends as well as strangers from your local region or across the world. You have a persistent score, which is either increased or decreased by your performances, and when seeking out matches you're automatically place with like-skilled opponents revealed on a representation of Earth that uses Miis to show the approximate locations of the competition. In the event that you join a game already in progress, you will automatically be placed in a spectator mode until the round finishes and it's go time. Communication between players online is still virtually nonexistent, but while the ability to smack talk is a vital element of local multiplayer, it's not necessary for facilitating matches.

The most interesting online feature of Mario Kart Wii is the Mario Kart Channel, which can either be launched from within the game or saved directly into your Wii dashboard. Using WiiConnect24, you can compare your best lap times against your friends' and the rest of the region or the world. You can also download ghost replays to see firsthand how the top players pull off their times and send your own ghosts to friends as a challenge, and if this channel has been installed in the Wii menu, you can even do all of this without having your Mario Kart disc in the system.

Mario Kart Wii features a cast of 25 characters, over half of which must be unlocked through various accomplishments in single- or multiplayer modes. The ability to race as one of your Miis is perhaps the most notable new feature, but as great as putting Chuck Norris or Dr. Gregory House behind the wheel is, some of the newcomers like Baby Daisy and Dry Bowser are underwhelming and disappointing. Unlike Mario Kart: Double Dash, characters don't have items specific to them, but they do have up to 12 personalized motorcycles and go-karts to select from to determine racing stats.

Graphically, there isn't very much of a leap between this latest Mario Kart and its predecessor on the GameCube, but there are a lot of little details that add to the experience. Crowds of onlookers are populated by your Miis, and posters or statues throughout the levels can feature them as well. Lighting is vastly improved, and there are a number of nice environmental effects. Electricity crackles around you after you've been blasted by a lightning bolt. However, there is a considerable degradation of graphical quality in split-screen multiplayer--especially with four players--and character models are unnaturally shiny.

*Which controller should I use ?*

Wii-Remote (With Wii-Wheel) ★★★/★★★★★

This controlling method is recommendable for casual gamers. So you can drift better, Nintendo built in a big button on the back side. Negative points : Professional gamers wouldn´t like the Wii Wheel. It´s to imprecise for the harder levels. 3 out of 5


The best Wii tracks are :
  • Luigi Circuit
  • Mario Circuit
  • Mushroom Gorge
  • DK Snowboard Cross
  • Wario Mine
The worst Wii tracks are :
  • Daisy Circuit
  • Moo Moo Meadows
The best Retro tracks are :
  • GCN Waluigi Stadium
  • N64 DK Jungle Parkway
  • GCN DK Mountain
The worst Retro tracks are :
  • N64 Sherbet Land