Mario Kart Wii came out yesterday! Graev and I have been fans of Mario Kart games since the SNES and have played every version including the hand held DS releases. The game has this unexplainable charm — all Mario Karts do. Seeing the Nintendo characters driving Go-Karts, Dragsters, bizarre contraptions, Motorbikes, and even scooters while throwing objects at eachother… it’s bliss.
We picked up our pre-order yesterday morning and spent much of the time racing and battling with each other. This isn’t going to be a large comprehensive review because honestly the game doesn’t need any explanation. Instead I’m just going to give you our thoughts on a few details of the game.
Characters – Mario Kart Wii has 14 unlockable characters (2 of which are your Mii’s) and the standard 10 or 12 regular characters to choose from. I’m not going to give anything away by saying that the characters this time around are very difficult to unlock. We’re both very happy that there are so many unlockable characters. I love the lighter and move maneuverable characters like Toad and Baby mario and Graev fancies the heavier and higher top speed racers like Bowser and Donkey Kong.
Karts and Motorcycles – First I have to say the Motor bikes are awesome!! The bikes feel different from the Karts even before you realize that you can pop a wheelie. There is a lot of variety to choose from before you find out that you nearly double the available vehicles once you unlock them all. They look awesome and each vehicle has its strengths and weaknesses that make choosing karts more than aesthetics. If you’re good at drifting then you’ll want to try out the racing bike but if you’re more about acceleration and top speed forget the bikes and grag yourself a regular kart.
Race and Battle Levels – Lots of new tracks to race and maps to fight on. There are four cups of new maps and 4 cups of retro maps (2 of each must be unlocked). The new maps we have played so far are really fun but nothing compares to the classics like Wario Stadium. It’s somewhat scary to see that in almost every level so far the Mii’s saved on your Wii will be placed randomly throughout the map waving at you… eerily.. The battle Maps are interesting. We were both let down by the absence of Block Fort but Nintendo’s new version of the Block map isn’t too bad.
Online Play – It rocks. Plain and simple the best game online for the Wii yet. If you’ve played SSBB you know that it lagged horribly online and it really diminished from the experience. Mario Kart Wii doesn’t lag at all online. We have played several matches with players from all sides of the U.S. and even someone from the Dominican Republic (Shout out to Jesus! Nice blue shells brother!). Playing Online is really fun both in races and battles. We were both able to play online together because of Nintendo’s Guest feature. The only downside to the Battle Mode online play is that the teams are random and occasionally getting someone who goes afk or is just bad at the game can be frustrating (I’m looking at you James456 from NY…) but overall it’s a ton of fun to play with up to 12 people. There is even a ladder system that keeps track of your points.
Tricks and Controls – In this release Nintendo introduces tricks. By simply shaking the Wiimote, Wheel, or pressing a button on the controller you can have your character perform a trick off a jump that gives you a speed boost. Since I mentioned the Wheel let me talk about that quickly. The Wheel is a new Wii accessory that came bundled with the game but is also sold separately for $15. The Wiimote sits comfortably in the wheel and allows for you to play Mario Kart as though you were driving an invisible car. It’s by far the most responsive and intuitive motion controls of any game yet, but there is just something missing when you sacrifice precision control for the wheel experience. Personally I felt my arms getting tired after an hour of driving and decided to switch to the wiimote and nunchuck. You can play with any controller including the Game Cube. Overall the controls are awesome and adding tricks to the mix is great. OH yes, and drifting has been fixed. No more snaking! Drifts and the boost are determined by how long you stay in them.
Items – Graev was getting frustrated yesterday when someone in last place would bounce to first place almost instantly. Nintendo has made it much, much easier to come back from behind. Several times we would fall off the track or find ourselves in 11th and 12th place just to grab a Bullet item and be shot straight to first. This wasn’t too tough to do even in the older versions but if you thought it was easy then just wait until you see how easy it is now. On the default settings powerful items will drop very frequently and as always the worse you are doing in the race the better your items. I love the fact that items make a big difference because I am horrible compared to most people at racing. I’m a magnet for shells. Graev prefers the races to be more about driver skill though and that’s why we were pleased to see that there is an options screen where you can turn down the items and even adjust them to be strategic or nonexistent.
That’s our quick look at the game after playing it all day yesterday. We highly recommend it to everyone. It’s very fast pace and crazy – just how we like our Mario Kart. The unlockables, Multiplayer, and incredible replayability make Mario Kart a game that can be played on and off for a very long time. Now if you’ll excuse me I have a Blue Shell with Jesus from the Dominican Republic’s name on it.