The Mario Kart franchise, wow that's been around for a while now hasn't it? From Super Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo, to Mario Kart 64, Mario Kart: Double Dash!! on the Nintendo Game Cube, and the ones on the hand held consoles. Under two months ago from the moment I type this, the latest Mario Kart for the Nintendo Wii came up and about. I've been playing it for quite some time, so I've decided to throw out my thoughts.
Mario Kart: Wii is the latest of the Mario franchise, and since it's called Mario Kart: "Wii", obviously this game is all about motion controls. Each copy of Mario Kart: Wii comes with an official Nintendo Wii wheel, a plastic mold you securely and easily put your Wii remote inside of. Thus, using the wheel itself like an actual steering wheel and the motion controls, and that's how you race. At least, one of the methods of racing.
For those who may not enjoy using the Wii wheel/the motion control scheme, they can go back to either a Nintendo Game Cube controller, use a Wii nunchuck and remote, or use a Wii classic controller. The choice for controller type and preference is quite broad.
The Wii motion control scheme accompanied by the wheel however, feels quite good and solid, in my opinion. The 1 button is used to brake/reverse, the 2 button is used to accelerate, the A button is used to look behind you, and the D-Pad controls acquired items. The B trigger controls brakes, and drifting (power sliding, sharp turns etc). Most of it is fairly solid, but occasionally you might accidentally drift the wrong way, which leads to nowhere, and can waste a lot of time and have you getting pushed back in the race. Regardless, the Wii wheel is easy to use, and the Wii's motion control scheme is fairly solid for this title.
So apart from karts, motorbikes have been introduced to the game. Bikes work differently from the karts. Bikes are able to do wheelies, and thus gaining temporary speed boosts, however they are slightly harder to drift than karts, and can only receive a level one boost ("blue sparks") as they drift, a kart however can receive a level two speed boost ("red sparks").
The same basic formula exists in Mario Kart: Wii's single player. You select a <number>cc difficulty, from 50, 100, to 150, before selecting a cup to compete in, and then going through four races in the cup. There's a lot of cups, and completing cups in difficulties is the key to unlocking the game's unlockables, from bonus characters, to bonus vehicles being new karts and bikes. It's all well and good, except for the 150cc mode.
The 150cc mode of single player is honestly ridiculous due to the game's rubber band A.I. Opponents will suddenly speed up and catch up to you by unnatural means, while acquiring special items like blue shells or lightning bolts to really screw you over, especially when you are near the end. In this mode, the game is entirely about luck, which is a poor choice on the developer's behalf.
Multiplayer has been changed somewhat as well, and such changes will receive mixed views. It is now impossible to compete against one, or three friends. Now, should you play two, three, or four player, you will always have the accompany of an additional number of A.I bot racers to fill up the track list to twelve racers. It's not bad having the extra company, but it would of been much preferable if the game had the ability to turn off these bots.
Battle mode returns however, with some odd changes. Now, all battle mode matches are in teams, and it's impossible to go in solo. More importantly like the basic multiplayer, it's impossible to play against just your friends, you will have bots accompanying with you and you've got no choice in the matter. The idea is for your team to get as many points as they can by attacking the opponent and ridding them of their balloons. Each competitor has three balloons but strangely, once you run out of balloons.. you just spawn back into the match? It honestly doesn't make much sense. In the past, that would mean that you're out of the game but now.. you just, respawn?
The biggest selling point of Mario Kart: Wii however, is the online multiplayer. You jump in, the game finds you random people to play with from either your own country or across the globe, and you play. Simple as that. I personally haven't received much lag at all, but it may depend on your Internet connection, so it's recommended you find people to play with who live in your country.
A downfall of the multiplayer is when it comes to friends. Once again, the annoying friend code comes into play, and it's very difficult to communicate with your friends over the game. In the "lobby" section before a race when you race against your friends privately, you can only communicate with each other using basic messages the game provides you, instead of being able to make your own through say.. a voice chat system. More importantly, while racing it is impossible to communicate.
Going back to positives though, there is downloadable data when it comes to Mario Kart: Wii. It's possible for the player to download the ghost data of other players' accomplishments in their time trial exploits, so the player can technically compete against a "ghost". What's also cool, is friends have the ability to send you ghost data and "challenge" you to beat your record. The finale of all this is that the downloadable Mario Kart: Wii channel records the best racers in each track, from across your country, and even the world.
Visually, the game isn't too impressive but it is probably the best looking Mario Kart game to date. The colours are bright and vibrant, and overall, it looks pretty good. The sound quality is amazing with the awesome Nintendo soundtrack, as well as all the sounds of explosions, crashing, screaming and the like.
So Mario Kart: Wii is not a perfect game, but it is a good game regardless. The Wii wheel itself will probably meet some mixed views and even criticism, as does some of the single player gameplay and overall multiplayer, but with some friends, whether it's on or offline, Mario Kart: WIi can honestly be a real blast, and just a lot of fun to play when you're not being frustrated by any of the game's flaws.