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Ever since the original Mario Kart came out on the Super Nintendo, it convinced fans that the best way to get ahead in a race is by throwing a red turtle shell. Mario Kart continues to change how people approach racing games. The genre is no longer for the hardcore. With a few new additions Mario Kart Wii rightfully takes the crown for the next hot racer on a Nintendo console. Watch out for those banana peels it’s time to race!
Just saying the name Mario Kart might bring back fond memories for many gamers. It has been part of the gaming culture for many years now. Each new iteration brings with it new changes, some of which are not appreciated till the next version comes out. Let’s take a look at what is new in this version of Mario Kart that has sold over 27 million copies so far! You won’t want to miss this.
The big day finally arrived on April 28th 2008 in North America. This was one of the most hyped and eagerly anticipated games arriving for the Wii. Gamers would only accept the best of the best for Mario Kart. Nintendo surprised everybody by not only delivering a solid racing title but finally adding online support. Just looking at the features of this game is impressive. Along with your purchase you get the Wii Wheel, a steering wheel in which you place your Wii remote inside making the whole thing act as a steering wheel. I will talk more about this device later on in the review. Along with the wheel the game features 32 tracks. 16 of the tracks are classic remakes from past Mario Kart adventures and 16 brand new ones to race on. The variety is quite impressive; however, some bad judgment was used on picking some of the classic tracks. Racing on these tracks race fans can use one of 24 characters and 36 different vehicles including motorcycles and the traditional go-karts. The sheer number of features is mind blowing for a Nintendo game. In every sense this is a dream come true for any gamer.
Along with a challenging grand prix mode Mario Kart Wii offers a full online multiplayer experience. Playing on-line you can race in battle or single race modes. Getting online is a breeze with the Wii and within moments of putting the game in you can be racing against people from all around the world. If you have friend keys you can play against your buddies. Nintendo needs to address the friend code system in the future, but at least this is a step in the right direction for Nintendo. The game runs great online with no slow-down, fast matches and plenty of competition. How cool is it that you can race online finally. It is great to play a few quick rounds each day with people around the world.
The heart of Mario Kart is the long grand prix mode. It is in this mode that you can unlock many characters, karts and motorcycles to race with. The mode is divided into 8 different cups. 4 of the cups take place on classic tracks and the other 4 take place on new tracks. Overall the grand prix mode is rather easy to complete. Some of the harder classes take a few times to beat but you always get the feeling that with some practice you can do it. Mario Kart Wii has a great selection of characters but most have been seen in past Mario games. There are a few new characters in the game, which is great to see. It would have been nice if you could customize your karts like in Forza. One fun feature is that you can race as your Mii character that you create on the console. Each character has lots of charm. There are some many great things about Mario Kart on the Wii and most will enjoy the game fully.
But not all things are perfect in the Mushroom Kingdom this time around. A few annoyances and changes to the classic formula might ward off long-time fans of the series. In the game you can take advantage of using the Gamecube controller for added bonuses when you slide around corners. In Mario Kart 64 you could cut corners with easy and get powerful blasts of boost when you cornered just right. In the Wii game the sliding feels less intuitive. The karts don’t jump off the ground, instead you simply move your weight around in the kart to corner sharper. The technique to get a boost only works on long bending turns not the many sharp turns in the game. This means that you will be on the same playing field as a four year old even though you might be a master of past Mario Kart games and are using the superior Gamecube controller. A real let down for hardcore fans of the series.
The tracks are a mixed bag on the other hand. Some of the new tracks feel simple and almost boring. Classic tracks fair better in the game that test driving skills more than driving around in a loop. If you wanted to just drive around in circles aimlessly you could buy a NASCAR game. On the other hand it is nice to see a big selection of tracks in the game and I am sure you will find your favorites to race on. The classic tracks never looked better with great textures and details. At times it will be hard to tell an old track from a new one.
In past games, power-ups helped to change the course of a race in a matter of seconds. You could be chugging it out in 8th only to send a blue shell flying towards the leader blasting him off the track. The Wii version does have a lot of items but it feels like you always end up getting a banana when you really need a super star. Too frequently you get items that you just plain don’t need. If you were way behind in past games you would most certainly get a super mushroom, lighting bolt or blue turtle shell to help catch you back up. Not only do you not get the cool power-ups that you want, a real feeling of rubber band AI comes into play too frequently during the races. In multiplayer battle mode thankfully you still get an arsenal of shells, bombs and stars to pulverize your friends.
It’s hard to compare this game to past versions of Mario Kart because of the sheer number of features this one has going for it. But if you take away all the features and just review the racing mechanic then this one falls a bit behind, like comparing a Mac to a PC. Mario Kart 64 seems to be the pinnacle of the series with awesome control and amazing track design. This Wii version feels too user friendly, making luck a big factor in the races. The power-ups don’t feel as powerful or as rewarding as in past games in the series. Regardless of these setbacks the game has sold millions and will continue to sell. A few steps need to be taken in order to bring the Mario Kart series up to the hardcore level. Simple things such as voice overs and a story mode with customization options will modernize the game.
Mario Kart delivers on all fronts and is a fantastic game that you will definitely want to check out. It goes without saying that if you own a Wii or are looking to purchase one that this is one game you must have. Mario Kart will keep spinning in your system for many months to come, a modern classic that can’t be missed.
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