Earlier this week, I picked up Mario Kart Wii. Having been a veteran of the series (like many of you), Mario Kart Wii comes off to be as disappointing -- more so than I expected. I'm going to focus solely on the one-on-one: the game and the player as opposed to the online mechanics.
To start, let's just call Mario Kart Wii "Mario Kart Trilogy."
That being said, I think it's time Nintendo blow-up and redraw this aging formula which having evolved, but not adapting well enough in 2008 by a technical standard -- or since Mario Kart 64. Don't misread that, even though Mario Kart 64 was no dazzling game which had its fair-share of massive shortcomings, it succeeded as being a cherished classic with all-around very solid core gameplay. Furthermore, MK64 was absolutely propped up because of it being apart of a "new frontier" (64-bit, 3D revolution) but nonetheless captured the heart of many.
Back to MK Wii, just like Double Dash, which took years to concept, still feels somewhat sloppy and rushed, mediocre on the eyes, ears and overall presentation, though has improved from Double Dash's cookie-cutter, all-around shortcomings thanks to a new standard put forth by the excellent Mario Kart DS. Those who clung to MKDS will see those improvements evident in MK Wii's presentation.
Even with the inclusion of the "Wii-eel," the game's selling point, some will find it adventurous (like my buddy who demo'd the game with me) but the most conservative of players (like myself, who prefers the older methods with most of the new Wii franchise games that give the option) will revert to the Cube or classic controller for serious playing. Ultimately, it's a novelty that is appealing, especially to the Wii mechanics, and for packing it in with the game free of charge -- an absolute perk for consumers who constantly belittle manufacturers for being "cheap" with the extras. The peripheral is, like many past N-products, simple and earns a degree of Nintendo-grade quality.
The game does employ a satisfying fusion of all the past Mario Kart games in bits from sound effects (Super Mario Kart/Mario Kart Super Circuit), past track selections from all the games, look and design (Mario Kart Double Dash and Mario Kart DS) play/feel mechanics (Mario Kart 64 and Arcade GP) -- but really sees a drought in offering anything genuinely new for the franchise. This, to me, doesn't seem to depart from Nintendo's reel in past years -- hoping a franchise will sell itself, sacrificing the solid build of the mighty mostly pre-GCN age (arguably).
Graphically, the 60 fps is always a real treat, which continues down the line, set by Double Dash even if the overall look is increasingly more play-skool.
I've spent a good four hours thus far, most of which in 50cc (I'm climbing the ladder) but it only took me about 15 minutes to see something terribly wrong with this one -- unlike past games by a mile (though we got a preview of it in DS and Double Dash, though not nearly to the same extent).
It's the A.I., and it's exorbitantly cheap -- more than any other Mario Kart game to date.
On a sidenote, do any of you remember Mortal Kombat II for Genesis? Remember on the "Very Easy" setting when you got to the forth or fifth battle in solo player, the A.I. took a sharp turn for ultra-hard difficulty, practically striking down any of your attacks with disgracefully unfair A.I. (which had reared it's head in future MK games, especially MK Trilogy for PSX). Mario Kart Wii, while not nearly as bad, had me thinking along of the lines of flat-out cheap A.I. tactics all designed to keep everyone "happy" or on the same level. If you have skill, you'll be pitted against the mechanics of a 6 year old.
Though 50cc is as easy as it's ever been (and slow), you'll become a paper target for the A.I. constantly to the point of frustration. This element of gameplay, a "difficulty relativity" flaw will make the game a real tipping point for it being a satisfying purchase. The almost unrelenting launching of cheap attacks -- most of which are the newcoming weapons from the previous slew of Mario Kart games (like the Blooper "ink," flying blue shell) is like I've not experienced before. Just wait until you get to 150cc to see how ridiculous it gets...
Let's move on to the track selection: most of them are decent at best. Most borrow many elements from past Mario franchises -- which is a good thing, but simply don't convert into being very solid feeling. Apart from the lower-tier of "classics" cups, the fanboy base will be peppered with classic or past tracks done up in a sort of "greatest hits" fashion with at least one apparent in each cup from one of the past Mario Kart games dating back to the somewhat drab original's tracks selection to the familiar N64 selections (really liked "DK Jungle Parkway" making a stylish comeback) to the very-well adapted DS tracks. What I found most impressive was the graphical remastering of some of the older ones -- mainly Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 64.
I will also applaud the new tracks though most are just decent. The more creative ones will come later in the cup selection (especially "Star") but you'll find within ideas borrowed from Double Dash, especially levels with that "blast off" cannon to a netherpart of the track.
I wouldn't say the game isn't entirely salvagable, but to some, it might just sour the entire solo-playing experience with A.I. that makes it very difficult to fluidly enjoy a game where skill is relative to beginners and veterans. It's a borderline breakpoint for myself, who wants to be challenged, but not with downright sloppy A.I. program designed to retard the skillful or veteran. Really makes me wonder how they could've screwed this up coming off the heels of a masterful Mario Kart DS which trumps this game on all fronts.
Let me end by saying Mario Kart 64 is the game I've enjoyed most in the series followed by Mario Kart DS. Without saying "64" was a very dry bones package even 11 years ago -- no hidden characters, no hidden tracks. It was acceptable then (though wasn't found to be as heroic a game for the scant library of the N64 in 1996/1997), but arguably still lives up with the most solid playing game and un-overly cartoony presentation not without somewhat bland tracks to boot.
They've definitely come a long way, but the presentation continues to look excessively childish, too plush, and by god, get a real composer in here because the new compositionsare terribly forgettable.
Share your thoughts.