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XISMZERO May 3, 2008

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.

Angela May 3, 2008

Nice write-up, Zero.  I've yet to pick up Mario Kart Wii, and like I said, I was kind of only halfheartedly looking forward to the game.  I've never played Double Dash, but one of the main problems that seriously hampered my enjoyment of Mario Kart DS was the abused use of power-ups - a problem that, as you just verified, seems to have been amplified with the Wii version.  This constitutes to the frustrating mentality that you really need more luck than skill to win at the game.

That said, I still want to give the game a go, if just for the motorcycle vehicles and the cool looking half-pipe tricks.

Wanderer May 3, 2008

There is something incredibly irritating about being in first place and within the space of ten seconds, getting hit by ink, a red turtle shell, a lightning bolt and finally, one of those flying blue shells.

Ryu May 3, 2008

The problem is having 11 opponents at a time instead of just 7.  Who would have thought 4 extra racers could really throw the power-ups off as much as it has.  I agree, the endless inkings, pow blocks, red shells, lightning bolts, blue shells, the screen-littered green shells and bananas, not to mention the Powerstone2-esque stages (meaning, the stages are out to get you too), does make the game hard for me to enjoy for long play times.  I typically just play one cup at a time.  Of course, all I've played so far are a few 50cc cups.

SonicPanda May 4, 2008

Mario Kart Wii...hmm. Some complaints.

1. A.I. - The problem here isn't that the A.I. attacks you often, it's that everything comes at once. In previous Mario Karts, you might get hit by a shell, and then shortly thereafter get hit by a blue shell. In Kart Wii, a more likely occurence is 'blooper ink, red shell, POW block, blue shell, lightning bolt,' all at roughlt the same time. So whereas deeply cheap A.I. in previous games might move you down to 3rd quickly, once Kart Wii's CPU decides it's sodomy time you be lucky to be in 8th when the dust clears.

2. Tricks - I've never been one for speed boost techniques. Since my sister (best GP partner ever) and I have been able to gold these games through a combination of good clean racing and vicious weapon-related bastardry, such exploits seemed useless at best, cheating at worst. But now here comes Kart Wii, and this sort of crap is essentially mandatory if you want Gold on anything other than 50cc. I feel like such a damned hypocrite.

3. No Multiplayer GP - 'But,' some will say, 'you can set up your own multiplayer GP in VS mode!' To which I say, shut up. If I have to clear GP in numerous ways just to get access to most of the racers and vehicles, then I damned well expect to be able to do it with a wingman, if not for victory's sake than because it's supposed to be fun, dammit. And while we're on the subject...

4. Unlocking things sucks - I wasn't crazy about needing to unlock characters in Double Dash, but at least the amount of characters to be unlocked was relatively small. When you turn on Kart Wii, the first time, more than half of the roster isn't there. The idea of having to clear 150cc Special Cup to gain my favorite character when her baby variant is there after a few piddly 50cc trophies is just ridiculous. And don't even get me started on the expert ghost bullshit. P.S. Nobody likes Bowser Jr, Nintendo. Nobody's going to. Give it up and kick him to the curb.

5. Donkey's & Diddy's voices - I don't see why they keep screwing with Diddy's voice, honestly. The one he had from DK64 through Double Dash was as good as it ever needed to be. Here he sounds like a moron. Which puts himself a few hundred paces ahead of DK who has the most annoying voice I've ever heard. That's right, poll's closed.

Now the tracks themselves are great (Flower Cup especially), and the bottom layer of tracks are cool for their own reasons. Also, the Wii Wheel isn't useful at ALL for serious attempts at GP, but it's a lot of fun if you just don't give a crap and want to have fun with friends. But honestly, it doesn't feel much like Mario Kart anymore.

Ryu May 4, 2008

^ Regarding Bowser Jr, I agree.  I can't believe Nintendo keeps dragging him around like he's the greatest idea ever, but has totally forsaken the original Koopa kids... and Wart.  I don't get Nintendo sometimes.

Ashley Winchester May 4, 2008

XISMZERO wrote:

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).

Why you have to remind me of the psychotic A.I. in MK3 and it's variants? It's been years and it still gives me the freaking shivers. <shivers>

Still, very good analogy to convey what you think of the overall level of difficulty.

Amazingu May 4, 2008

Blegh. The original SNES version was the only console Mario Kart worth owning.

The Portable ones are pretty good though.

Brandon May 4, 2008 (edited May 4, 2008)

I'm liking it so far. Sure, the item use is a bit excessive, but IME the items really don't affect outcomes all that much. All the really cheap items (POW, lightning, golden mushrooms, etc.) go exclusively to racers bringing up the rear, and aside from the blue shell they tend to affect all other racers more or less equally. I've won all the 50cc cups, and the mushroom cup in both 100cc and 150cc, and all my losses so far have been attributable at least in part to bad driving.

IMO, a lot of the things that people are complaining about add legitimate challenge to the game. Banana peels can be dodged, as can moving parts of the track. The ink makes things a bit tougher, but you can still navigate reasonably well.

My biggest complaint is that the constant stopping and starting due to item attacks skews the tradeoff between acceleration and top speed, rendering the heavy carts useless for anything but time trials.

I reserve the right to recant every word of this after I've played at 150cc for a while longer.

Esthetically, I think the tracks are lovely if you don't mind the cartoonish style, and at least some of the music is pretty catchy. I don't remember which themes are recycled, though.

XISMZERO May 4, 2008

Brandon wrote:

I reserve the right to recant every word of this after I've played at 150cc for a while longer.

Recant all you want but I'm not sure you're going to find the satisfaction you're looking for.

I played some more 150cc this morning for an hour or so and have come to the conclusion that the game will still bank more so upon luck than skill. Simply put, 150cc is CHAOS -- and it's mainly because you can zip from 12th to 2nd or 1st and vice-versa in a matter of seconds -- all of which can happen in the final moments of the race due to the blitzing punishment of items distribution.

No matter what way you splice it, the way the A.I. was programmed throws skill aside, as well as the unintended consequences of having 12 racers (I like inclusion of 12 racers, but not the chaos that ensues).

Additionally, strangely, I've found the A.I. to be chill on entire tracks but this is a low stat which happens very rarely.

Good comments, peoples. You nailed the problems and pros I might have forgotten.

csK May 4, 2008

Amazingu wrote:

Blegh. The original SNES version was the only console Mario Kart worth owning.

While I don't agree with that fully (I enjoy MK64) I can appreciate that angle.  My biggest complaint with the following Mario Kart games (and this is even true for 64 to an extent) is that they became less about finding a good racing line and more about how good your thumbs are at pulling off MTs.

raynebc May 4, 2008 (edited May 4, 2008)

Despite my friend having some afore-mentioned distastes for Mario Kart Wii, I think it's an excellent game.

I've been a Mario Kart fanatic since the N64 version, and I'd consider myself very good at Mario Kart 64, Double Dash, Mario Kart DS and even though I need more time with this newest one (I leave it with my friends to play with), I'm getting better fast.

As far as the item ****-fests, I actually don't think it's too bad compared to the last one or two iterations of the franchise.  In my experience, blue shells were much more frequent in the DS version.  And though I hate them as much as anybody, I wouldn't expect Nintendo to strip them out of a Mario Kart once they've been introduced.  I think the couple "new" items in this release are fun, anything to reduce the odds of a blue or red shell gets my vote, because I'm usually in first place.

The difficulty from game to game has balance issues, but I've gotten used to the fact that you have to drive with precision the entire race to get first, ever since Double Dash.  That said, I have double-star ranked the few circuits I've played on MKW so far.  People can complain all they want, but I've seen worse.

Knowing the Wii is not a graphics powerhouse, I think the graphics are beautiful and a good improvement from earlier games.  The new tracks are very distracting but are fun nonetheless.  The controls as I use them are so consistent with Double Dash that I could pick it up and adapt seamlessly as soon as I got used to the difference with the new drift system.  I'm annoyed that the max charge on the power slide seems to require a longer drift, but I can appreciate they probably did this to eliminate "snaking" where people exploited an improperly designed drift system in the DS version and could endlessly power slide on a straightaway section of race track.  Even so, a medium-charged power slide still gives you a speed boost, so I think it's a perfect compromise.  The half-pipe jumps are great, and racing with bikes is fun because deciding when you can safely pull a wheelie for a speed up adds to your strategy, and doing the stunts is pretty cool.  My main problem with this release is just as with Double Dash, is the lack of real multi-player grand prix.  Also, if they were going to borrow ideas from previous titles, I wish they could have borrowed the multi-player system from MKDS.  Being able to play and endless string of random or in-order tracks is much more convenient than having to choose each of the 4 races and having it end after 4.

Despite a few shortcomings, they delivered with online content though.  Being able to race with a flexible pool of online players is so much better than the MKDS online system I cannot overstate it.  Sometimes it takes me 5-10 minutes to find online players on MKDS, and even then it's only 3.  Half the time, before I've finished a circuit, I've lost anywhere between 1 and all opponents.  And despite being a new release, with MKW it's very easy to quickly join a pool of up to 10 or 11 other racers.  Comparing the lag of MKW with Smash Brothers Brawl, this game is excellent online.  Granted, SSBB is a fighter and lag has much more influence, but the lag with that game is TOO FREAKIN' BAD to make it worthwhile.  I can't even play with a friend across the state without the game play lagging enough to drag the average game play speed to less than 50% normal speed.  The item and hit contention rules in MKW are better than on the DS version as well.  I haven't noticed many instances of lag compensation overruling what you have been shown, which on MKDS resulted in possibilities such as picking up an item and then having it stripped from you after Nintendo's server decided somebody else picked up the item box first, or the ever-popular "your item hit somebody..wait, no it didn't" phenomenon.

I haven't had the opportunity for much time trial yet, but I read the manual, and the features mentioned are great innovations for the franchise.  In addition to storing your ghosts, you can have a downloaded ghost for each track, send your ghost to your friends, race top ranking ghosts for each track, etc.

Being able to race online with more than just one player per console is great, even if the second player can't use their real profile.  Only the first player is able to have their ranking updated during online races, but the fact that they added a ranking system is awesome.

So all in all, maybe I am just easily-impressed when it comes to some game serieses, but I think Mario Kart Wii has a strong chance of being the best one so far.  Any fan of the series and not just a particular title owe it to themselves to at least rent this.

XLord007 May 4, 2008

Let me first start by saying that I have only played about an hour of this game, and I have not tried the bikes or the online mode yet.  So, what I'm about to write may change substantially if I ever get to put more time into it (I had to go out every night this week and then I got sick just in time for the weekend... yay me).


Mario Kart games that I think are great:

-Mario Kart DS
-Mario Kart 64

Mario Kart games that I think are OK:
-Super Mario Kart

Mario Kart games that I think suck:
-Mario Kart Super Circuit
-Mario Kart: Double Dash


Anyway, from the little I played of Mario Kart Wii, I would call my experience uninspiring at best.  First, I really dislike this whole kart selection nonsense.  It makes the game too complicated (this was my biggest problem with the DS one though I got over it).  This isn't an RPG... I don't want to have to try to figure out which kart is best... and there's no easy way to compare the karts either.  Why can't I just have a character/kart that's all around decent and let my skills do the rest?  After that, I agree with everyone who's complained about the AI's item use.  It's completely off the charts.  Every single time I took first place I got nailed with the blue shell.  The blue shell's been around since MK64, but it's never been spammed like this before.  Damn near breaks the game.  I noticed that this game came out in quick succession across all three major territories.  Did Nintendo even test the game balance first?

Again, I haven't done much with the game, so I don't have much to say beyond that.  I will say that the interface is a bit on the sterile side and that wheel works surprisingly well and should be great at allowing non-gamers to have fun.  I'll stick with remote/nunchuck combo, but I think it's a nice option for the "expanded audience."

That's all for now.  Once I get a better feel for the game, I'll report back.

SonicPanda May 5, 2008

Well, if we're going to rank these things...I think I've spent enough time with these purchases to rank the series generally. Favorites are at the top.

Mario Kart Double Dash
Mario Kart 64
Mario Kart DS
Super Mario Kart
Mario Kart Wii
Mario Kart Super Circuit

I don't understand all the DD hate I see on the Internet, honestly. It's the most fun I've had with the series, and the most fun I've had with the Gamecube by a healthy margin. But different strokes, I suppose.

XLord007 May 6, 2008 (edited May 6, 2008)

I played substantially more of the game today, and I like it a bit more now.  It still seems a bit lacking in newness (feels kinda recycled), but the bikes offer an interesting alternative and the online multiplayer is quite fun, if filled with needless waiting screens (the DS online MK experience was much faster), but at least it runs wonderfully once the race actually starts, which is a lot more than I can say for Nintendo's last major online Wii title.

Qui-Gon Joe May 10, 2008

Hmm... lots of negative about MK:Wii going around.  I guess I'll start by reminding everyone that:

1. I'm a pretty big fan of most of the stuff Nintendo puts out and
2. I've been disappointed by aspects of most Mario Kart games since the N64 one, and have still considered that one to be my favorite.

Mario Kart Wii is probably the first Mario Kart that's a contender for that position.  And yet, it falls short in a few ways.

The best thing about the game is the racing.  The new course design is the best that the series has ever had, in my opinion.  There isn't a single course among the new ones that I dislike, and I absolutely love so many of them that I can't pick a favorite.  The control is spot-on.  I love that (using the wavebird) they've remapped the button configuration to essentially what it was on the 64.  Hopping is back, and as petty as it sounds, that was one of my biggest complaints about Double Dash.  Sliding just felt so strange in that game.  Everything in this one just feels more natural.  I also LOVE the addition of teams for races.  I have a number of friends who aren't all that great at Mario Kart games, but this allows us to work together rather than competitively.  I like having that option.

BUT, that brings us to the single most damning blow to the game... battle mode.  That's the BAD about this game.  As I said, I like having the OPTION for teams in races.  I would like to have the OPTION for teams in battle mode.  As it stands, because of forced teams, battle mode is absolutely worthless to me.  No one I've played with has had any fun with it whatsoever.  Forced teams where you don't even lose when you lose all your balloons?  No turning into bombs?  It's a good thing we have MK64 downloaded so that we have that if we want to play battle mode.  I thought battle mode couldn't get any worse after they castrated it with horrendous level design in Double Dash.  I was wrong.  If only they could patch it to make it tolerable...

What about online?  Brilliant.  I honestly can't believe that this and Brawl are from the same Nintendo.  I mean, obviously the developers are different, but they're both running on Nintendo WFC, right?  Seriously... very little lag, streamlined interface, the ability to play with friends and randoms simultaneously, ranking boards, and just generally a good experience.  WHAT HAPPENED with Brawl?  Why is it still so awful compared to this?  I play Mario Kart online most nights and never feel like doing so with Brawl again.  THIS is the good start that Nintendo needs for online... I hope they only get better from here.

Anyway, long story short... this SHOULD be my favorite Mario Kart.  It's everything I wanted it to be EXCEPT for the terrible battle mode.  I don't know what they were thinking.  We've still logged a ridiculous number of hours in it because of how fun the racing is, though.  And having fun with friends is why I like the series in the first place.

longhairmike May 10, 2008

will mario cart Wii be difficult to get used to for someone who has never played a Mario cart game? Im thinking of buying it but havnt played a racing game since chocobo racing...

Angela May 10, 2008

longhairmike wrote:

Im thinking of buying it but havnt played a racing game since chocobo racing...

In that case, there's no need; you've already played the best kart-based game ever made.

-Angela (CR's biggest, devoted, and perhaps even most biased fan)

Qui-Gon Joe May 10, 2008

Angela wrote:
longhairmike wrote:

Im thinking of buying it but havnt played a racing game since chocobo racing...

In that case, there's no need; you've already played the best kart-based game ever made.

-Angela (CR's biggest, devoted, and perhaps even most biased fan)

Yikes.  I would say buy the soundtrack, ditch the game.  tongue

Though I was always pretty amazed by the things you could race as in it.

XLord007 May 11, 2008

Angela wrote:

-Angela (CR's biggest, devoted, and perhaps even most biased fan)

Angela, still the only person I know who could tolerate playing that game for longer than five minutes.

Angela May 11, 2008

Qui-Gon Joe wrote:

Though I was always pretty amazed by the things you could race as in it.

Have I ever told you guys about my uber-hardcore Cactuar runs?  Remind me someday, and I'll tell you all about it.

Qui-Gon Joe May 11, 2008

Was Chocobo Racing actually any better with analog control?  I never had a dualshock for my PS1, and I found controlling it with the d-pad rather off-putting (the same problem I had with Mario Kart DS, actually...)

Schala May 13, 2008

I've played only a bit of the game so far. One thing that disappoints me is the lack of a two-player mode in GP. Maybe I'm disappointed because now I won't have any insurance to win the race in case I rank out, heh. Me and my bro had lots of fun messing up the AI's when we played 2-player GP.

I'm also a bit disappointed in what I heard about multiplayer, but I have to explore that more to see whether it really is the way I've heard it is.

Can't say I'm very fond of the Wii Wheel (or the Wii-l, as one of my friends horribly put it). I'm having the problem I expected to have with it: One minute my hands are straight in front of me, the next they're in front of my left shoulder or something. I will say the wheel makes it real easy to do turbo boosts for some reason. Still, I'm sticking with the Gamecube controller.

allyourbaseare May 14, 2008

Angela wrote:
Qui-Gon Joe wrote:

Though I was always pretty amazed by the things you could race as in it.

Have I ever told you guys about my uber-hardcore Cactuar runs?  Remind me someday, and I'll tell you all about it.

I heard that the cactuar actually runs faster backwards.  Was this true?!  My friends and I spent hours playing that game - glad to see someone else remembered it besides my small (read:  extremely small) circle of friends.

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