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Mario Kart
Mario Kart

Nintendo Wii
Genre: Sport Players: 1 to 4 (2 to 12 Online)
Developer: Nintendo Official Site: http://www.mariokart.com/
Publisher: Nintendo Classification: G
Mario Kart

Genre: Sport
Players: 1 to 4 (2 to 12 Online)
Developer: Nintendo
Official Site: http://www.mariokart....
Publisher: Nintendo
Classification: G
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Mario Kart Wii Review
Review By @ 09:54am 21/04/08
It’s been a good last few months in the Nintendo camp. Late last year we saw the likes of Super Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption released along with other Wii exclusives in the way of Resident Evil 4 Wii Edition, Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles, Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure and Nintendo’s own Endless Ocean.

While not everything listed above is everyone’s ultimate cup of tea, each title at least points out the uniqueness of the console and its long-lasting potential amidst powerhouses like the Xbox 360 and PS3.

As is usually the case with all things Nintendo related, however, it’s usually up to The Big N to show other publishers/developers how it’s done, and so armed with this knowledge (which you’d assume is industry-wide), we (the industry at large) have been waiting with baited breath for their latest offerings, namely Mario Kart Wii and Super Smash Bros Brawl, the former of which has been spinning in my Wii for the better part of he last 96 hours.

There are gameplay formulas that just never become more than they could be. Nintendo themselves started the kart genre many, many years ago with the original Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) and since then countless companies have jumped on the bandwagon throwing their lovable, cute characters onto a kart racing track to follow suit and do the same thing Mario and co. started all those years ago.

The problem with this however, is while the genre may be a successful, winning style of gameplay I’m sure has brought many a company a solid pay cheque, the truth of the matter is with so much success in an existing formula, no one has been ballsy enough to give the genre a proper kick in the arse; broaching redesign of the whole thing from the ground up (except maybe the genre’s progenitor).

As mentioned above, leave it to Nintendo then to innovate and change things for the better (or worse), and so Mario Kart for GameCube copped just that; an intense facelift they thought would turn the kart racing world upside down. Unfortunately, Nintendo thought wrong.

Mario Kart for GameCube was a huge flop, and one that would prove the kart racing genre had found its precarious precipice thanks largely to an over-population of games utilising the same blueprint over and over again. In short, too many people were designing by the adage “if it ain’t broke…”, leaving the kart genre bobbing in the water and the rest of the gaming community scratching their heads – if Nintendo couldn’t fix it, was there ever going to be an important shift in development of this stale genre?

Yes and no. Learning from their GameCube mistake, Nintendo went back and gave us Mario Kart for DS; arguably the best the series has ever been. Here, controls were simplified, visuals honed to a less powerful system (though I argue the game looked better on DS than it did GameCube for sheer scope and technical restraint) and gameplay wrapped with seemingly boundless opportunities thanks largely to the inclusion of online play. Perhaps then the only real change the genre needed was less in cosmetics and more in player embrace. After all, Mario Kart has always been the ultimate party game, why not simply extend the party beyond the lounge-room and into the great virtual unknown.

Which brings us to Mario Kart Wii. Features aside, the big thing here is online play. It’s the aspect Nintendo touted and pushed most when the game was revealed at last year’s E3, and it’s most likely going to be the strongest reason to pick this up. Heck, they even created a Mario Kart Wii Channel for your Wii Home Page with all the online stats, friend lists, leaderboards and championships you could hope for… but I’m getting ahead of myself here, let’s look at what the game has to offer from the outset, right out of the box.

The first thing you’ll notice with MKW is the huge amount of new features on offer alongside the old. From the onset you have access to 12 characters: Baby Mario, Baby Peach, Toad, Koopa Troopa, Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, Peach, Wario, Waluigi, Donkey Kong and finally Bowser. As has been the case with every iteration of the game, each character comes with a unique set of stats that sees the bigger guys harder to push around and stronger in overall top-speed, while the smaller guys handle better and are quicker off the mark but are equally easier to knock around offering up plenty of difference for you to work out which character you're suited to better and invariably, which type of vehicle they should drive.

The traditional three race classes have also re-emerged with 50cc, 100cc and 150cc, however, this time around Nintendo have included a new vehicle type with bikes which are only accessible in 100cc class. 50cc then is exclusive to karts, however you can use either bikes or karts in the 150cc class (why they continue to add 50cc is beyond me though; it feels unbearably slow in comparison to 100cc and 150cc).

Once you’ve selected your character and class, you then have three options of bike or kart to choose from with Standard, Nostalgic and the Sporty numbers (levelling out at a pretty awesome six options when playing 150cc). Each vehicle type comes replete with unique stats based on Acceleration, Handling, Speed, Off-Road, Drift and more, as well as uniquely balanced advantages and disadvantages between the kart and bike types.

Initially there are four cups available to play in all three classes with Mushroom Cup, Flower Cup, Shell Cup and Banana Cup as well as there being space to unlock an additional four more cups (this is obviously done by winning in the other GPs). Each cup has four races across a variety of tracks pulled from Mario Kart’s long history – even going back as far as the SNES.

Beyond the Grand Prix stuff, you can also compete in the traditional Time Trial Mode (where you can also upload Ghost Data to the Mario Kart Channel for other players to race against), Vs Race (where you compete for overall points - solo or as part of a team - over four races from any tracks of your choosing), and finally Battle Mode (with the old-school Balloon Battle option
as well as Coin Runners) tops out the kart features available to play with.

When you first load up the game you’re asked to create a license (there’s room for up to four), where you can choose a Mii character to import as your Mario Kart Wii representative (later in the game you unlock a feature that will allow you to drive in Mario Kart Wii as your Mii). This license holds all of your kart stats and information from what cups you’ve completed, to time trial records and more. It’s a neat feature and shows just how much Nintendo have thought about full use of the Wii for MKW.

Finally you’re asked if you’d like to add the Mario Kart Wii Channel to your Wii Home Page (as I mentioned earlier), which is utterly quick and seamless. It’s a super neat feature having the channel there, and will keep you interested in the game a lot longer than you might expect. You can manage friends, scores and stats all from the channel, and it runs effortlessly online. They might not quite be up to the standards of Xbox Live, but Nintendo are taking carefully structured steps each time they work with online functionality.

So, those are the basic features of the game - but how does it play?

Have I mentioned how much of a fan of this series I am? It’s obvious I wasn’t overly impressed with the GameCube version, and I’ll even go out on a limb and say the N64 iteration left me wanting more also. So, for me, it’s always been about the handheld entrants (GBA and DS), and of course, the SNES version. That isn’t to say I’m anti-3D Mario Kart or anything, I’ve just been waiting with baited breath for Nintendo to capture the same magic on a home console as they have on the handhelds.

Mario Kart Wii comes close. It’s not perfect, and can actually become utterly frustrating thanks to an over-emphasis on party gaming as opposed to skilled gaming. It also lacks in a lot of technical areas as I discovered last night (I held off posting this so as to ensure I’d garnered every facet of the multiplayer stuff on offer). It’s fun, and with three other friends being able to adjust pretty much any of the rules in Vs Race mode is pretty cool, but it’s just still not quite there.

Like Super Smash Bros (which we’ll be talking in more detail about later in the week), Mario Kart Wii utilises a number of different controller options. The game comes packaged with the Wii Wheel which you can use to house the Wii Remote and then look like a crazy person when racing. You can also play with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, the Classic Controller or even plug in a GameCube controller. There are advantages to using different set ups as well. The Wheel and Wii Remote/Nunchuk control style, for example, allow you to perform stunts off jumps throughout the course – landing these will result in a speed-boost. Not using these set-ups means you can’t perform stunts. That said, however, performing stylish and skilful power-slides with the motion control styles is far more difficult and annoying, but with the GC controller and Classic Controllers it’s a lot more intuitive and far more comfortable.

This element of balance is one of the key things about Mario Kart, but it’s also the reason the game can be so damn frustrating. On the surface Nintendo seems to have worked tirelessly creating a fine line throughout the game, a line each and every player can feel comfortable racing along; finding their preferential play-style as they go: Opting for this control set-up with that character racing in this vehicle type through that race class. But, in typical Nintendo fashion,
all that can be tossed out the window in favour of party gaming.

Yes it’s true Mario Kart is a multiplayer party game, but where skill and luck meet here is too common a ground and occurrence.

You can be clearly ahead of the pack, manually power-sliding your way around any course with nothing but confidence in your handling skills, boost abilities and track knowledge. You could even be so skilled in driving that shortcuts mean nothing to you – maintaining that single race line of perfection is all you need to get ahead. That is until a lame-ass blue shell alerts your almost useless item warning system before slamming down on your position causing a massive explosion that knocks you back and stalls you on the track – suddenly your awesome driving abilities mean nothing, as the rest of the racing pack comes hooning past; each one who knocks you pushes you further and further off the course until you’re no longer looking at the first place title on your screen, you’re now in 11th and with the finish line just ahead, your dreams of skilful victory are utterly dashed.

This is not an uncommon occurrence in the game. Where almost every detail in Mario Kart Wii is balanced to the nines, Nintendo could care less about skill versus luck.

And believe me when I say it’s not bitterness talking. Our IGN AU competitors and I played out more than a few hours of multiplayer last night with all types of options on and off and the end result was always the same: Luck is a bitch when slapping skill in the face. There are so many items capable of stopping you in your tracks, and it’s equally frustrating just how unforgiving the game is to anyone who might have just copped an item beating. That mushroom boost you’ve been saving is no longer there, and each racer who hits you just adds salt to the wound. Yet it doesn’t even need to be another racer beating you down. Course impediments like a huge Chain Chomp can continually knock you around, or the equally ridiculous crabs scurrying to get in your way. Oh, and don’t get me started on being knocked completely out of the play area. Where Lakitu used to just steal coins off you and put you back in play much quicker - now you’re left hanging by his rod for way too long (well, long enough to watch the rest of the field below race ahead). Bring back the coin system Nintendo, it was far more fair and just.

What's frustrating about all of this is the Time Trial Mode rewards skill, and racing another player's Ghost Data online is one of the most fun aspects of the game. I'm not some Mario Kart purist - I like items and smashing my mates too and fro with them, but in MKW the precious balance Nintendo have set-up is immediately thrown out the window. Sure you can set up your own rules for multiplayer, but it doesn't change the fact that by default, Nintendo could care less about a skill-set, and want the focus of the game to remain on chaotic, random chance. The difference between spinning up a Lightning power-up and a Banana Peel on the last lap if you're not in first is the defining factor in what place you'll end up crossing the finish line - whether it's you, your friend or an AI opponent. As far as I'm concerned though, that's just not cricket.

Ill balance isn't the only problem though. For the most part Mario Kart Wii looks okay. It's not great, and certainly ain't no Super Mario Galaxy or Super Smash Bros Brawl, but playing four-player split-screen on my big-ass plasma revealed just how lacklustre the game can be. Aliasing was the main issue here, and coming around corners on certain tracks was so blind, all of us who were playing were affected enough to slam into walls or worse still, fall overboard. It made it incredibly difficult to race on half of the courses and really just added to the overall frustration. This is supposed to be next-generation, and while I realise the Wii is not HD, it still shouldn't look like this.

So with all that said, surely there must be something the game does right, right? Well, yes and no (again).

The online element is definitely one of the game's more robust and fun features, and as mentioned above, racing Ghost Data is pretty awesome (and is easily my favourite mode on offer). Moreover, up to 12 people can slog it out across any of the game's myriad of maps. The experience, from my living room, was completely seamless with not a single hiccup in sight. Not once. However, the experience was marred with 11 other players all vying for items to destroy each other with - in the end it was no different to playing with a field of AI characters or three friends around the TV and ultimately points out the ebb and flow of Mario Kart Wii: For every cool factor the game offers, the crazy and ridiculous party element will overshadow them, and if it's not overly powerful items causing your blood to boil, it's Lakitu taking too long to put you back on track, or slightly clipping a wall or course impediment to knock you from first to last in the blink of an eye that will. There are just too many issues like these that ultimately dwarf the overall experience.

Mario Kart Wii is super fun to play, but you will be frustrated. It doesn't overly reward skill, and those of you who think you have the elite abilities to own any and all tracks throughout had better be prepared for some seriously unbalanced gaming. There's nothing worse than playing a race with someone who has never played before, only to be knocked out of contention by them because they landed a blue shell and you a green one - it's ridiculously frustrating.

This is definitely the best on offer in the home-console department, but it's still not even close to being as good as the DS version. In all seriousness, I would rather Nintendo release the original Mario Kart through Virtual Console updated with online play, or better yet, a converted DS version as part of the new Wii Ware channel. Mario Kart Wii is still a fun game to own, but it's a long way off from being the ultimate Mario Kart experience.
What we liked
  • Online play is seamless
  • Mario Kart Wii Channel is a great idea
  • Still plenty of fun to play
What we didn't like
  • Unbalanced party factor that overshadows skilful playing
  • Some serious visual problems in split-screen
  • Get rid of 50cc once and for all - it's too slow!
We gave it:
Latest Comments
Posted 12:22pm 22/4/08
I dunno about the hate on MKDD, it was better than 64 IMO

I'm in two minds about the items thing; the blue shell really is lame in that it requires the person who has it to do nothing. Lightning was obviously the big 'equalizer' in SMK but you still had to drive well to make the most of it.

On the other hand, getting pwned by random s*** or making massive comebacks has always been in the game. I could sit at the starting line on Rainbow Road SMK , get lapped, and still come 1st in GP mode back in the day. While you had to make the most of your power slides etc to do so, the massive speed advantage you got from being far behind makes a big difference too.

So in that respect, I dont mind too much about the randomness. If I can play someone I'm clearly better than for 20 rounds and win around 15 of them, I'm happy with that.
Posted 12:31pm 22/4/08
IGN gave this a 8.5 - 8.0 for gameplay. It's taking a real hammering. No FFA Battle Mode, all the new features from Double Dash dropped, online play being too laggy to play, AI being completely cheaty and unbeatable (with the balance gone - it's now even as to what items you get, whereas previously last place got better items), too much randomness...

I was considering buying this (and Galaxy) on Thursday, I'm not so sure now.
Posted 12:59pm 22/4/08
Steve you need to add a ) to your screenshots link.
Steve Farrelly
Posted 01:00pm 22/4/08
Get Galaxy Raven and just import or wait for SSBB
Posted 01:11pm 22/4/08
You certainly wont go wrong with galaxy
Posted 01:17pm 22/4/08
No FFA Battle Mode, all the new features from Double Dash dropped, online play being too laggy to play, AI being completely cheaty and unbeatable (with the balance gone - it's now even as to what items you get, whereas previously last place got better items), too much randomness...

Thats why it'd be so beneficial for Nintendo to release patches / updates over the net. Would expand the life of this game so much if we knew there was FFA and more tracks coming eventually. Would rock if they eventually ported all the tracks from previous games to this. Have Nintendo released any updates for any Wii games yet over the net? any scope to do this? I haven't really touched the Wii in a fair while.
Posted 11:00am 08/5/08
As far as I know the only change they have ever made to a game after release was pokemon diamond/pearl. They made a few small changes to the Global trading system to cut back on all the spam trades. So there isnt much hope.

I had little hope for Nintendo's latest Mario Kart and I wasn't even planning on buying it. Now that it has a solid online mode I'm considering purchasing, but all my fears for single player have come true. Cheating AI, stupid weapons, ridicules rubber banding and annoying cutesy theme.
Theyre all back and are worst than MKDD. MKDD was one of the few games that I purchased for the Gamecube and regretted. Thankfully F-Zero GX saved the day, lets hope Sega can do it again.

The saddest thing is how easy it would have been to fix all the problems. Simply include a FFA battle mode, an item editor like brawl, that works with GP mode and tune the AI. The would have been enough to take it from a B to and A title game.
Mario Kart 64 and Mario Kart DS were the highlights of this series.

PS: Whats the bet Australia get s*** servers...

last edited by Lynx at 14:10:15 22/Apr/08

last edited by trog at 11:00:25 08/May/08
Posted 03:34pm 22/4/08
i loved mario kart on the snes
loved mario kart on the n64
love it on the wii

controls are great (ditch teh s*** wheel idea immediately, use the nunchuk, controls a dream)

its definately much more difficult than either of the above versions, good, i like a challenge

the new tracks are ok, the old ones are great, its fun to play against mates

i cant wait to give it a go online
Posted 03:59pm 22/4/08
Interesting.... thanks for the review.
I think i'll just stick to GTA4 on the PS3 for now... I was planning on buying MKW as well, but think i'll hold off for now.
Posted 04:22pm 22/4/08
I found DS Kart to be just as bad when it comes to Rubber banding and stupidy like the Blue Shell - Was hoping we'd see the ability to turn off Super Weapons in Wii Kart. As Steve mentioned in his interview, Nintendo seems to favour party (read: Stuff aimed at the casual market) games these days, so I guess it's to be expected :(

Now if only we could get a release of SNES kart on the VC......
Posted 11:44pm 22/4/08
I think reviewers simply aren't allowing enough time to get to know the game. My immediate impressions of it were as a simplified Mario Kart All Stars, that was not quite on the same level of that as Double Dash. But after toying with it for a while I'm finding the skills and a clean racing line that are required to win are just as valid as they were in the previous games.
Even though this version brings with it its own new set of challenges doesn't necessarily mean it is more luck oriented. It simply means you need to take the time to learn how to deal with its new threats to stay in pole position.

I think it's important to point out that most of the new items bring with them their own element of risk to the user, such as the Thunder Cloud that you have to make sure you run in to another player with once it's activated, or the Bullet that speeds you straight through the other players on autopilot but will take you off course if you don't use it at the right time or steer correctly as it is ending.
Then there are other cool new Wii-exclusive gameplay features such as the sounds on the Wii Remote. Having the rapidly approaching sound of a shell or mushroomed player on hand is a really cool and helpful addition.
The fact that you can play a heap of the old, remastered tracks and ride motorbikes with new handling of their own is just icing on the cake.

Honestly the only frustration I've had with it aside from what you would expect from Mario Kart has been online games dropping out consistently. That will no doubt no longer be an issue once other Aussies are on there.
Posted 01:53pm 24/4/08
Okay, so I caved and bought both Mario Kart Wii and Mario Galaxy today. Still have a few hours to go to get through Phaaze in Metroid Prime 3 though.
I figured while they were both on special at JB ($79 and $69 respectively) I might as well pick them up.

Guess then we can test out online multiplayer.
Posted 01:59pm 24/4/08
how good was metroid?!?!!?!?

such a quality game;
Posted 02:42pm 24/4/08
I still haven't finished Metroid. I stopped playing it completely when Galaxy came out :(

I'll stop by JB and grab Mario Kart after work today.
Posted 03:21pm 24/4/08
Spook, I was *really* disappointed in the quality/qantity of metroids in the game. In Prime there were a few different types. In Corruption, there seem to only be Phazon Metroids.
Also, they don't seem anywhere near as scary. The way they attach to your head in Prime... way freakier than in Corruption.

I'll probably give Galaxy a quick go tonight, but will try to pass Corruption before getting too stuck into MKWii and Galaxy.
Posted 03:44pm 24/4/08
I was going to go buy this, but apparently I don't have to. Pretty good review for a game that's only been out a couple hours Steve, that is unless you got Mariokart off Spook's mate there...
Posted 04:42pm 24/4/08
Spook, I was *really* disappointed in the quality/qantity of metroids in the game.

hmmm, i didnt even notice the lack of them;

i just really enjoyed the story, teh gameplay, teh visuals and the fact that i had to work reasonably hard to get the game done

found it extremely rewarding and i only got 84% or so

Posted 02:21pm 25/4/08
Well, I've spent the last two hour or so playing Mario Kart Wii.

- The AI cheats. Seriously, one second it'll fire a red shell at you, there'll be no items, and then it'll hit you with something else.
- The AI cheats. Look at the finish times, you'll see the icons on the map, they'll be a good 10 seconds behind but it'll list them as 3.
- What's this BS that when you get hit you lose your items? That's crap!
- The amount of speed you drop off when you hit a wall or grass
- These karts can't corner for crap. And I use koopa!
- Did I mention the AI f*****g cheats?
- sk8 is getting too good at this already
- 150cc is just BS.

- Online play. So seamless, so much fun.
- Not being forced to use the stupid wheel.
- Releasing it the day before a public holiday means there's tons of people on for online play
- 2 player online play from the same console? Phwoar!
Posted 02:42pm 25/4/08
What's this BS that when you get hit you lose your items? That's crap!

Hasn't it always been that way? At least in the N64 and DS versions I played I thought it was.
Posted 03:08pm 25/4/08
You didn't in the N64 version
sif greazy
Posted 04:04pm 25/4/08
I think on the gamecube if you get hit and you're carrying 3 items of something, you lose 2 so you're only left with 1.
Posted 06:03pm 25/4/08
The item thing I noticed too - The only time you lost items in MK DS was when the blue shell of hatred hits you or the lightning went off, seems everytime you get nailed in MKwii it happens now.

Just like to add in too - The wheel sucks!
Posted 06:28pm 25/4/08
Posted 06:53pm 25/4/08
you just havent played it enough raven

get more skillz
Posted 07:05pm 25/4/08
Curious, am I the only one here using a GCN controller to play?

Also, what does the gold steering wheel mean that I've seen on some peoples icons in online play?
Posted 07:07pm 25/4/08
i use the wiiremote and nunchuk and it works flawlessly
feels just like teh n64 control method that i used to use

havent played it online yet, i need to perfect my game offline
just about finished on mirror class, then ill start on ghosts
Posted 07:08pm 25/4/08
The item thing I noticed too - The only time you lost items in MK DS was when the blue shell of hatred hits you or the lightning went off, seems everytime you get nailed in MKwii it happens now.

The DS version you also loose any items you're holding on the back of your cart if you get by anything at all.

btw, I've only used the wheel so far but only played for an hour or so, it's ok but not that impressed, I was reading recently (can't remember if it was here or somewhere else) that you can only do stunts with the wheel, has anyone found not being able to do stunts a disadvantage? especially when you get to 150cc etc.
Posted 07:12pm 25/4/08
yes, you need to be able to do stunts;

no you dont have to use the wheel, which is majorly gimicky and prevents you from powersliding;

with the wiiremote, you flick up to stunt

i think you can even stunt on the gc controller, but using the dpad;

to be competitive, you need to be powersliding at all times and stunting over jumps
Posted 07:22pm 25/4/08
who says you cant powerslide with the wheel, ive only used the wheel so far and have been powersliding all over the place.

Pretty sure im gonna change to classic controler though.
Posted 07:23pm 25/4/08
with powersliding on manual?
how do you hop with the wheel?
Posted 07:24pm 25/4/08
press and hold the b button on the back, then drift away.
Posted 07:26pm 25/4/08
I can powerslide with the wheel, just nowhere near as easy as I can on the DS. Might try out the GC controller, I found Rainbow Road damn near impossible with the wheel.
Posted 07:28pm 25/4/08
I agree, the wheel is s***. I use the Wiimote+nunchuk too, works fine for me. I'll give the Wavebird a go at some point, just to see if it's easier, but I don't see it giving much of an advantage over the Wiimote+nunchuk config.
Posted 07:45pm 25/4/08
I loved how with the wheel you can hop, then turn the wheel in the direction you want to go and it flicks you the entirely opposite way. Wavebird s**** all over it.

Golden wheel in online means the person has used the wheel for x amount of races/time..
Posted 09:39pm 25/4/08
Pft, I've given up on Vs mode in MKWii. The items are way too unbalanced in this one, no fun at all. And in online mode, people just want to attack whoever's close - letting the guy who's in 1st get further and further away.

Battle mode on the other hand has become another story. My ranking keeps climbing and climbing :)
Posted 10:23am 29/4/08
Classic Controller s**** all over the wheel, used it for an hour last night and where I was getting A's & B's for finishing cups with the wheel, was getting 2 stars with the classic controller. Managed to do Rainbow Road with the controller and beat all the others karts by over half a lap whereas the wheel I was struggling to stay in the top ten. Wheel is definitely something you need to practice with but to be honest, can't be f***ed.

Not sure how I'm going to get 3 stars on these cups when I get hit by everything under the sun. This game seems to dish out about as many blue shells as the DS but much more in the way of lightening bolts and other s*** you can't avoid.

btw, does anyone know if it's possible to change the button config on the classic controller in this game? the options in the option menu seem to only cover GCN rumble and wifi stuff.
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