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Mario Kart Wii Review

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The latest Mario Kart is going to be a definite buy for fans of the Mario Kart series as the game includes many goodies for the faithful few. The Big N has packed in so many tributes to previous titles as well as many other games of the Nintendo universe that it’s sure to provide plenty of nostalgia for older gamers. For the rest of the world, though, it’s questionable whether the game is worth a whole half-a-bill.

First of all, I quickly disposed of the Wheel. Sorry. Not a fan. The Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo is the most comfortable and intuitive and I believe it is easier to perform all the functions that are available in the game with the said combination. Holding the Wheel in front of you in mid-air is just not a comfortable experience. Sure, my kids thought it was neat, but it wasn’t for me. I also don’t like holding the Wii Remote sideways and I’ve never felt the need to pay extra for the Classic Controller, so I can’t comment on either of those methods.

In general, the game is easy and fun, but can become highly frustrating in the advanced stages. For those who have played previous versions of this game, the 50cc and 100cc circuits should be pretty easy, but it is near impossible to get the higher rankings consistently in the 150cc mode as there is just way too much randomness to win races regardless of one’s skill level. Anytime you are in the lead, the computer racers barrage you with each and every one of the items they obtain (in unison, I might add). Sure, it’s obvious that they would be programmed to do so, but getting hit with five different items in a row is extremely annoying at the 150cc level. I don’t know how many times I was actually thrown off the track into lava or outer space or what-not because of the tag-teaming. Oh, and the wretched blue turtle? I guess that’s supposed to be an equalizer, but I think it is an item that should have a lower frequency of appearance. Getting hit by that item several times during one lap (not one race . . . one lap) made me want to throw my unused Wheel like a frisbee through my LCD.

As someone who has never really been a fan of the series, one of the only things that kept me playing this game was the fact that the people at Nintendo are the kings of baiting you with unlockables. As you clear stages, you unlock characters and vehicles, and you cannot help but to continue to trudge on to discover what else is available. Even this, though, can end up being anticlimactic. You hope to get better characters and better vehicles, but you only end up getting obscure characters and vehicles that look like they were created in the Spore Creature Creator and are not necessarily improvements over the default vehicles.

On that note, another way to unlock items in the game is to race in the Time Trials against the ghosts that developers have recorded and unfortunately some of the races are just too difficult to beat. Not only do you have to race faster, but you have to do so by some unknown and random margin of 3 to 5 seconds or so. How do you beat someone at their own game? One plus to this aspect of the game, though, is that you pick up some shortcuts for other modes of the game.

Battle Mode is somewhat entertaining, but it’s weird that this time around, there is no Solo Mode, which again, makes it difficult to ensure consistent wins, as your performance is based on how well your AI teammates battle. Maps are actually fun to play on. I did not get a chance to check out the Coin Runners mode, so I cannot comment on it.

No review of the game would be complete without mentioning the addition of cycles, but I really can’t say anything special about them. It’s novel at first, but nothing to write home about. There are now cycles . . . okay. I wish I could make a bigger deal about it, but I really can’t. They add variety to the game in terms of number of vehicles and the way you play the game. You can run races with cycles or without cycles or with only cycles.

I have yet to see a game on the Wii that has inspired me visually and Mario Kart will not be the candidate to do so for anyone. This game is not much of an improvement over the Gamecube version in a technological sense or even the N64 for that matter. The funny thing is, a few of the tracks are classics from prior games in the series and they have not been upgraded to a degree that I am “wowed” at all. The quality of the graphics on the new tracks are about the same. The characters are the same. As I mentioned before, there are some clever vehicle creations and variations, but they wouldn’t blow anyone away by how amazing they look. I suppose this is the quality we should continue to expect from Wii games throughout the lifetime of this particular console. Every once in a while a game like Galaxy comes out, but other than that, it does not seem that there is a desire to raise the graphic standard. I won’t waste too many words to tell you that the same goes for the sound.

Bottom line . . . I would recommend it as a Buy for Mario Kart fans. For everyone else, I would borrow it from a Mario Kart fan when they’re not playing it.

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