Mario Kart Wii (Contains GamePlay Tips/Spoilers)
Controller: Wii Remote, Wii Steering Wheel (Optional)
It has been over fifteen years since the first incarnation of Mario Kart for the 16-bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and unlike many franchises which have undergone significant changes over the years, if you played Mario Kart for the Super Nintendo you will understand Mario Kart for the Wii.
The game is, first and foremost, geared towards kids (both adult and youth) so the general racing system is fundamentally simple. Unlike the majority of racing games, you will not have to worry about Kart upgrades, (though there are multiple Karts and Bikes to begin with, and others to be Unlocked, all with different stats and advantages) pitstops or crashes that completely debilitate you for the entire race. It is for this reason that this game is not for the racing purist, but is an easily accessible game to those who are either new to racing, or just want to have some fun.
The game features tracks that will make newcomers and players of previous Mario Kart incarnations equally happy as they seem to pretty evenly split new tracks and tracks from previous versions of the game.
The game features eight different Cups, all with tracks of varying difficulty, (Mushroom Cup, for example, features tracks where you essentially drive around in a large circle while Special Cup features the most treacherous and demanding version of Rainbow Road ever to grace the Mario Kart franchise) and these cups are playable in 50cc (Karts Only), 100cc (Bikes Only) and 150cc (Bikes and Karts) modes.
The 100cc Cups play reasonably difficult as mistakes (which include such things as falling into lava and losing three seconds being pulled out, not to mention the time getting back to speed) will be punished by a significantly improved AI that will not make such unforced mistakes. There will still be forced stops along the way in the form of Red, "Tracking," Shells designed to seek and destroy the racer immediately in front of you, Blue Shells, which fly quickly through the air and are designed to target the race leader, and Cannons where a racer in the back of the pack will turn into a high-speed cannon often crashing into and devastating the racers in front of him/her.
The 150cc Cups are absolutely ridiculous and play as much on luck as anything else. The AI system is frequently unbeatable as it seems to be based on both your position in the race as well as your points position overall. It may seem strange, but it is often to the players advantage to, "Sandbag," by deliberately not winning all three of the first three races firing back for a first-place finish in the final race. As with the other Cups, the power-ups that you will receive if you are in the front of the pack are often useless...unless you know how to use them. NOTE: You should win at least two of the first three races and place well in the one that you do not win.
For one thing, many people consider the Banana-Peel useless for anything except making one of the racers behind you slip, and the Green Shell randomly effective, at best. The defensive-minded player, however, will hang on to such power-ups as they can be used to deflect a Red, "Tracking" Shell that the racer behind you launches if the defensive-minded player fires them off at the penultimate moment. There are also power-ups of Triple-Banana Peels, and Triple Green/Red Shells which should immediately be allowed to go behind the player and will generally deflect on-coming Red and Green shells without the player actually having to do anything.
These pointers often will not matter because the Blue Shell, which automatically debilitates the racer in first-place, a Bomb, many of the obstructions/obstacles built into the track, and getting hit by a Cannon-Racer will automatically divest you of any power-ups you are presently holding as well as spinning you out and causing you to have to work your way up to speed.
The AI system at 150cc is both ridiculous and unfair. In addition to the fact that the AI-Controlled racers will race to near-perfection, you will often get hit by a Blue Shell (There is no way to prevent this!) on the Final Lap and within sight of the finish line dropping you from first to an occasionally near-last finish.
It also seems that Nintendo is not in favor of the free market system or the inherent advantages of being in the, "Front of the Pack," as the Power-Ups you get significantly improve the further behind you get in the race. For example, if you are in-between 4th-7th Place of all the racers, you will occasionally get Triple-Mushrooms (Three speed boosts that you can fire off when appropriate, often on a straight-away or to cut through grass or other obstacles) and you will also get Triple Red, "Tracking," Shells, Lightning Bolts that can be used to make any racer ahead of your position smaller,(and slower) Bombs which will disable nearby Racers (but are horribly inaccurate) and the deadly Blue Turtle shell which devastates the front-runner. If you are in 8th Place (of 12) or worse, while Triple-Mushrooms are a common power-up, you will occasionally receive a Cannon which turns your car into a flaming cannon for five seconds, zips you to the middle or front of the pack (assuming you are reasonably within striking distance) and debilitates any other Racer that has the misfortune of being in the middle of the road along the way. (Stay in your lane, buddy!) You will also occasionally get an extended version of the Lightning Power-Up which shrinks the other Racers making you significantly faster and enabling you to catch up. A Power-Mushroom will also make you huge enabling you to crush other racers and giving you a speed boost. When you are using a Power Mushroom, it also seems that going off of the raceway and hitting (most) obstacles has little effect. The Star speeds you up to a constant speed regardless of the ground, makes you invincible, and will also knock other racers out of the way and spin them out.
I need to reiterate the absurdity of the AI at 150cc, (Yes, I eventually won all of the Cups after a few hundred tries) in one race, for example, I was leading and got hit by a Red, "Tracking," Shell within sight of the finish line. It was the final race of the Cup and I essentially needed to finish seventh or better, the Red Shell was not enough to knock me out of first, but then I got hit by a Blue Shell after I started to re-accelerate. The Blue Shell knocked me down to fourth by the time I was able to accelerate again, and literally, not even further than five car lengths from the finish, a Cannon plowed into me and I ended up finishing in Ninth. I'm glad that I am an adult now, because had I been confronted with that as a ten-year-old on Mario Kart for Super Nintendo, something was going to get broken in the house that day...probably the controller. I've not yet had the opportunity to test the durability of the Wii controller and Steering Wheel yet, but if I get hit by a Cannon...in mid-air...on Rainbow Road...on an accelerator flip that you must take (if you want to finish the race)...and knocked into oblivion causing me to plummet into last place, the structural soundness of design might be tested.
I've only covered the least of this game's features. The game also features two Battle Modes whereby you will go around attacking other cars to collect coins in a closed area, or you will, "Pop," other cars' balloons by attacking them (thereby scoring points) in Balloon Mode. I've played these modes with my son, but I'm not going to reflect on their pros and cons too much as they are geared mainly towards children. I will mention that there are four, "Classic," Battle Arenas and four new ones. The Power-Ups are also basically the same, except there is no Cannon or Lightning Bolt, and the Blue Shell targets the member of the opposing team with the most coins and knocks out half in Coin Mode and I have never seen it in Balloon Mode.
The Time Trial version of the game is great fun as it focuses more on actual racing fundamentals,(except for Triple-Mushrooms that you start with and can be used anytime unless you lose them to an obstacle or, "Falling down the hole") and is highly addictive as you will engage in the same race, often dozens of times, in order to find a way to shave an extra second off of your time. I will not go to any great specifics, but I will say that, "Staying inside," on turns is paramount as well as choosing the appropriate vehicle for the track. In this mode, you will also Unlock, "Fast Staff," ghosts which enables you to race against the Time Trial records of Nintendo employees, even including the President, whose ass I handed to him.
I could probably spend three hours talking about the on-line version and how fantastic it is, but I'm just going to highlight some key features:
1.) "Ghost Race"
-This mode enables you to have Time Trial races against Regional Ghosts, Friends, and Ghosts from all over the World in an effort to beat their times. This mode will also track your Win/Loss ranking against these Ghosts and your, "Best Time Ghost," will be added to the system and will independently compete against others in Time Trial mode which certain features/Karts/Bikes being Unlocked after your Ghosts prevail in a given number of races. The coolest aspect of this is that your Ghosts are earning you Unlockables as you watch Netflix.(also available on the Wii, I cancelled by Cable $80-something/month, for Netflix which is only $7.99/month because of how much better Netflix content is)
You are also able to view the best times in the World that other Players have achieved as well as many other features that I have not even tried yet, though I have been playing the game Religiously (well, when I have time) for the last two months.
2.) "Battle Mode"
-It's the same Battle Mode, but against people around the World. There is also a scoring system, with a starting score of 5000, which awards or subtracts points based upon how well you do.
3.) "Cup Races"
-See Battle Mode, except applied to Cup Races. Another feature of both modes, however, is that each participant gets to, "Vote," on what track he/she wants which is then decided randomly, so it's important to pick a balanced car in Cup Mode.
I think the phrase, "Good, Clean fun," is somewhat outdated, but it is the best possible way to describe Mario Kart for the Nintendo Wii. The, "Shout-Outs," to older versions are there, the new tracks/features are there, the on-line content is incredible, and the replayability is outstanding. This game will entertain you for hours, unless you find it too cartoonish or just fundamentally dislike racing games.
Graphics: 8.5 (Overly cartoonish, possibly, even understanding it is supposed to be a cartoon)
GamePlay: 9 (Sometimes the Karts/Bikes stats don't seem to matter in the way they should, the actual driving, itself, is often too easy regardless of what you use)
Sound/Music: 7 (Each course has its own Music, but it still doesn't take long to become redundant)
Intangibles (Such as On-Line features): 10
Difficulty: 8 (It's meant to be relatively easy, in terms of driving, but 150cc is just stupid with what the AI gets away with, especially in the closing seconds of a race. I want to be put at a disadvantage in the hardest mode of the game, but Nintendo needs to respect the difference between a difficult race, as the race is often easy to that point, and just flat out screwing someone right in the end.)
***The Math results in 8.75 on the overall, but if there were a score higher than, "10," for re-playability, that's what this game would get, so I'm rounding up a little bit.
"Love is the gravity of the Soul" - Abstract -/-/1988 - 3/11/2013 R.I.P