Sunday, May 9, 2010

RE: Mario Kart Wii (Wii)

Welcome to an all-new addition to SuperPhillip Central's extensive list of segments. What is RE:? RE: is a look back at a recently reviewed title to see if there's anything I missed, anything I liked that I overlooked, or anything that annoys me after extended play of the game. This is not a re-review of the game. This is purely a look back at a game of my choosing and re-discussing the fine points of it.

I pondered what our first RE: segment should be, but with Super Mario Galaxy 2 coming out in exactly two weeks, I felt it was a no-brainer. For the next two Sundays we'll be looking at 3D Mario titles. The first of which today will be the Wii's ultra-popular Mario Kart Wii. The game originally received an 8.5 out of 10. Will I stand by my score?

Mario Kart Wii has become a multi-million seller in just a couple years. New families and gamers are constantly being introduced into this intense arcade racer. However, it's not without its quirks. Some call it the worst Mario Kart ever while some call it the best. Is my opinion that polarized?

There are myriad modes in Mario Kart Wii including the original Grand Prix mode which is four tracks played in succession with the player with the most points at the end being crowned the winner. There's four difficulties and four cups in total making for some hefty racing. The latter difficulties are prone to screwing the player constantly with a barrage of items from other players. Be wary of this as many times one can rage-quit from such an incident. Being first place the entire race only to be item-raped into seventh place or worse is not a fun feeling. Thankfully, the earlier modes are much more fair. Perhaps Nintendo's developers can strike a balance between item use and true difficulty like Sonic and SEGA All-Stars achieved.

As you play through the Grand Prix mode, this cannot be played with two players unfortunately, as well as the Time Trial mode, you unlock new characters and vehicles. There's twenty four characters in all not including being able to play as your Mii. Playing as your Mii is cool because on certain tracks a Mii's face will replace a sign or landmark of the track. It was funny seeing Jay Leno's show-stealing mug on top of a Sphinx in Dry Dry Ruins, or Batman in a dancing pose with Zelda. Miis are everywhere in the game, cheering you along on the sidelines, driving cars at the back stretch of Coconut Mall, and resting on signs plastered in several of the game's races.

Meanwhile, the track selection is awesome. There's thirty-two tracks in total with sixteen being recycled from past Mario Kart games-- four from Double Dash, four from DS, four from Mario Kart 64, two from the original, and two from Super Circuit. The track choices are hit and miss, but for the most part there's a great selection to choose from. My personal favorites from the retro side include Delfino Square, Bowser's Castle from the Nintendo 64, and Mario Circuit from Double Dash.

Then you have sixteen all-new tracks split up into four cups. While the Mushroom Cup is a bit conservative in the track design by the Special Cup, all conservative design is thrown out of the window with some absolutely crazy design. There's, of course, your traditional circuit courses with little in the way of hazards, perhaps a chained Chain Chomp or litter of Goombas to contend with, but other than that the tracks are focused heavily on pure racing. Tracks like Koopa Cape take you from a tropical cliffside track onto a gushing river, jettisoning your karts forward and into an underwater tube where electrical currents will shrink those that come in contact with them.

There's a bunch of new content and tricks (literally) in Mario Kart Wii. Let's start with the items. Double Dash's character specific items are long gone, but they've been replaced with a variety of new and returning items. The Bullet Bill and Blooper ink return, causing players to be pulled towards first place while knocking out anyone foolish enough to get in the way while the Blooper ink covers a good portion of the screen in black ink for a limited period of time. The Bob-omb returns with an exploding radius that can take out multiple targets, the lightning bolt and starman also return, as well as everyone's favorite nemesis, the blue shell. The blue shell goes solely after first place, and unlike Mario Kart 64, it flies over everyone to only take out you and anyone unfortunate enough to be caught in the blast radius.

Items aside, there's also two types of vehicles to play as-- karts and bikes. Karts can get a second boost when they powerslide whereas bikes can only receive one. However, what makes bikes better in skilled hands is their ability to wheelie, giving them a boost a speed on straightaways. On ramps and off cliffs, players can perform tricks. There's no fear of crashing which would add another level of strategy to this game. Instead, you'll either be allowed to perform a trick or not depending on how far away from the ground you are. Pulling off a trick gives you a helpful boost.

For the second time in the series, online play is available, and it's sooooo much better than Nintendo's first Wi-Fi game, Mario Kart DS. There's online leaderboards, twelve player racing (a first for the Mario Kart franchise), online rankings (up to 9,999 points), and so much more. You can even take a friend locally online for some two player online racing. Furthermore, if online isn't your cup of Koopa tea, there's always local multiplayer in versus or battle mode. Versus allows you to play by your own set of rules-- whether or not the AI is easy or hard, rides bikes or karts solely, how many tracks to race on, whether you choose the tracks or if they're randomly selected, whether you play on teams or not. This is without a doubt my most favorite mode of the game. You can race without the item rape, without the cheapness, and without worrying about trying to get three stars in a given cup.

The presentation of Mario Kart Wii looks a dab better than what we've seen with Double Dash, the last console installment of the franchise. With twelve racers, it's amazing how well and consistent the framerate is. Some courses, particularly the ones originally made with 3D in mind, are truly spectacular to gawk at. On the sound side, it's hilarious hearing the racers talk mid-race and after the race ends. "Luigi win!" The soundtrack is quite good, too, with various catchy melodies and memorable tunes.

All-in-all, Mario Kart Wii is a terrific kart racer marred by a few silly design decisions including the unbalanced items and cheap AI on later difficulties. Other than those caveats, the game is a blast to play either locally or online. There's plenty of characters, cups, and cool vehicles to unlock, plenty of tracks to discover shortcuts in, and plenty of hours to spend racing with buddies. Is this the best the Mario Kart series has to offer? Afraid not, but it's certainly not the worst!

What games would you like to see given the RE: treatment? Let me know in the SuperPhillip Central comments section.


coffeewithgames said...

If you have gotten a Wii Balance Board, I would like to see what you think of Shaun White Snowboarding Road Trip with the Balance Board controls as a "RE:".

Unknown said...

Good idea! I just need to track one of those babies down!

Unknown said...

"marred by a few silly design decisions including the unbalanced items"

This became so ridiculous that I ended up selling the game after a month. I actually have moral qualms (yes laugh if you will) with the blue shell. Something that rewards someone for sucking and being in last place by giving them an opportunity to stick it to the guy in 1st place who earned his spot with hard work is beyond unfair. I'll stick to playing games that actually reward you for hard work.