I’m writing this Sunday, but I am trying to limit my blog posts to one a day so that there can be something for my readers each and every day.
I couldn’t wait for Mario Kart Wii to come out. The Mario Kart series has been my favorite on the Nintendo and Mario Kart Double Dash is the reason why my wife bought a Gamecube. We’ve had countless hours of fun playing and when the release got post postponed until today we were pretty bummed. So today we were at Best Buy right when it opened to make sure we’d be able to get a copy. There were enough, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they sold out by the end of the day.
The game plays well and the graphics are nice, although nothing revolutionary. Playing with the wheel takes some getting used to, but after a while it feels so natural you wonder how you ever played without one before. The new tracks are a lot of fun. The one with the bouncing mushrooms is especially neat and you’re often left wondering if you’re going to plunge into the depths instead of making it in the game.
I played a regional internet game with some other people from the US. That was a lot of fun. It worked very, very well and I didn’t have to wait long to find some opponents. My first game was against two other people. Then it informed me that in the next game we could have up to eight people. So I like how it matches you up while you’re racing so that you can have more and more people instead of just ending up doing a bunch of small races. For each match you get to vote on which level you want and then the game randomly selects one of the choices. So the more people that vote for the same thing, the greater the chance that it comes up.
I don’t know anyone with the game, so I can’t comment on playing with friends, but I imagine it works mostly the same.
Now for the negatives. First of all, the Wii remote (Wiimote) is one of the most unergonomic controls Miyamoto has ever designed! Sure, the A and B buttons are nice, but I’ve never been a fan of any games that required use of the directional pad or the 1 or 2 buttons. Mario Kart Wii requires all of these uncomfortable ones. My thumbs are left extremely sore after playing Mario Kart Wii in a way they haven’t been sore since the original Nintendo controller.
Second, I couldn’t figure out (easily) how I could play with my wife and no one else. When we did VS mode, which previous meant only the people who were in the room with you and no computer players, we ended up playing against 10 computer opponents. Worse, I can’t play GP 2 player. EVERY console Mario Kart has always allowed two players at once in Grand Prix mode. MKDD even allowed four players in GP. Sure, this is the equivalent of what happens in VS mode with all the computers, but it’s not as seamless. After every stage it takes you back to the stage selection menu. That’s just plain annoying!
EXTREMELY ANNOYING for me is the fact that, as far as I could tell, battle mode must be a team game. What I loved more than anything else in each of the Mario Karts was the battle mode. I think it was best implemented in Mario Kart 64. And what I love about battle mode is that it’s you and your (up to) 3 friends hiding from each other and duking it out. But in Mario Kart Wii you have to play in a huge team of computer players. That’s no fun! I just want to go against my friends, not some automatons! If there’s a way to turn it off, I couldn’t figure it out while on that screen and my wife didn’t have the patience for me to riffle through the manual.
Finally, and this didn’t bother me too much, most of the levels are recycled from previous Mario Kart games. I actually enjoyed playing through my favorite levels from the previous Mario Kart games. I hope there’s one cup that’s all Rainbow Roads from each previous Mario Kart plus a new one. My wife, however, is not one for nostalgia. Not with anything, and especially not with a game she just paid $50 for. (kinda…we had a gift card, but we did lose the opportunity to use it for something else) She felt they were being cheap and “cheating” and wasn’t having it at all.
Overall, I’d probably give it a 7 or 8 out of 10 on my first impression. I have a feeling it’s going to grow on me. I think after all these months we were just expecting too much from it and it has let us down. I feel they’ve betrayed some of the most important parts of the franchise – such as the multiplayer GP and the four and less player battle mode. But the game is fun to play and I think overall they’ve done a good job.
Editor’s note: I played some more and I figured out how to play VS and Battle Modes with only the local players and no computers. However, I have left the criticism above to emphasize how important first impressions are. The instruction booklet did not list how to change this (although it’s possible I skipped over that page) and it was a very small icon in the top right corner. Hello, Nintendo, you don’t change something major that’s been the same for all console versions and then hide the way to put it back to normal in a small button!
Also, I am still annoyed that unlocking of levels and characters seems to be limited to GP mode which is only 1 player. So if you want to play the Star Cup and Special Cup, you cannot do it with your friends. That’s just plain wrong. And it’s a dang shame too because the BEST, most BEAUTIFUL and well DESIGNED levels are found in the Star and Special Cup. Which brings me to another criticism I had.
Again, first impressions are very important. When you first start using the game it’s not apparent that the traditional cups that have been in all console Mario Karts – Mushroom, Flower, Star, and Special have all the new tracks and the lower selections have the remixed tracks from the old games. It just looks like they did a few new ones and gave up.