Intro

Lovers of red shells, gather 'round. Masters of the mushroom, take your places. Drunken partygoers looking for something more exciting than yet another Friday night of cow tipping, put down your car keys and pick up a controller. It's go time.

Mario Kart Wii has finally arrived. And for those of us whose sole purpose in shelling out a large sum of money to purchase Nintendo's latest console was in anticipation of this game, it has been a long wait, (though, to be fair, Mario Galaxy helped the time pass). But does it measure up? Was it worth the longsuffering? That's what we're here to find out.

The commercials have talked a good talk. If we are to believe the hype, no self-respecting gamer should be without this title. But for the record, referring to "Mario Kart Wii" as "Mario Kart 'wee!'" is an insult to my intelligence, and it's about as clever as spelling everything Kart related with a K.

Karts

Most Karters are familiar with the basic setup of this racing game, but for those less versed the major elements are vehicles, controls, drivers, and tracks, all with the fun element of item use. Let's begin with the karts.


At first glance, the cars are similar in this installment to its predecessors. There are several different styles and looks, and there are qualities displayed to the left to give the player an idea of how the kart will maneuver on a course. It's a helpful way to personalize your driving experience. However, we've already arrived at our first major Mario Kart alteration: you can now choose from motorcycles, too. But don't get too thrilled, bikes aren't allowed on the lowest level of Grand Prix racing (50cc) until you commit to some unlocking. And then, once you've trained with and gotten used to a certain kart for the easy races, you'll be forced to ditch it for two wheels in the next level of difficulty (100cc), since only motorcycles are initially allowed in those races. Yay! Being punished for building skills and getting used to the game is fun.


Automatic Driving (No Flame or Mini-Turbo)

An immediately noticeable change in this episode of Mario Kart is the player's option to choose manual or automatic driving. The terms "manual" and "automatic" are seriously misleading here, as they have nothing to do with the transmission or shifting gears. Rather this is a setting pertaining to drifting. Drifting was first provided to Karters in Mario Kart 64, but mastering it required some practice. When going around turns, holding the jump button while turning in and out would trigger different colored smoke to pour from the tires and give a burst of speed when the jump button was released. Drift racing has become more and more popular and is basically the practice of making the back end of the vehicle slide around a turn. With the unveiling of the GameCube version, it seemed the programmers wanted to make drifting more accessible to every player, as it was significantly more intuitive in its physics.


Manual Driving (Awesome Blue Flame)

As for the current game, drifting has taken a new application. There is little control in pushing the drift; it seems to respond to the amount of turning the player has done. In earlier manifestations one could rock the analog stick back and forth to bring up the level of boost. This is not possible in Mario Kart Wii, causing a bit of change in driving technique for those who have already established theirs on any or all of the five to seven former Kart titles. However, should anyone desire to not bother with the issue of drift at all, he or she can simply choose "automatic" in the setup stage. Those players will miss out on the slight boost drifting gives to those willing to adapt to its quirkiness. We should also note that on a motorcycle the drift only goes to one level and results in a smaller speed boost than the two levels of what the game calls "mini-turbo" reserved for the karts.

The types of choices a player has in choosing a kart or bike determines the style of the driving. Categories are Speed, Weight, Acceleration, Handling, Drift, Off-Road, and Mini-Turbo. Most of these are self-explanatory. Handling and Drift will determine with how much ease (or how sharply) the kart or bike turns, Drift indicates how hard the car slides while drifting, Off-Road shows how well it will perform outside of the track, and Mini-Turbo details how substantial the speed boost from manual drifting will be. The driver's size also has some impact on the experience, as heavier characters and their large karts have lower accelerations and higher top speeds than the small ones.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no high accelerating, high-speed, excellent off-road, high-mini-turbo and low drift (my personal preference) karts or bikes, so adjusting to the driving experience can take a considerable amount of time. Also, some of the fun of the motorcycles and karts will require patience, as unlocking them all might take a little time. Hey, if it were easy, what fun would it be?

Kontrols
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  • Aloonatic - Saturday, August 09, 2008 - link

    The problem that Nintendo have always had with Mario Kart is that they got it right first time. Like that bolognaise you make when you realise you have no bought in sauce, which ends up being the best you have ever tasted you know that it is doomed never to be repeated.

    On the SNES it was mostly about the racing, the control of your kart at high speeds, with the occasional item that may help you out, may not.

    Now, it seems that the the racing has been completely replaced by random chance and all at a snail's pace, even in the 150cc cups.

    You can be finishing 1st, 1st, 1st, then 12th???? in a cup. Why? because of constant attacks that are so unlikely and random as to be frankly mind boggling.

    The blue shell, seriously, what's the point?

    The wii wheel? OK, until you get an itch and then you are buggered, there's no chance of a quick scratch without you finding your self well off the track.

    Such a great disappointment.

    I guess if I was 12 again I might have the time an inclination to take on this game but I really can't be bothered. What's the point? Your hard work will just be undone by a series of unlikely events.
    Reply
  • Athlex - Monday, June 02, 2008 - link

    While I agree that the raincloud is a an iffy item, it's worth mentioning that while you have the raincloud, your kart accelerates faster and can drive off-road better which makes for a [slightly] easier handoff. Reply
  • mkfan - Monday, June 02, 2008 - link

    The update to the "review" was a little weak. I get that you didn't figure out where the options were, but it's right there in the manual. Granted, the first time I opened the manual was to make sure it was in there, but the fact remains that if you're writing a review for a reputable site, you should maybe RTFM before slamming your subject for not having something that it does. Also, if you're going to do updates, it might help to mention the update somewhere near the information that's updated. Quite frankly, I expected a little more professionalism out of a review from AnandTech. Reply
  • MrBlastman - Monday, June 02, 2008 - link

    This is very bad news for us Mario Kart purists who enjoyed the ability to hop around at our leisure.

    To not include this is rediculous. I don't know if I'll be buying this version after all. I thought Nintendo learned from the sorry excuse of the gamecube version and the inability to jump.

    You could jump in the original, you could jump in the N64 version. You couldn't jump in the GC version and it failed. Weather it is important to do or not, it detracts from the fun such as shell evasion etc.

    I don't want to have to find a ramp to jump. I want to hop around all day like an idiot if I want to. :)
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Tuesday, June 03, 2008 - link

    as noted by one of the other posters, you can jump.

    it's labeled in the article as well -- it's the drift button. drift, as with other mario kart games, is started via a jump.

    also, the ability to jump is labeled in the images in the article as well ... only the author called it "hop" instead of "jump" ...
    Reply
  • jordanclock - Monday, June 02, 2008 - link

    You can jump. Just quickly raise the controller a bit. And it's probably a shoulder button for the Classic and GC controllers.

    And I believe you meant "whether" instead of "weather."
    Reply
  • Scalarscience - Monday, June 02, 2008 - link

    As the above poster stated, you can jump with the wheel, but I found that after the initial fun from the novelty factor of the wheel wore off, the nunchuck+wii controller was the best way to drive, at least for me. When you do that the 'Z' button replaces the 'B' button as your item usage button, the 'B' button becomes jump/slide (for the boost) and steering with the analog stick on the nunchuck is FAR easier than the wheel's method, plus doing tricks off of a ramp and pulling wheelies with the bikes is a lot more reliable when you don't have to use the motion sensing to steer.

    It took me a day or two of playing in first player mode to really get all of that sorted out. My wife (I really bought the game because she loves it) wanted to just go online most of the time so it took a bit longer to get the details of gameplay down than it would have if I had gamed solely on my own time. Now that I've got a mode of playing I enjoy the game is definately as fun as the n64 and SuperNES version (my 2 favorites).

    The shells and being repeatedly bombarded by items definately are annoying, I agree, but the game is fun nonetheless. Since the wii downloaded an update for it immediately upon inserting the disc the first time, I do wonder if we'll be getting more updates (not to mention that it would be nice to see additional downloadable content, more tracks!)
    Reply
  • 9nails - Sunday, June 01, 2008 - link

    One of the downsides to the game, at least for me, is that there isn't an option to restart the race. (Keep all current settings and just go back to the race beginning.) Sometimes we just want to start over, but have to select tracks, characters, and karts all over again.

    In Grand Prix mode, it becomes quite frustrating to try and unlock all the characters and karts with these power-up items mercilessly destroying you. I've been blown-up by Blue (Winged) Shells seconds before the finish line with a near perfect 4-track record too many times now. Sometimes I've been blown-up by Blue Shells, landed in my own Banana's that were flung off of me by the explosion, and then finally spun off the track - going from 1st to last (12th) in one comedic chain-of-events-attack! It takes me at least 1 full lap to get back to 1st place again. These power-up items are really annoying me! I wish there was a mode to turn them off in Grand Prix or at least a defensible action to reverse the effects of all items. I know that a well timed jump can prevent the "Pow" attack or a well placed Banana can prevent Red and Green Shells from hitting me, so some counter-attack is present. But other special attacks offer no means of prevention - which is especially true if you're not carrying an item to counter-effect the attack.

    There also is some "return to track" issues if you go off course. Sometimes I'm placed WELL behind the position where I left the track. Just one bump knocking you off track can cost you 8+ positions before your back up to speed. That's devastating if you're trying to unlock all the items and this happens on the last race. Sometimes the computer returns me a few feet in front of a gap and I have little choice but it fall into the gap as I didn't have enough speed to jump over and clear the gap.
    Reply
  • jordanclock - Monday, June 02, 2008 - link

    You make a good point of just how ruthless this game can be. I'm bothered that after all these years, all Nintendo can do to make the computer "competitive" is to rubber band them to the extreme. I've been ahead by very large margins before only to have three or four computer players come shooting up at once to overtake me. It's simply ridiculous that they can't simply give the AI the ability to drive properly instead of, essentially, cheat.

    There is almost no margin of error in this game when competing against the AI. And then there are the very common blue shells, to which there are no defense.
    Reply
  • Rob94hawk - Saturday, May 31, 2008 - link

    My son found a way for me and him to be the same player. That's when you see a graphical glitch. For example when you select Toad and player 1 puts him on a bike and player 2 puts him in a kart toad has his head rammed into the bike. And then sometimes he will have no vehicle at all and is just there alone levitating. Funny stuff. Reply

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