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Mario Kart Wii (Nintendo Wii)
The Mario Kart franchise has always been a fan favorite, thanks to its pick-up-and-play game style. Since its original release on the Super Nintendo, Mario Kart has come a long way with tons of new features, some new faces, and even online play. Outside of the Mario and Zelda series, Mario Kart has always been a heavily anticipated title for Nintendo and gaming fans all over.
It's been an interesting ride these past few years as Nintendo made the progression from the Nintendo 64 to the GameCube, and then to striking gold with the Nintendo Wii. Mario Kart itself has seen its fair share of adjustments and changes. Mario Kart 64 was one of those games that owners of the Nintendo 64 called a "must have." Up to four players could grab a controller and duel it out in a race or battle to try and eliminate each other's balloons using green turtle shells, bananas, and decoy question mark boxes. The GameCube version, Mario Kart: Double Dash, attempted to perfect on a game that had already easily satisfied gamers. What it did was change a little too much, with the addition of two player co-op mode. Mario Kart Wii has gone back to its simpler ways. Though there are new vehicles, such as the addition of bikes, this one still settles in well on the Nintendo Wii.
Mario Kart Wii is packed with four different modes: Grand Prix, Time Trials, Versus, and Battle. Grand Prix is your typical circuit race, if you will. You can choose from 50cc, 100cc, and 150cc vehicles. Each race type will limit racers to bikes or go karts, or combine the two of them, which is the case with the 150cc mode. There are four cups to start with, and as you win in each cup, you will unlock hidden tracks. There are a total of 32 tracks in the game, 16 of which must be unlocked. What's cool about the race tracks is the fact that Nintendo has incorporated old and new tracks into the mix. The Banana Cup, for example, consists of one track from each console game including the Nintendo DS, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo 64, and the GameCube. This is also the case in Battle mode.
One of the coolest new features in Mario Kart Wii is the Nintendo WFC. This basically allows you to get online and play friends or other gamers around the world. This is a first for the Mario Kart franchise. It's a very basic feature and occasionally there are tournaments set up, but for the most part it's pick up and go on the net. Nintendo is still trailing behind in terms of voice chat and adding your friends, but for what it is, the online mode is solid.
Part of the game that was a bit of a letdown is the Battle mode. They have added a new mode called Coin Runners -- two teams competing to collect the most coins. But what is discouraging is their choice to change the Balloon Battle. Balloon battle used to have you taking on three competitors with three balloons above your head. When they were destroyed you were eliminated, and the last one standing with at least one of their balloons won. With this new Balloon Battle you are stuck on a team of eight players duking it out to eliminate your opponents' balloons. There is no longer the urgency of losing all of your balloons. The score is kept on the basis of total balloons lost on the team, instead of elimination. When you lose all three of your balloons, you are basically reborn with three new balloons. This really takes away from the fun of the previous incarnation, and almost turns it into an deathmatch mode. I don't think it really works.
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The controls are excellent in Mario Kart Wii. A nice touch by Nintendo is the Wii steering wheel that comes with the game at no extra cost. There is not much of a learning curve to play with the steering wheel, and it feels much more natural then it did in a game like Excite Truck. The Wii reacts very smoothly to turns of the wheel. If the whole motion-sensor thing isn't up your alley, though, you are always free to use the GameCube controllers as well. This will give you an almost identical feel to the Mario Kart 64 controls.
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Mario Kart Wii is head and tails better than Mario Kart: Double Dash. It has been brought back to the basics of the Nintendo 64 version. Though it takes a different direction with battle mode, the racing remains solid. With the addition of online play, you are always matched up against new opponents that can challenge you. The Wii remote works nicely with the included steering wheel, and those who do not like it can use the GameCube controller. The back-to-basics approach is much welcomed, but the lack of a better online mode and the new battle system do hold it back.
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Worth Buying: 89/100
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Recommended If You Like:
Mario Kart 64 (N64), Wipeout Fusion (PS2), Mario Kart: Double Dash (GameCube), Diddy Kong Racing (N64)