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Initial Thoughts on Mario Kart Wii
Date 4/30/2008    Tags Video Games    (0)

I've been a fan of the Mario Kart series since it's early SNES days. It was challenging, occasionally cheap, but overall the game play experience always seemed fair and rewarded good driving that came from knowing every turn and shortcut of every course.

The N64 version was good too, bringing on some new twists without straying too far from the original formula. Something strange happened when the Game Cube Double Dash incarnation was released though...

Whereas the original (and N64 version to a somewhat lesser extent) seemed to reward skill more than luck, Double Dash overloaded the course with weapons that could easily allow someone to jump from last to first in one fell lightning bolt. Nintendo seemed to be to be opening up the game more for younger and inexperienced players at the expense of those well versed in the ways of Mario Kart.

The same trend continues to even a larger degree with Mario Kart Wii. Races tend to be a cluster-fuck of 12 races all within a short stretch of road... it's nigh impossible to pull away from the pack on account of lightning bolts, blue shells, POW blocks, and a dozen other Mario flavored weapons sure to ruin your day. Things get even worse if you're running in the middle of the pack, as you can expect to get hit from pretty much all angles. Your only hope is to grab a star, bullet bill, or one of those multi-mushroom things. And chances are that when you do, you'll be propelled to first (or near to first) without breaking a sweat.

It's that sort of game play mechanic that really ruins it for me. I could run a perfect race, in first the entire time, but get hit by an unavoidable blue shell near the finish line and end up taking eighth. Or I could be completely terrible and get a great weapon/item/equalizer in the last lap and pull out a first.

I guess in a way, it's nice that it keeps things close, and does lend some excitement to the end of the races, but there is something more satisfying when I start lapping the computer players because I'm just that much better than them as I often did in the early games in the series.

If I were developing this game at Nintendo, this is how I would fix Mario Kart (and given gems like this, it's pretty safe to assume they'd want to hire me post haste):
1. Remember when the powerful items really meant something? How often in the SNES Mario Kart did you get a Lightning Bolt? I would make the occurrences of powerful items such as lightning bolts much less.

2. There needs to be a way to stop blue shells. Right now, it's a guaranteed hit if you're running in first place. I would make it so that you can put a banana peel or shell behind you to destroy them much in the way you can stop other items. Then at least you have a chance of not getting blowed up.

3. Race courses since the N64 incarnation just seem uninspired. They're too open and too easy to navigate and don't have any crazy shortcuts to take. You should have to slow down at spots, you should have to brake on occasion, and you should have to make tiny hops to avoid things. In short, winning a course should take some skill and knowledge of that course.
Those are just the glaring things, I'm sure I'll have more to add after playing the game for more than a couple days, but I'll leave it at that for now. I haven't delved into the multiplayer aspect of Mario Kart Wii yet either, these are just my thoughts on the fun but lackluster single player experience. I'm really hoping the weapons are toned down some, but I'm certainly not crossing my fingers that they will be.

Maybe one of these days when I get better with XNA (see my first post) I'll put together a game more in vein of the SNES Mario Kart, which i


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