Thursday, February 07, 2008

Mario Kart Wii is Looking Pretty Good

Details from the upcoming Mario Kart Wii are emerging from Japan, and it's looking pretty good. I'm a long-time Mario Kart fan, but I tend to avoid any pre-release hype whenever the newest version arrives. Quite frankly, I don't understand why any hype would exist at all; Mario Kart is Nintendo's most conservative game series by far, and any changes amount to little more than fancy tweaks here and there. Everybody already knows what they're getting - an extremely solid, balanced racer that's perfect for multiplayer.

I'm a great fan of the DS version, enough so to consider it the series' best. Then I go online and enounter that damned, obnoxious "snaking" problem - that's where players can essentially powerslide entirely through courses - and think of changing my mind. But in terms of the basics, from the tight controls to the character roster, the number and variety of cars, and the race courses themselves...Mario Kart DS is my favorite.

It seems that Nintendo isn't changing much of anything for the Wii version. If anything, it's really just the handheld version on a larger screen. Oh, and there are motorbikes, too.

Apparantly, there will be 32 courses again - 16 new, and 16 retro. I'm sure Nintendo doesn't want to overwhelm us, and I'm happy with my DS selections, but I have an honest question here: why not include all the old race tracks? If we're going to follow a retro angle, it seems to be that Smash Brothers Brawl will considerably up the ante. Mario Kart should at least try to follow suit. There's no reason why all the Mario Kart courses couldn't be buried in the game somewhere. It would even be interesting if there were online-exclusives. But there I go, letting my imagination run away again. Nintendo will stick to the tried and true.

If nothing else, I hope Nintendo addresses the snaking issue. It's something that can be easily remedied, like punishing you for taking too many consecutive powerslides. For example, you could add in the element of engine or tire heat. Powersliding too heavily would run the risk of damaging your kart, leading to a nasty spin-out. Have a gauge that fills up every few seconds; once filled, you can run out a couple powerslides right away. Then you would have to wait. This would add an element of strategy to the racing. Since powerslides really make or break races, you would determine just when the right moments would be to use them.

This is kinda like the boosters in F-Zero, in which you were awarded one extra boost with each lap. You could use or save them at your whim. This is but one example of how to fix things.

Anyway, those are my ideas. Fat chance of ever seeing them happen. Why doesn't anybody take advantage of my really great ideas? The prayer of all artists.

Scanning through the newest Mario Kart Wii screenshots on the internets, I noticed one genuinely new addition to the game: stunts. On the motorbikes, at least, it appears you can perform stunts, much like you could back on Wave Race 64. At least a couple of the new racetracks even have half-pipe sections. This could be interesting. I wonder if there'll be a stunt mode. Depends on how many moves you get.

The release date in Japan is currently set for April, which means the game is pretty close to completion. I have no idea when the American version appears. That all depends on Nintendo's schedule for 2008. They may very well hold onto it until the fall, and use it for the next Holiday season. Ugh, I sure hope not. But, hey, I'm not aware of any more big-name titles headed out this year. It's pretty much just Wii Fit, Smash Brothers, Mario Kart, and Animal Crossing. We'll have to wait the usual five years for the next Mario or Zelda, unfortunately. Hey, maybe Nintendo's not making enough Wii consoles for a reason. They know more than the rest of us do.

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