Mario Kart Wii Preview - 05/11/2007

The Mario Kart series is arguably Nintendo's best franchise, and it was obvious it would make its way to the Wii at some point in its life. In 'early 08' every Nintendo fan and Wii owner will have their hands on this, and we can't wait for that day. But before then, let us quench your karting thirst with a preview. Ready? Set? Go!

Firstly, some background story. Mario drove onto the scene back in 1992 on the Super Famicom and Super Nintendo Entertainment System and it had most of the major characters: Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Toad...etc. but the first 'real' Mario Kart game, as we know it today, was Mario Kart 64. It was released on the Nintendo 64 in 1997 and featured fully 3D environments and vehicles. This was the game that kick-started the series in many fans' eyes, as it sold tonnes of copies, and got top reviews left, right and centre. Although the second in the series was amazing, it's gone pretty much downhill from there, in consoles and handhelds eyes anyway.

The following console game, Double Dash, was the first and only Mario Kart game on Nintendo's Gamecube, although the 'karts' were more like themed super-cars. The main feature was that you had one driver, and one character on the back of the Kart, using the power-ups and weapons found on the track. Although it wasn't much of a gimmick, it wasn't received very well, and many would have just preferred an upgraded version of Mario Kart 64 with more extensive features and modes. Lots of handheld instalments came after that, but none lived up to the previous promise created by the original. Nintendo fooled around with a winning formula, and it looks like the same could be said for the Wii version.

Mario Kart Wii, as commonly referred to, has stuck to the classic formula mechanics-wise. The hopping feature is back, so you can tap a button to hop your kart around bends, and they're no longer super-cars, they're back to their old karts. It looks like the turning mechanics will be the same as well, although you'll probably steer by tilting the Wiimote. Nintendo has a job on its hands mapping the buttons to the Wii remote, as it has no shoulder buttons. But hopefully they will be able to steer clear of any mistakes control-wise, as that's one of the only things they've done right every time in the series.

With regards to the tracks, you'll see many of the classic tracks from the 64 game, not to mention the best from Double Dash and the handheld games. The classic tracks that have been confirmed are: Luigi Raceway, basically the massive oval that you have no choice but to drive on in NASCAR games, Peach Beach, which is pretty self explanatory, and Yoshi Falls, which is basically a jungle-ish race that has quite a few different routes to take, plus the traditional inclusion of that classic track, Rainbow Road.

Nintendo have gone out of their wit to make up for graphical inferiority towards the PS3 and 360 for Mario Kart Wii, and they have touted that the environments actually move! Doesn't sound that exciting at first glance, but if you think about it, it will make the game look a whole lot happier, with the trees smiling back at you while you drive past first place, the waterfalls gleaming in the mid-summer sun while you hop round a corner only to be confronted by a red turtle shell. Yes, that's the life.

In this instalment, we have the return of those rainbow shimmering boxes, with all the power-ups and weapons to fill up a fat man's lunch tray. It's going to provoke those 'hop-round-the-corner-and-drive-straight-through-the-gap-and-miss-the-power-ups' moments.

While online hasn't been confirmed yet, screenshots have been released that say 2/12 with the players names flashing above the other karter's vehicles. Mario Kart online could just be the greatest online experience Nintendo has ever created, it was amazing on the DS, but on the Wii? It could be the best online game on the console, full stop. It's been rumoured that there'll be normal races, AND that battle mode will be online.

There's also been screenshots released showing characters doing SSX style tricks. Doing a 360 in the air, maybe some of the SSX Tricky unrealistic tricks where Mario gets out of his kart and does the YMCA on his bonnet? I don't know, but if you can, then it'll probably be done by waggling the Wiimote in certain patterns to match the pre-set tricks, SSX Blur-style. What's the point, I hear you shout? We reckon that you could probably build-up your boost-bar. Remember, you read it on TGSN first!

But I've saved the best for last: Nintendo have, wait for it... included motorbikes in Mario Kart. This could completely change the way you play the game. Think DiRT. The rally races are awesome, and the rally-cross and Rally Raid ones are decent too. But the off-road CORR races are complete cack, they completely stray from the Colin McRae formula. The same can be said for this matter. The bikes could handle totally differently to the karts, meaning two different ways to play it, and, if one is better then the other, online could be ruined by all-motorbike-races. It could also mean an addition to the cup system. A motorbike cup? No thanks, I'll stick to karts thank you very much, Ninty.

Pre-Verdict: If they stick to the classic formula, but add a lag-less online mode, this could and should be the best Mario Kart ever. The inclusion of bikes didn't dampen the score of PGR4 though, did it?

Predicted Score: 9.4

- Tyler Roberts


Nintendo EAD