Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Mario Kart Wii (Wii, 2008)

Super game here. Hard to believe this launched eight years ago. I don't get to do very many Wii game posts, so this'll be interesting.

 The character select is HUGE. Too huge, actually. I'm not too crazy about it when modern games have super-sized character selects with Every Character Ever From That Series. Modern Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat games do this a lot. I don't know how necessary it is to have four different versions of Sub-Zero be selectable, but there's something to be said for a small, simple roster.

Yeah, like that. I mean, you know who everyone is, it's concise, each one has a definite point to their existence. Fast forward to later games and you've got stuff like


So here we are in Ultimate Mario Kart-bat 3 land. For whatever reason, we have to have baby versions of a bunch of characters. Does anyone actually play as these guys? Funky Kong and Rosalina seem kind of superfluous, but at least they had bit parts in major games.

 What the shit? Not only do we get a returning Koopa Troopa, we get Koopa Troopa WITH NO SKIN.

Dry Bowser, too? It seems that the subterranean horror known as Toad has been busy in his workshop.

They say Hell has nine circles. Lost to time is the tenth circle, which is where Toad's original form rests.

This game also features bikes instead of just karts. Not sure how I feel about this. I mean, the game isn't supposed to be Mario Xtreme BMX. Here we see that sexy minx Princess Daisy on a motorcycle. I can't tell if she's wearing shorts or extra-tight riding pants, but either way it's safe to say that's a bike I would like to be.

WHATTHEHEY? Yes, this game has EIGHT cups. The top four are the usual, while the bottom four are these kinda postgame "retro cups" that enhance tracks from earlier in the series. Lightning Cup makes a return, but it's a retro cup series rather than "main quest" as it were. Not sure if I'll cover the retro cups in this post or just the main four, since the retro cups feature stages that I've already covered in other games... for the most part.

A huge stadium has gathered for WRESTLLLLLE! MANIAAAAA! The 6th Mario Kart race. 6th? But this is only the fifth post! Unfortunately, covering Mario Kart DS wasn't feasible. Nor is covering the 3DS installment, Mario Kart 7.

 There are a few methods to control this game, and the most famous is to plug the Wiimote into a steering wheel controller deal. Instead, I'm using Gamecube controls. No idea how the Wiimote/wheel combination works.

For my first character, I choose... Funky Kong! ::air guitars::

The first thing that stands out about this game are the improved visual-

-the fuck? I can't see! I! CAN'T! SEEEEE!

Here's the Zeldesque Moo Moo Farm, back again. Moo Moo's back. Tell a friend.

 Mushroom Gorge is pretty cool, also has the vibrant colors of the previous stages. As I was saying, the visuals in this game are the best in the series up to this point. Very nice. Technically the system specs are pretty much the same as Double Dash, but this game is bigger memory-wise and actually improves on the resolution from that game. It also has the weird "glow effect" that a lot of Wii games have that enhances the look. It still isn't HD, but it's hard to tell.

I take back what I said about Mushroom Gorge being "pretty cool". There are some trampoline-mushrooms that you need to cross, and I'm finding it very difficult to control the direction of my kart as I fly across them. It's easy to go hurdling into the pit with zero control over your fate.


The final stage in Mushroom Cup is... Toad's Factory. The less said, the better. I saw horrors there unlike anything you can imagine.

Moments after this picture was taken, the giant plush Toad got up and began to walk around. The mushroom cap atop his head fell off, and underneath was a writhing bundle of yellow tentacles.

I floored it and got the hell out of there.

Bride of Toad was following closely behind, but I won the gold for this series. It's worth noting that this game follows the same template as Double Dash where all of the CPU racers have very set positions. Makes it easier for the player to fall behind or lose, because your foes aren't diffusing points among them to give you the win like they were in the first couple games and the republican primary.

Those damn island-people from Mario Sunshine return here, and they're as weird and uncomfortable as ever. Here we see them lining the victory route as our hero goes to claim the gold.

I was expecting this game to have a Mario Galaxy tint to it, following the trend of the series, but it doesn't seem to. Perhaps Double Dash / Mario Sunshine was the last such tandem, and now this has gone off as its own series. Makes sense, they have enough Mario platformer material for a zillion Kart games already.

Flower Cup is next up. Wonder if DK Summit will be like DK Mountain in the previous game. That place was rad!

Mario Circuit is fairly plain, except for the jump. My favorite part of these games? The jumps. The original Super Mario Kart had, I think, two major jumps in the whole game. These later installments have tons.

The Coconut Mall level is like something out of a Tony Hawk game. Unfortunately, there are no bonus points here for sliding down the sides of escalators.

One thing I didn't notice while playing... the seemingly two-dimensional Miis looking on overhead. Wow, that's... that's very creepy.

DK Summit is NOT the same DK level as the previous game, but it does have an awesome barrel cannon blast midway through. This one sends you upward past a bunch of ski lifts and cabins.

I like this level a lot, but then I'm a snow/ice level thusiast. When it comes to that Final Fantasy VII remake, I hope the snowboarding section gets a graphic remodeling along these lines.

Wario's Mine is an interesting level. It has outdoor sections with a sweet view of a sunset in the background, then...

 ...the mines themselves, which are intriguing. What's he mining for? Has he run out of funds from selling his loot? ...or is the real answer more sinister? Is Wario constructing an army of terminators?

Star Cup is where things get a little bit difficult, as always. It's also home to some VERY cool levels.

Daisy Circuit has an amazing sky, and that's pretty much what makes the track. Without that, it'd be a generic island stage.

Look at how happy Yoshi is. I can't help but get happy myself at this. ...wait a minute, is he driving the time machine from The Time Machine?

 Nope. Similar, though.

Koopa Cape isn't my favorite level, but it does have this underwater tunnel. Reminds me of that underwater reactor dungeon in Final Fantasy VII. I really seem to have that game on my mind today.

This level is particularly annoying because right before the end of the lap, there's a section with a waterfall that drags you down into a pit if you so much as touch any part of it. If this happens you instantly lose something like 5 or 6 places in the race, and since it's right before the end, you're screwed.

 Maple Treeway has great visuals. It's autumn-themed, which means multichromatic leaves everywhere. They're falling from above, they're on the trees, they line the ground... it's quite nice.

Behold, giant Wigglers. When I was a kid I really liked the art design of these things for some reason. When I actually saw one ingame for the first time in Super Mario World, it was a little bit of a letdown because they were smaller than I expected.

Grumble Volcano is a fire level in the purest sense. Don't fall off.

Now that I'm at roughly the halfway point of the game, there are a couple problems that I need to talk about that I haven't made reference to yet.

One - The powerups. Much like Double Dash, nearly ALL of the powerups I get are either bananas or green shells. Sometimes I get red shells (I'd say it's a 50/40/10 percent ratio, respectively). And that's it. I never get any of the cool powerups that the CPU seems to be using on me constantly, and it doesn't make any sense. It certainly isn't fully randomized the way it is in the early games.

Two - Being in first place sucks. A moment ago I mentioned that the CPU constantly uses powers on me that I never seem to get. Well, when you're in first place it gets much worse. I constantly get bombarded with blue shells, red shells, lightning bolts, and that weird squid ink power that I showed near the beginning. And if you get hit with a couple of these in a row, you're going to fall a BUNCH of places in the race. It's very frustrating and cheap.

Editor's Note: Still pretty sure that you get better powerups if you fall to a lower position. Still, it's punishing you for success.

I wasn't going to cover the retro cups, but I have some extra free time today and they're unlocked for me already so let's do it. They seem to evenly divide up stages from the previous five games pretty well. Each one has two to four stages represented.

You might remember this shot from the previous post. It's the same level, and it looks virtually the same. Only huge difference is that I think the water has more visual layers. It isn't as Gamecubey.

 Yoshi Falls is from the DS game, and the major thing that stands out here is how simple the track is. It's about half the length of the usual tracks in this game and there's nothing complex to it. Mario Kart DS is somewhat simplified compared to the console games.

 One of the Super NES Ghost Valley stages is next, and while it has the same destructable walls alongside the track, it's hard to recognize. This would be a good time to mention something about the items. All of these bananas that I constantly get? Well, I drop them on the track, but for the most part the CPU avoids them. The end result is that after a while the track is full of bananas that I dropped, which just gets in my way quite a bit.

 Yoshi seems to be the best character overall from the few that I've tried. So far I've had good luck with him, and easily took the gold on the Shell Cup.

Look at Waluigi being all evil. Funny thing is, standard Luigi still looks more evil.

Seems like these retro cups are on Mushroom Cup difficulty so far. The Shell Cup was extremely easy, and the Banana Cup is the same way. It'd make sense if Leaf and Lightning ramped up the difficulty since they're under Star and Special, but I wouldn't be surprised if the low difficulty persists through all of the retro cups.

Sherbet Land is a stage that I liked a lot on the N64. More of the same here, only now it has the Wii Glowy Effect (tm) which enhances ice quite a bit.

N64 penguins!

I remember this stage from Super Circuit. That shyguy pirate ship in the distance is hard to forget.

 Delfino Square is another DS track. Gotta say, bringing back tracks from other games is a GREAT idea. Looks like the DS Kart is another Mario Sunshine themed game, unfortunately.

I like the layout of this stage, though. It reminds me of the cities in Assassin's Creed 2, with cobblestone sidewalks everywhere instead of roads. 

Waluigi Stadium... I already discussed this in the previous post, and it's still lame. Waluigi is such an uninventive character that even his level was stolen from Wario.

Continuing on, I notice that the Super NES seems to be the least-represented of the retro system games. Only two SNES tracks appear in the entirety of the retro cups.

In any case, since Yoshi is easily rolling over the competition, I'm going to go for a heavier character for this one. Dry Bowser's time is upon us!

Desert Hills is another DS track, and again it's very simplistic

Bowser Castle, GBA version. Resolution-wise, these revamped stages aren't graphically up to par with the modern GCN/Wii stages... kinda like PS3 HD remakes of PS2 games never being up to visual par with regular PS3 games. Or how all of those dual-release PS3/PS4 games don't look as good on PS4 as games made specifically for PS4 do.

In DK's Jungle Parkway, Dry Bowser leaps over a lake of pee. Damn it, Donkey Kong! We have bathrooms for a reason!

The Wii version of this track also features Peach's Castle in the background, but it's the weird Uncanny Valley version from the previous game (seen here in glowy slightly-upscaled form). We basically have two of this same stage in this game, since it has a "new" version and the very similar GCN version.

Well, Leaf Cup was fairly boring, but it did turn the difficulty up a notch. Let's see what the Lightning Cup has to offer. Hey, Bowser is back to normal!

Ah, I definitely recognize this. I'd know those multi-colored block walls from the Super NES game anywhere. They also nailed the simplistic backgrounds.

Peach Gardens is a surprisingly complex DS stage. There's a hedge maze, multiple paths to take, and a generally good look. Insert joke about the princess trimming her hedges here. 

DK Mountain... just played this in the previous game. The long barrel cannon blast is still awesome, but there should be a rule about these games not using tracks from the game right before them in their retro cups. There's basically almost no graphical difference in this case, and I'd have rather seen DK Mountain get a full HD version in Mario Kart 8.

I spend a lot of time shrunk. In first place, the CPU just does NOT LET UP with the attacks on you, and lightning bolts are perhaps the most irritating.

Another Bowser Castle, this one N64. Something I've noticed about this game - and I'm not sure if this has been the case in the others - is that the camera seems to really be tilted downwards. It's difficult to see much of the sky unless you're going upwards or going off a ramp. During normal driving, you're mostly looking at a lot of floor. Mostly.

 After finishing the Lightning Cup, credits roll. Wait, that was the last one? What about the Special Cup? I will say that the Lightning Cup is by far the most difficult of the four retro cups, so it makes sense. I couldn't do better than third place on that last Bowser Castle track, but I still got the gold overall.

The ending screen is quite festive. I like that the player's Mii is center-stage. Or in my case, the Mii of the guy who unlocked everything.

Without further ado, it's time for the Special Cup. I'm eager to get back to new tracks designed specifically for this game. For this one, I dust off Mario. It's his game, so he should get the last word.

Dry Dry Ruins is an awesome desert level, complete with pyramids and obelisks. I think I have an official favorite level for this game. If there's one thing I like more than ice levels, it's desert levels. This does have a bit too much in common with the desert level in the previous game, though, and has a bit of a "been there, done that" feeling.

And speaking of which, Moonview Highway has a bit too much in common with Mushroom City from the previous game. It's got the bright lights, but it simply isn't as interesting as MC. Maybe because the camera is tilted down more, and you can't really see the cityscape in its full glory.

Mario celebrates in his Not Time Machine while being glowy.

Bowser Castle is penultimate again. These graphics look very World of Warcraft. Did I just arrive in Outland?

The interior is all twisty and surreal.

Through hell fire and brimstone! Is it time for the raid boss yet?

 This is it, the grand finale. GET READY FOR VERTIGO!


 Rainbow Road is prettier than ever, as well it should be. I like the sheer density of the star field.

Our hero jumps to Ludicrous Speed during Rainbow Road's super-jump. I'm so glad the track has this.

The eldritch horror known as Toad overtakes Mario near the end of the stage. Cover your balls, Mario!

Even though I ended up in third place, I still took the gold overall.

Credits roll again. Actually, finishing the Special Cup gives you the exact same ending that the Lightning Cup does.

 That's it for this one, with Mario reigning supreme. He has culled enough favor with The Dark One for Toad to allow him this meager victory.

This series is awesome. So much fun. If you've never gotten into it, you're missing out. That said, I enjoy the first two games (SNES and N64) a lot more than the later games. It seems like the series became something different after Super Circuit. The Wii installment is fairly irritating in a lot of ways, and the series went south a bit when it brought in Waluigi and a bunch of babies. Still, if you can look past those things, it's a series worth playing.


  1. Both of the issues you cited, not getting the good power-ups and enemies bombarding you, are a result of being in 1st place too much. So you were being punished for being too good at the game :)

    I don't like it either, and you're right, the original game was actually randomized.

  2. The original Mario Kart may have had a total random selection on the items, but 64 on determines what items you get by what place you're in. I imagine it changes the percentage chance of each item depending on where you are, with a lightning bolt at 1% in first place or something like that. It's just a standard part of Mario Kart from 1997-on, though some games are more notorious than others when it comes to being hit while in first.

    I never played much of the DS Karts myself, but both the DS one and 3DS one are very highly regarded. I do remember DS had a sweet SMB3 airship stage.

    I can't argue that I would have preferred DK Mountain in Mario Kart 8, but if they held back on GCN courses in this then more of them might have been in MK8 and that wouldn't have been as nice. Incidentally, my favorite thing about the track is actually driving DOWN the mountain.

  3. OK mate it's time to tell you Kart 64 tricks about being in 1st place that I learned (not sure if it still works in later versions). You don't actually drop your banana peels; you hold them behind you and they block/cancel out the shells others throw at you (works for all except the blue shells.) As for the green shells, you're firing them backwards, right? It's absolutely true you get weaker items if you're on top (it's a Democratic game not a Republican one) but you can still do some good things with them.

    I think it's cool that the Mario series as so many items that can become cup namesakes. I'd go with a dino egg cup before a banana peel cup though, heh.

    I agree with you it's not necessary to have such giant character selects if the skill sets are too similar. Can be done well too though, like in Smash Bros.

    Again, I'm really appreciating seeing all the tracks.

    Looking at the floor seems more useful for driving while the sky is more for enjoyment. Interesting tradeoff and I'd applaud the game if it gave you a camera-tilting option.

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