Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mario Kart Wii

Mario Kart Wii features a total of 32 courses to race on, evenly divided between 16 brand-new courses and 16 classic courses taken from previous Mario Kart games. You'll find a total of eight cups in the game, four initially selectable and four to unlock. We got to see four of the eight cups, two classic and two original.

The two original cups were the Mushroom and Flower cups. The Mushroom Cup courses were Luigi Circuit, Moo Moo Meadows, Mushroom Gorge, and Toad's Factory. The Flower Cup was made up of Mario Circuit, Coconut Mall, DK Summit, and Wario's Gold Mine. The two classic cup competitions, Banana and Shell, were composed of tracks from previous games. Banana featured Sherbert Land from the Nintendo 64, Shy Guy Beach from the Game Boy Advance, Delfino Square from the DS, and Waluigi Stadium from the GameCube. Shell included Peach Beach from the GameCube, Yoshi Falls from the DS, the dreaded Ghost Valley from the Super Nintendo, and Mario Raceway from the Nintendo 64.

A total of 12 characters to choose from, broken down into three classes. The light class is made up of Baby Mario, Baby Luigi, Baby Peach, and Baby Koopa. The medium class is made up of Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Yoshi. The heavy class is made up of Wario, Donkey Kong, Waluigi, and Bowser. As you progress, you'll unlock more racers, courses, vehicles, and, most importantly, support to use your Miis. Each racer will have three vehicles to choose from in the kart and bike categories.

Mario Kart Wii's visuals have a typically cartoony look about them with characters and tracks that don't appear to work the Wii hardware too hard. As a result, everything has a very polished and clean look to it with only a few noticeable jaggies here and there. It's nice to see the face-lift given to the classic levels, although the brand-new levels really promise to take the gameplay to new heights.

The audio in Mario kart Wii seems to be taking the same approach as the visuals and offers up the usual array of voice samples, sound effects, and music tracks. We heard the familiar cries from the usual suspects, with some new baby variations for the newcomers. The music tracks balance new content and nostalgia to match the in-game split of classic and original tracks. Our first impression of some of the new tracks is that there isn't anything too catchy in the mix, but we'll withhold judgment until we spend more time with the game.

So far Mario Kart Wii looks like it's got all its bases covered and then some. The overall racing experience has the solid gameplay that has given the series its longevity. The addition of bikes and new racers helps freshen things up some. The online features are welcome additions that should ensure the game remains in heavy rotation in people's Wiis for a good long while. All told, we were pleased by what we saw of Mario Kart Wii. We're eager to spend some quality time with the various game modes and online features to see how they all pan out. Look for more on the game in the coming months. Mario Kart Wii is slated to ship later this year.

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