Mario Kart Wii is Dead to Me
Hell hath frozen over. Fenrir has swallowed Odin whole. The twilight of the gods is nigh. I hate Mario Kart Wii. Yesterday I had my first chance to experience a game I had been waiting for since the Wii was released. No one could be more shocked by my reaction than me, but I can’t deny how this game let me down and how I have no desire to ever play it again.
I am a huge fan of the Mario Kart games, I have been since the SNES version. I was addicted back then, must have played that game for four years straight. I would eat generic lucky charms and race around for hours trying to beat my best times and earn the cups over and over again. I never had a N64 so I had no connection with that version, but from all the people I know who love the game that was the version that they fell in love with. Then came Double Dash and I was smitten again. Racing with my friends was key to my happiness. We would unlock all maps and mirror mode and play the Grand Prix Championship (all 16 races) like mad fiends until we thought we were too good and then erase all the data and start over again. We loved it.
That is the heart of my love of Mario Kart, playing with my friends. There have always been three main game types in the Kart: Grand Prix, where characters, vehicles, and races are unlocked; Versus, where you can play against just your friends up to four players; and Battle, with different types of games like straight on bust balloons or race to collect this or that. Grand Prix has been and will always be my main squeeze when it comes to Mario Kart. My roommate and I would unlock all the characters together and were satisfied, but not enormously pleased, when all you got at the end of Double Dash was the golden super car. We expected great things from the next incarnation of Mario Kart. With Smash Bros. Brawl having so many characters and secrets we were sure that Mario Kart would exceed all expectations.
The 32 tracks, half of which are revamped versions of older titles, are spectacular. Remakes aside, lots of tracks just adds awesome. There are loads of characters ready at the get go – including my beloved Toad. There are great cars available, and the addition of bikes to the mix is both welcomed and easy to adapt to. The game looks exactly like Double Dash, with a few added items thrown in and all the animations have been slightly tweaked, but for the most part it’s the same thing. That’s fine though, as I’ve stressed before you don’t play a Wii game for graphics.
So, what’s my big problem with Mario Kart Wii? There is no co-op Grand Prix mode. The main reason for my Mario Kart love affair through the ages has been taken out of this version. You can race your friends against the computer in Solo mode, which is just basic racing, or Team mode, which is Red vs. Blue points style, but you don’t unlock anything in either of those modes. You can only unlock tracks, characters, and cars in single player Grand Prix mode. I was shocked. I was hurt. I was appalled.
I had gone over to my friend’s house to help him unlock the rest of the game and get a early review in. I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to come back to the Robot and write all about how much fun I had and how thrilled I was with a sure-fire Wii masterpiece. I got there and after making a new Mii we started up the game on my License, which is the gamercard (as it were) for Mario Kart Wii. Your license has all your player history and stats, so when you go online you can be ranked with like players and you can have access to the tracks and cars that you’ve unlocked. We didn’t get to try out the online stuff, but I don’t play the Wii for online anyway.
We soon found, however, that we couldn’t Grand Prix together. We could race in three ways: random tracks, in order, and player chooses. You can change the class, CPU ability, track order, items (balanced, aggressive, strategic, or none), and change the number of tracks per race. All good things, right? But I was gutted. They had cut the heart out of my reason for playing Mario Kart. Why did I want to unlock everything solo and then play against my friends for, what, bragging rights? I don’t play Mario Kart for bragging rights, I play it like I play co-op campaign Halo. I play it to be a brother in racing arms with my roommate so that by then end in the final showdown between us and the CPU, one of us has to play kamikaze-style with the toughest characters simply to take them out of the race while the other person races for victory. I like playing that way, I like the adventure of unlocking the game with a buddy. Sure, we aren’t on the same team, but we play together in Grand Prix, that was the best part.
Now I’m not going to debate the whole unlockables thing here, that is another discussion entirely. We’ve touched on that in the past few Robot Sounds. Toku and D are on one side of the fence and I am on the other. There is no debate on the validity of having unlockables in multiplayer games like Mario Kart for me right now. The fact is, one of the main reasons I play Mario Kart is to unlock characters by getting the highest rank and trophy on each track. That is just how I play the game and I adore it. Like I said, it gives me that sense of co-op campaign of other games. That part of the game has been removed, in essence Mario Kart has been lobotomized. Sure, there are tons of racing variations to choose from, but without that push it to the limit sensibility of multiplayer Grand Prix I just don’t want to play the game.
Mario Kart Wii has been getting the reviews I would have agreed with before yesterday with 8s, 9s, and super high percentages across the board. Major attention is being lavished on the online addition to the game, which is as much praise for the game itself as it is ragged hope for future online multiplayer functionality for the Wii in general.
Toku said I was being biased because not everyone plays Mario Kart like me, and that is very true. I am biased, but I am also a diehard frelling Mario Kart fan. This is like Zelda and Halo for me, this is one of those games that I love for life and any sequel or version I am going to play and pretty much love because the formula for enjoyment is so simple. But Nintendo has gone and fracked it up so much for me with the Wii version. Yes, I am biased. Yes, not everyone plays the game like I do. But for those who do, and I do know more than one who does, they will be gutted like I was and the game with be empty in their hands. With no Grand Prix multiplayer to unlock things together, the game is hollow and boring.
So there it is, I don’t want to play this game again. I know it’s a “must have Wii title” and sure, go and get it if you want. I’m sure my roommate will and he’ll want me to play with him and I know I’ll play a few rounds with him, but I won’t be filled with delight. Mario Kart Wii for me was a sad realization, of my own gamer mortality so to speak. It made me sad. Mario Kart Wii made me sad.
And that’s all I have to say on the matter.