We've been tailing Mario Kart Wii since its announcement at E3 last year, but now that we have an actual retail copy to play at home, we're finally able to share with you some quick impressions of the game. Click through to read our thoughts on the Wii Wheel, online multiplayer, the Mario Kart channel and more:
- Wii Wheel: Nintendo's packaged peripheral is not as bad as we feared, especially when compared to playing the game with just the Wii remote. Nintendo has integrated a Wii Wheel icon into the game that appears next to your name when you use the wheel and tracks your "Wii Wheel %" usage. Truthfully, as long as you play without attachments (Wii Wheel or not), it'll count towards this stat, but trust us: you will not want to use the Wii remote without the wheel. There's also a golden Wii Wheel icon -- and from what we gather the "gold" means you've won a number matches using the peripheral (a "master," if you will). Despite the usability of the wheel, we still prefer the Classic Controller or Wii remote plus Nunchuk. Click here for a more detailed analysis.
- Online Multiplayer: Options include worldwide, regional and friends. The numerical ranking will probably end up as addicting as it was in Tetris DS. Choosing worldwide, we had 12 opponents within a minute, most of them from Japan (with one player from Austria). One neat visual cue is a spinning globe that geographically pinpoints exactly where the players are. As an added bonus, you get to see the other players' games while you wait to join, and unlike Smash Bros. Brawl, you actually see the names of the opponents you're racing against. Online matches were lag-free, though we have no idea how well the game's servers will hold up on launch day and the weeks following.
- Nostalgia: There's no way around it. For better or worse, this game is like every other Mario Kart game you've played. The mechanics most closely resemble that of Mario Kart DS, with drifting and hopping power slides. And of course, the nostalgia is most fueled by the tracks, half being from previous games in the series.
- Rubber Band AI: File this under "bad nostalgia." In our very first race, we ended up passing into first place 30 seconds from the finish line. At that point, we were hit by (and we're not exaggerating here) a red shell, a blue shell and a lightning bolt, all in quick succession. Needless to say, we dropped to 8th almost instantly. Like all other Mario Kart games, it's best to hang around in 2nd or 3rd place until the very last moment.
- New Additions: So far, we've had a positive experience with all the new items and stages we've seen. The addition of bikes is also interesting, although we've yet to see a noticeable benefit from performing a wheelie.
- Mario Kart Channel: A welcome addition! We hope more online-centric Wii games start capitalizing on this idea. View your friends, check out/download ghost data, rankings (sorted by friends, region and worldwide), join in tournaments, and invite friends via your console-specific friends list all from the Wii's main menu.