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Release date: Available now
Review by: Ed Humphries
Nintendo is the Walt Disney of video game development. By that statement, I don’t mean to echo the tired complaints of “kiddie aesthetics” that too often get lobbed their way. Instead, this is high praise for the big N, which, like the House of the Mouse, has perfected the art of finely crafted family entertainment. Like Walt’s kingdom, Nintendo built their empire on the backs of marketable mascots with worldwide appeal, and Mario is often called upon to engage in many extracurricular activities, from baseball to soccer to practicing medicine. Of his side projects, none have been more beloved than the Mario Kart series, which makes its debut on the Wii with Mario Kart Wii.
It’s no secret that the original Mario Kart blazed the trails for an entire sub-genre of mascot-driven kart racers. Through the years, we’ve seen “copy kart” titles featuring Crash Bandicoot, the Cartoon Network stars and even the M&Ms, but none have measured up to the Richard Petty of the circuit, the true King of the Kart genre – Mario.
It’s only fitting that this latest title plays like a greatest hits for a series that first hit gamers’ radars way back in the Super Nintendo days. Mario Kart Wii is designed as a refinement and tribute to the games that have come before and features updated versions of tracks ripped from some of the seminal titles of the past. In addition to the 16 original tracks on display, the game developers have raided the vaults and dusted off 16 greatest hits from the SNES, GBA, N64, Gamecube and DS iterations of the series — meaning fans will get the chance to become reacquainted with some old favorites.
The big draw to the Wii version of Mario Kart is the introduction of the Wii Wheel, which comes packed in with the game (additional wheels can be purchased separately). The Wii Wheel is a plastic shell that contains a hollow compartment where the player inserts their Wiimote. This allows the player to control their kart by steering the wheel with the face buttons and B button controlling the gas and breaks, respectively. As they did with Super Smash Brothers Brawl, Nintendo has also opened up the control scheme to accommodate the Wiimote by itself, with the wheel, with the Nunchuck attachment, the Classic Controller or by using a Gamecube controller.
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