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Mario Kart Wii - Play It
The Mario Kart franchise has a special place in my heart. Ever since the moment I walked up to a playable Super Nintendo display at Hills department store and raced around the quasi 3D Mario inspired race tracks, I was hooked. Super Mario Kart became a staple in my household, and I took all of my family members to school regularly, blazing around the tracks as Koopa Troopa. This nostalgia helps me get excited for every Mario Kart release.

The single player mode of the Wii iteration isn't going to get that much face time in this Play It? post. Kart and character options are quite plentiful. Tracks are mostly interesting and the inclusion of classic cups is a nice touch. Blue shells still totally suck. The rest of the items are fine and dandy. Simply, Mario Kart Wii features a good single player mode.

That's enough of that though. Mario Kart Wii is probably the first true first party success story for Nintendo as far as online features are concerned. Releasing only a month after Super Smash Bros. Brawl, it truly puts that game to shame. First and foremost, up to twelve people, and by people I mean real human beings, can race together in a single race online. Up to two players can connect from any one Wii. This has allowed for truly outstanding family races, something that was only possible at gatherings during the holidays before. My fiancee and I (in Rochester) have raced against my mom and dad on their Wii (in Gasport), my sister and brother-in-law on their Wii (in Grand Island), my friend and his fiancee on their Wii (in New Jersey), and another one of my friends who moved to New York City on his Wii.

This is the point where most game players are probably thinking, "Oh wow, this guy just discovered the concept of playing a game online. Where has he been?" Humor me a little bit. It's not like I haven't played online games before. Hell, as most of you probably know, I was quite addicted to Final Fantasy XI for quite some time. The difference with Mario Kart is that the stars have aligned for me in a way they never have before. It's a classic franchise that I've been dying to play online for some time. Sure, Mario Kart DS has been around and online for a while, but that's where the second part of the stars aligning comes into play. The Wii is actually popular! Most of my friends have one and most of them bought Mario Kart already. It's so easy to just fire around some IMs in the evening and have a great race going.

Going by this, the first couple of weeks of owning the game involved me setting up a friend only room and waiting for everyone to join. I then discovered the great "Meet Up" feature! If any of your friends are participating in a random online match, you can tell the server that you would like to meet up with them. Next chance you get, you'll be plugged in and racing right along side them. This, in effect, allows mixed friend and stranger matches! If the online mode stopped right there, I'd be in heaven.

Luckily, it doesn't. Time Trials are also fully integrated with your friends list. You can immediately see how your best times stand up against your friends, or anyone in the world. You can also download the best ghosts from the top racers, as well as request ghosts from your friends. In a way, you can still enjoy the competitiveness of online racing even when your friends aren't on.

Mario Kart Wii truly is the pinnacle of the series, and not because it brings anything especially new and groundbreaking to the core mechanic. It's a great game solely because it is finally easy to play the franchise so many people love online. If you own a Wii, this game had better be in your collection.
By Mike on June 10, 2008 at 8:35pm EDT Topic(s): mario kart wii wii games play it?

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