The lid has pretty much been blown off of Mario Kart Wii. I don’t think that anything has been left secret, thanks to the internet. The Japanese/Euro versions have been screen-capped and recorded to no end. Anything that was secret has now been reported a million times over. If you haven’t been hiding yourself from spoilers, you should know every character, kart, course, and shortcut by now. That doesn’t mean that us North Americans still aren’t eagerly awaiting launch. Hell, I know that I can’t wait to get my hands on that Wii Wheel again. Yes…I really mean that too. Before I had a chance to play MKW, I thought that I would try the Wii Wheel a few times, and then I’d switch back to Cube controls. After the summit, I am 100% sure that I will be playing Wii Wheel style as my regular control method. No, Nintendo hasn’t slipped me any kool-aid filled mushrooms, I came to this conclusion after putting in a ton of MKW time over the two-day summit. I am more than happy to walk you through the steps of my Wii Wheel turnaround.
This was my major problem, and I think it is the same way that a lot of you feel. You are measuring up other motion-controlled racing games to MKW. While Excite Truck had an interesting control scheme, I couldn’t see that working in MKW. Also, the other racing entries on the Wii had left me far less than confident in motion control as a method of racing control. These are the toughts that flooded my mind from the second I found out MKW would have a motion-control option. I think many of us breathed a sigh of relief when we found out that traditional control schemes would be included, as well. If that’s how you want to race, than by all means do so. I just urge you to give the motion control a chance…and more than a 5 minute session.
I had one of my worst fears assuaged after just a couple races with the wheel. I wasn’t over steering my kart at all. I thought I would be zig-zagging all over the tracks. The motion control in MKW is tight…very tight. Over-steering may not even be an option. I never found myself going way off course because I was turning the wheel too much. When I say this, I mean it. For me…I feel that Nintendo has found the perfect area of motion play in-between over-steering, and unresponsive controls. I really felt that the wheel steering matched in great with the karts/bikes I chose. I am not saying that I was a pro within my first hour of motion controlled play. I am saying that by the end of summit day one, I was coming in my usual first, second, and horrible places. Basically, I was matching my play skill level to what I was capable of in other Mario Kart titles.
The motion control isn’t the only thing you’ll have to get used to either. I think I may have had more trouble pressing the buttons I wanted during the race. When using the wheel, B trigger is slide (if on manual), 2 is gas, 1 is break, and directional pad is for items. I kept wanting to use 1 as item, or B as item. It traded off depending on how intense the action was. After I corrected myself from that mistake, I had to get used to the directional pad actually determining where an item is placed. Up on the pad is for throwing an item infront of you, back is for dropping it. I kept hitting down just to use an item, which would result in me wasting items. I kept dropping red turtle shells behind me…which was extremely frustrating. I stuck with it though…and I got used to it. Mario Kart Wii has been largely the same for years now. The gameplay is no different here, but the radically altered control scheme makes it feel like a new experience. There is a certain level of satisfaction in mastering the controls. Once I was drifting around corners, tossing bananas ahead of me…I knew I had made it.
My true test came up on the afternoon of the second day. Through the various media events I’ve gone to, I’ve had the pleasure of becoming friendly with Matt Casamassina at IGN. We are at the point now where we harass each other…which is what any good friend does to another! I kept egging him on for some Mario Kart Wii races, and he was game for the action. I happened to be on one of the couches playing some Kart when he wandered up behind me, and threw down the challenge. We did 4 races to see who would come out on top. These 4 races would be Matt’s first time playing with the Wii Wheel. I kept trying to convince him that it was actually an awesome control method, but he wasn’t too sure of it. That seemed to change by the end of our grand prix.
Being put in a true race setting, against a friend…it makes everything more intense. You really get a feel for how well you can handle the new controls under pressure. It’s this situation that really proved to me that the motion sensing control wasn’t just tacked on. Wii Wheel control is a completely valid method of playing MKW, and I actually recommend it. It makes the game fresh, fun, and it gets you even more into the action. Matt and I were whipping our arms around, and laughing our asses off. At the end of our races, Matt came away convinced that the wheel wasn’t anywhere near as bad as he thought. He still had some qualms, but keep in mind that this was his first time with the wheel. And for those that were wondering…I did manage to steal an overall victory from Matt. It was an awesome prix, trust me!
Mario Kart Wii has new items, motorcycles to check out, tricks, new tracks, a total of 12 racers, online play (first for console kart), and a lot of other features that are new to the series. Still, this is the Mario Kart you know and love. The biggest change has been the controls, and they deserve to be applauded. I have always loved kart, but having a new way to experience it has gotten me more excited about the franchise than I have been in years. I haven’t had an itch for kart this bad since MK64. Take my word…seriously try the motion control. You will have screw-ups at first…and it make take a couple days to work things out. You aren’t working with the issues of motion sensing, you are working with your own learning curve. Motion controls are not broken in Kart…not one bit. I am willing to take those words to the online world, and earn myself that golden Wheel icon. Give motion sensing a try…you will be very surprised at what you find.