I had been thinking about reviewing Mario Kart Wii since I picked it up a few weeks ago, but didn’t really have much to say about it. The first time I sat down to write a quick draft, I started the title with, “Mario Kart Wii is More of the Same…” Hold the phone! This seems all too familiar. The following day, Ryan Davis (formerly of GameSpot) over at Giant Bomb wrote about Mario Kart Wii and totally hit the nail on the head. The bottom line, is that Nintendo has stopped evolving their successful franchises, instead relying on the existing fan base to buy into each and every regurgitation. The last two generations of Nintendo consoles have been particular bad for this. But since the Wii is merely a tiny step up from the GameCube in the graphics and sound departments, these new titles feel immediately dated. As much as it seems like Nintendo simply isn’t trying any more, that’s not the case for a couple of reasons.

Mario Kart Wii

For one, they’re sticking with proven formulas that people love and have brought them success. With each regurgitation, there’s always new features and usually new characters and game modes. So it’s not like they’ve halted growth entirely. Nintendo has always been known for making games that just about anyone can pick up and play. They can never lose that aspect, and it appears they’re well aware of that.

On the other hand, Nintendo has taken some massive risks and stepped out onto a limb that didn’t even exist on numerous occasions. In recent years, they’ve come up on top repeatedly. The DS, the Wii… need I say more? They try when it really counts, and as much as their top franchises are average regurgitations, the fact that it’s still hard to find a Wii in stock proves that it doesn’t even matter.


Comments

I’ve been hoping and waiting that you would write something up about Mario Kart on the Wii.

I played it to death on the SNES and the only thing that has ever rivalled it since is probably Goldeneye MP on the N64.

I’ve heard good things and bad things about it but I still don’t think it will stop me from picking it up eventually.

Mariokart is Mariokart afterall…

There aren’t really any bad things about, aside from those annoyances that have always been present in the Mario Kart franchise. Nothing new, I mean. It’s the same old Mario Kart with a few new bits.

The wheel is nice, though. I thought it was going to be hard to use, but I actually prefer it. I haven’t seen anyone struggle with it, either. I’ve put it in the hands of my 9 year-old daughter and my 52 year old mother, and a bunch of friends around my age… by the end of the first lap, everyone had a full grasp on it.

I think I mentioned in another comment on your blog about how my Wii collection looks eerily similar to my Gamecube collection… You know, a Mario game, a Zelda game, a Mario Kart Game, a Smash Bros Game, a Metroid Game, a copy of Resident Evil 4, etc…

Very few differences between most of them. If nothing else, at least Zelda evolved with some amazing art direction, and Metroid pioneered an amazing control scheme. Smash Bros, Mario Kart, and Mario Galaxy on the other hand, while by far the best of their respective lineages are still more of the same that came before them.

I can’t say I’m not happy with the situation. I LOVE all of these games, and I almost side with Nintendo in that I’m not sure I WANT a lot of change in these games. Part of the great thing about Zelda is the tradition. The boomerang. The Hookshot. Finding an item in the dungeon that will help you complete said dungeon. Same deal with Smash Bros. It’s the epitome of fanservice 2D fighting. All we really need are tweaks. Taking things 3D or changing the % system to a ‘life bar’ or what have you just wouldn’t go over well.

I’m not really sure what to think. As gamers we’re supposed to look for a praise innovation, but most Nintendo games are the culinary equivalent of a meal at a good soul food restaurant. Everything’s just as you remember it, and that’s what makes it enjoyable. Personally, I don’t need fennel and caviar in my mac and cheese.

I’m not sure how my opinion came across here? I wasn’t trying to praise Nintendo for sticking to old formulas, but I also wasn’t barraging them either. I definitely think they should catch some flack for hardly evolving, but I wanted to point out that they do take risks when it really matters.

That said, there’s lots of things they could have done to keep growing these franchises without jumping any sharks. First thing that comes to mind for Mario Kart, is a rival system. Similar to the Burnout series, but more animated and silly like Team Fortress 2. Instead of doing things like that, they take the easy route by adding new tracks, characters, vehicles, etc.

Is there anything exciting in the Wii’s future? I can’t think of a single game coming out in the next year worth mentioning.

Short, but great write up, Matt. I almost picked up a Wii on the weekend, but I honestly couldn’t tell you why I stopped myself. Nothing against it, though.