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JordanElek Blog

Why No More Heroes should not win Wii Game of the Year

Awarding No More Heroes with Wii Game of the Year would send a message to publishers and developers:

Don't bother fine tuning a game to be all that it can be. Don't waste your time making every aspect of the game fun. Don't worry about tweaking the technical aspects to make it run smoothly. Just come up with an original, clever idea and not only will we buy it, we'll give it awards.

I love the style of No More Heroes. I love the over-the-top craziness of the combat system. I love the idea of having ten unique bosses with their own personalities.

Everything else is terrible.

The city is a complete waste of time. If the game had no roamable city but kept all the other gameplay elements intact, it would be a much stronger title. I feel like half the time I spend playing the game is wasted because of the pointless driving to and from places in the city. The funnest part is driving over trees and lightpoles with the bike, and that's sad.

The jobs are boring and tedious. I don't mind the idea of having jobs, but none of them are very fun. I understand that perhaps the point is that doing a real job isn't fun, so it shouldn't be fun in a game either, but seriously.... Why play a game if it's not fun?

The missions are all pretty much the same. Kill a bunch of guys in a relatively small area within a time limit. This would be okay for two or three of the mission types, but not all of them.

The bosses' personalities aren't developed well enough. The whole process of getting to the boss should reveal something about the boss, yet all we get is a series of tunnels and generic enemies for nearly every boss mission. Thought and creativity was put into the boss characters themselves, and that should be developed much more than it is.

These aspects can be ignored to enjoy the game, so I've heard, but they can't be ignored when deciding whether it deserves an award. I'd give it the Most Wasted Potential Award and send the message that we appreciate good ideas but only when they're executed well.

I actually have high hopes for No More Heroes 2. The foundation is already set, and perhaps the potential can be reached with more time to work on the details. My guess is that the first game was rushed out by the publisher, because there are so many aspects of it that seem incomplete, especially the city and boss missions.

Maybe NMH2 can win best Wii Game of 2009, but it would send a dangerous message if NMH were to win in 2008.

CBS taglines and some updates

You know those headlines from other CNet affiliates right below your username box at the top of the page? Some of the ones for CBS are nuts. I saw one yesterday that said "Don't go outside and enjoy the sun" - clicking it took me to the CBS daytime schedule. Just now, I saw one that said "High definition is better than real life," which took me to their selection of HD videos.

Either the writer of those tags is clueless, or he's deliberately making fun of CBS. Either way, I love it. Some of the tags for other sites have been great as well, such as the link to P Diddy's review of Hancock. I know they're blatant ads, but I like them.

Anyway, I've been busy lately, working a few 50-hour weeks, going to weddings on the weekends, hanging out with people all day on Sundays. I just got another job, too, so I'll be busy for the rest of the summer.

Thanks to those who have kept me in the loop while I've been busy - remmbermytitans for giving me the lowdown on E3, JAB991 for giving me some Wii forum info, bob_newman for checking up on me. I appreciate it. :)

A detailed evolution of Mario Kart (Double Dash)

Double Dash sits by itself next to the other Mario Kart games. It changes much of the core gameplay, but the changes are all in small tweaks, not major overhauls. Most of the features that are introduced in Double Dash haven't been continued in the DS or Wii versions, which is a good thing in some cases and a bit disappointing in others. Overall, Double Dash is a very competitive and moderately difficult entry in the series, and it offers the best offline multiplayer experience of them all.

There's a lot to say about this game, so if you hate words, you'll have to brush up on your skimming skills, skip to the conclusion, or grab a snack. This is another long read.

Features

- Two characters per kart, allows for two items at once
- First game to offer selection of vehicles, which have different speed, acceleration, and weight ratings
- New ranking system in Grand Prix - no more retries
- GP ratings (A, B, C, Star, etc.) that were introduced in Super Circuit are missing from DD
- Touchy controls, very similar to MK64
- No hopping
- No drafting
- Easier to execute drift boost
- Nothing really slows you down
- Levels are tight and feel fast

Nintendo was trying new things with nearly all of its franchises on the Gamecube. Mario Kart's big change was using two characters at once - one drives, the other uses weapons, and they can switch on command. In single player, having two characters isn't much different from having one character like the other games. The main difference is in weapons, but I'll get to that later. The real difference (and the real fun) comes in co-op with a friend, but I'll get to that later as well.

Double Dash introduces the ranking system in Grand Prix mode that we recognize in both versions since - there are no retries. From first to last, the points awarded are as follows: 10, 8, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0. As I explained in the MK64 entry, this ranking system actually allows you to do poorly overall. The old ranking system forced you to either do really well or fail completely before finishing the cup. The system that DD introduced is much more fitting for the online versus mode that you can play with friends in the Wii version. This is the most valuable feature of Double Dash since it set the framework for a viable ranking system in future games that feature online multiplayer.

Nothing has as much of an effect in DD as in the other games. Hitting a wall causes you to simply glance off with only a slight loss in speed. Driving off-road, depending on the characters and kart, will only slow you down slightly. Driving into a course obstacle, such as a thwomp or a fireball or a cactus guy, will spin you out but hardly slow you down. This makes for a more hectic race, granted, but it also allows for a wide margin of error. Someone who sucks at driving in DD won't fall nearly as far behind as in the other games, especially since the drift boost doesn't help as much.

Considering the above, the speed of the game feels pretty fast, especially since the levels are generally tight rather than wide open. However, there are no items that increase your speed for an extended period of time. Even mushrooms don't do much. Weapons in general don't do much, actually.

Weapons

- Every character has a special weapon in addition to the normal weapons that everyone can use
- Normal weapons - single red and green shells, single banana, fake item box, mushroom, triple mushroom, star, lightning, blue shell
- Special weapons - triple red or green shells, giant banana, giant shell, bob-omb, egg, heart barrier, chain chomp, fireballs
- Physically bigger weapons
- Can't be held behind you
- Have less of an effect overall
- No catch-up-quick items
- Many more blue shells than previous games

Since every character has a special weapon, character selection is about more than simply what type of racing you prefer. You'll pick up your special weapon seemingly at random, even in first place. Some are better than others, but they're all pretty cool. This is one of the features of DD that probably should've remained in the games that followed. There's nothing like racing in Baby Park with two or three giant shells bouncing around.

The most obvious difference in DD from the other games is that weapons don't have much of an effect. Bananas will spin you out, but you don't lose much speed in the process. Rather than stopping completely, your kart spins around a few times and keeps going, much like when you do the trick to avoide the POW in the Wii version. Shells and fake item boxes make you tumble and almost stop, but you can hit someone in front of you with three well-timed red shells and you'll frequently just barely catch up.

Another huge difference in DD is the utter lack of speed weapons. Three mushrooms is the biggest speed boost possible; but since mushrooms don't give you that much of a boost, they can't help nearly as much as something like a super mushroom would. Mushrooms can be used offensively in DD, though, since you can steal weapons from other drivers if you hit them while boosting. This is another feature that should've been kept in future versions.

If you fall behind, your best chance of catching up is to rely on the AI's slower driving and their uncanny ability to hit any items strewn across the course. Like MK64, the AI's speed is directly affected by the human player's position. If you're in front, they'll drive faster, and if you're behind, they'll drive slower. It isn't as exaggerated as in MK64, but it's still fairly obvious. They'll also run into pretty much any weapon (bananas, fake item boxes, shells) laying on the course.

The result of the above is that catching up is mostly out of your control. Of course, you need to drive well and use whatever weapons you get; but most of the catching up is the direct result of the AI letting you catch up. Granted, it isn't nearly as easy to catch up in DD as in MK64, since you'll usually place in third to fifth if you drop too far behind in any given race after mid-second lap. Basically, the AI is an improvement over the previous games, but it still doesn't put the results of the race in your hands. It doesn't allow you to rely on good weapons or even good driving to catch up; rather, the AI changes its own tendencies to make it easier for you to catch up.

Weapons can't be held behind you, but that doesn't mean that they can't be used defensively. Bananas or green shells must be plopped as you hear the red shell warning in order to block them. This requires a bit more attention and strategy than any of the other versions. Red shells can also be avoided by drift boosting just before the shell hits your kart. The brake trick to avoid spinning out on bananas is missing from DD, though like I said, they don't do much damage anyway. Bananas and shells are also physically bigger than in any other game, making them harder to avoid.

Compared to any previous game, there are a ton of blue shells, but there aren't as many as in MKDS or MKWii. Double Dash introduced the winged blue shell, which is one of the things that most people argue should've only been in DD. The old blue shell that travels along the ground is superior, since it actually helps the person who uses it by potentially hitting the people between him and the leader. The flying blue shell only hits the leader and maybe a racer or two in close proximity, so it helps the karts that are already in second and third, not the karts that are in seventh and eighth who launched the shell in the first place.

Lastly but most importantly, items are fairly well balanced amongst all the racers from first to last. The leader will only get shells and bananas and fake item boxes, while the person in last will get mushrooms, blue shells, red shells, and lightning (lots of lightning). The spectrum of racers in between get weapons appropriate to their ranking, even amongst the AI, who seem to get the same weapon selection as human players. This is a huge step up from any of the previous games and has been present in both versions since.

Modes

- Grand Prix - single player, two- three- and four-player co-op
- Versus - up to four players, any combination of co-op and single
- Battle - same as versus
- Time Trial
- LAN play for up to eight human players

Co-op mode is just plain fun. Each player controls his own character, which means that they can switch off driving and weapons at any time during a race. The starting line boost can be doubled if both press the gas at the right time. The drift is controlled by the driver while the drift boost is controlled by the weapons guy. The weapons guy can sideswipe other vehicles to steal weapons by pressing the shoulder buttons. It's hectic and strategic and awesome. Every mode except Time Trial can be played co-operatively.

In Versus, you have the option of changing the number of laps and the frequency of weapons, and you can even turn weapons completely off if you want.

Battle mode includes Shine Thief and Bob-omb Blast for the first time, as well as the traditional balloon battle. The downside is that the six battle courses all pale in comparison to the N64 stages.

Conclusion

Double Dash is a great game because it tried lot of new things. The problem is that some of those changes were for the worse, and some of them remained confined to Double Dash when they should've become standard for the series. The AI is much improved over the N64 version, but the AI in the more recent versions is much more refined. The weapons are balanced, though the players at the back of the pack aren't offered anything of significance that will help them catch up. The co-op modes offer the most fun of any MK game, and that fun is only trumped by the online play offered in its successors.

If nothing else, Double Dash introduced the series to improved AI, improved weapon balance, improved multiplayer experiences, and an improved ranking system that have all remained in the series since. It had more to offer the series, such as individualized special weapons, and it's a shame that Nintendo didn't recognize those strengths and allow them to remain in the evolution of the series.

A detailed evolution of Mario Kart (Super Circuit)

This entry is long. Soooooorry.

Simply put, Super Circuit is the beautiful child of Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 64. It borrows heavily from both games and adds a bit of its own flavor to the mix. If you're tired of all the weapon-heavy mayhem of the more recent Mario Karts, pick yourself up a copy of Super Circuit for the GBA slot of your DS. It'll provide a long-lasting challenge that you can't get with either SMK or MK64.

Features

- Three laps per race in the GBA original tracks
- All Super Mario Kart tracks are unlockable as Grand Prix circuits
- Five laps per race in the Super Mario Kart tracks
- Controls like SMK, with the addition of drift boosting
- Features coins to boost max speed
- No drafting
- No kart selection, though every character has special traits (Yoshi is a good off-roader, Toad accelerates, etc.)

Super Circuit feels like two different games, depending on which tracks you choose. If you play a GBA circuit, the tracks have a bit of room to maneuver, allowing for more drift boosting. They also have more item boxes per lap. Borrowing somewhat from Mario Kart 64, most tracks have obstacles, such as the bombs on Shy Guy Beach (reproduced in the Wii version), lightning clouds and falling stars on Rainbow Road, and wandering ghosts in the Haunted Pier levels. These levels are fun and hectic, and require a good balance of driving skill and weapon strategy.

The Super Mario Kart tracks, however, are much tighter and shorter with fewer item boxes and less room for driving error. At 150cc, it feels like the game runs way too fast for the tracks. You'll find yourself letting off the gas to get around most of the quick turns rather than drifting through them. Offensive items are practically useless unless the other drivers are right on top of you, because there are almost no straightaways in any of the tracks. These levels are still really fun, but like I said, they feel much different.

The reason I bring these things up is that I think it's more accurate to judge the game based on the GBA original tracks, not the SMK tracks. The SMK tracks provide a significant added challenge. They also provide a healthy dose of nostalgia if you haven't played SMK in awhile. In fact, if you own Super Circuit, there shouldn't be much reason for you to ever go back to SMK. As I'll point out, Super Circuit fixes many of the problems that SMK suffers from.

Weapons

- Offensive weapons - green shells (single and triple), red shells (single and triple), bananas (single only), invincibility star, ghost, lightning, blue shell
- Ghost "haunts" the leader, slowing him down and stealing his weapon
- Shells and bananas can be held behind you as defense
- Red shells follow the path of the track somewhat.... they can be unpredictable
- No super mushroom or triple mushroom
- Item boxes respawn almost immediately (AI can pick up items)

The biggest step that Super Circuit takes is in the AI's weapon usage. Unlike SMK, the AI actually picks up item boxes and uses the same items that you do. And unlike MK64, they use more than bananas. You'll often see the AI using shells on other AI karts, mushrooms, stars, bananas. They use lightning occasionally, maybe once per circuit at most on average.

I don't know how many circuits I played in preparation for this entry (probably well over 30), and I only saw one blue shell. I was crossing the finish line about to lap someone, and I caught a glimpse of a blue shell on his butt right before the view changed. I never got hit with a blue shell. When I intentionally fell behind, I only got the blue shell one or two times. Lightning is a bit more common, but it isn't nearly as frequent as in MK64 or any of the new games. The "big weapons" seem to be extremely rare, both in the hands of the AI and human players.

Catching up from behind is still possible, though, because of the nature of the AI, which is consistent with SMK and MK64. The leaders are faster while the ones in the back are slower. You'll easily pass the karts up to fifth place; after that, you'll need to use weapons to catch up. Driving skills alone won't help much, unless you can manage to hit one of the many shortcuts, though those are fairly difficult to nail. Unlike MK64, you won't get lightning and blue shells in second place; you'll get lots of red shells and stars, which might get you back to first if you have a lap or more to go. There isn't a catch-up-quick weapon in Super Circuit.

Weapons have a major effect. Getting hit by any weapon will cause you to stop and spin out. The banana trick from MK64 is back - tapping the brake after hitting a banana will keep you from spinning out, though bananas aren't much of a hazard. The most common way to get hit is by a red shell from behind, though this can almost always be prevented by holding a shell or banana behind you at all times. If you're completely out of coins, getting touched by any other kart will cause you to stop and spin out, as well.

As far as "balance" goes, the drivers at the head of the pack have the advantage, since the major weapons are so rare. If you're at the head of the pack, you're much more likely to fall behind because of your own mistakes rather than getting hit by a weapon from the AI.

Modes

- Grand Prix
- Time Trials
- Various multiplayer options with link cable

I didn't test out any of the multiplayer modes since it'd be a hassle to get all the equipment for that. There isn't much to say about the modes. The setup of Grand Prix is identical to that of Mario Kart 64.

Conclusion

It seems to me that most people who complain about Mario Kart Wii should absolutely love Super Circuit. It has everything that they've ever wished for in a Mario Kart game - less emphasis on weapons, more emphasis on driving skill, break-neck speed, virtually no blue shell. But I don't see Super Circuit at the top of anybody's list. I think that might be because of the difficulty. It takes awhile to get used to the controls; even drifting requires completely different handling than in the 3D games. It can be mastered, but even then, the tracks and AI are just plain challenging. I've been getting the highest GP rankings in MKWii on the second try; I've only gotten the highest ranking in a couple of the ten circuits in Super Circuit. And I even have an E, a few Ds, some Cs, and several As and Bs. It's a hard game.

Super Circuit took some significant steps in the evolution of the series. It didn't add much in the way of new features; rather, it combined and honed the features of its predecessors. One of the biggest steps is that the AI doesn't cheat so much. Sure, they'll catch up out of nowhere sometimes, but they don't jump over shells and bananas or fail to spin out when you hit them with a weapon. For some reason, though, they usually slow down when they use invincibility stars....

Next up is Double Dash. I need to get a lot of play time in on that one before I feel confident writing an entry for it, so it may be a week or two. In the mean time, get a copy of Super Circuit if you've never played it. Give yourself some time to get used to it, then marvel at its wonders.

Best of the Wii Forum - May (Lame Edition)

I have to begin this with an apology. The month of May was hectic for me. Warmer weather means more work for moi since I work outside on the side. I was the best man in my brother's wedding, which ate an entire week. I was emotionally crippled for the week after that when my friend's brother died. And I was in another wedding the week after that.

And one other thing. My favorite thread from May was purged from the forums. If you remember it, it was called "A Look at the Weapons of Mario Kart Wii..." by KenSPT, and it was hilarious. But I guess it had some parts that broke the rules.

So I apologize. There are only two threads to highlight this week. No one sent me any suggestions. Again. You guys need to get on the ball with that. If you can send stuff to bob_newman for his funny quotes, you can send stuff to me for this. :evil:

Anyway, on to the threads. Speaking of bob.....

1. I Played ______ So Much...
- by bob_newman

bob played Mario Kart so much that he felt like he should be drifting around corners. I played GTA3 so much that I felt the urge to run over the fire-drill line of my fellow students. DaLegendKilla played Resident Evil 4 so much that he thought the guys in a convent were going to kill him. You get the idea.

This thread reminds me of a little part in the new Indiana Jones movie. No spoilers, don't worry. When Indy and Mutt are searching under the graveyard, Mutt freaks out for a second when something suddenly comes into his vision. Once his eyes focus, he realizes that it's just a little ball on the end of a spider web. His response - "Oh, it's just a.. thing." For some reason, I was the only one laughing really hard in the whole theater. Everyone else was dead silent, like they had never done the exact same thing before. Nobody knows what those little balls that hang from spiderwebs are, but they're freaky, and I'm pretty sure everyone has experienced it.

bob's thread is the same way. We've all done something as a result of playing a game too much, but we don't always realize it until we see someone else admit to it. If you missed this thread before, read through it. You're guaranteed a laugh or two... as long as you have a better sense of humor than that audience in the theater did.

2. Looking back on Wii: From Revolution to Wii
- by livinitup01

It's easy to forget that just a few years ago, none of us had any idea what Nintendo had up its sleeve. This thread is about gamers' collective short memory. There isn't much to say in response. m_machine said all that needs to be said - those were good times. Most of the response to this is just in nostalgic memories of the end of the Gamecube's lifecycle. We couldn't even imagine what was to come. Remember all the rumors? Virtual reality, ultra-realistic graphics, etc. It kind of puts the reliability of all our speculation into question. Most of our time here is spent speculating, and most of the time, we're wrong. How does that make you feel? ;)

That's it for this month. If you want a better entry for June, send me suggestions! This month will be busy for me as well, so I'll need your help. Stop being like me and quit slackin!

A detailed evolution of Mario Kart (Mario Kart 64)

I always wondered how Mario Kart 64 got such a low score from Gamespot. I absolutely loved MK64 back in the day, especially with friends. It still has that great nostalgic value; but after playing the more recent installments of Mario Kart, I can see that MK64 suffers from the same problem as Super Mario Kart - its successors trump it in nearly every way, so that MK64 isn't really worth going back to for anything other than nostalgia.

Following the pattern of the last entry, here are some of the important features of MK64:

Features

  • - Three laps per race
  • - Opponents use some, but not all, of the available weapons
  • - Introduces drift boost and drafting (though drafting is extremely hard to pull off)
  • - No kart selection

At 150cc, MK64 feels fast. Like SMK, the tracks are tighter and shorter than their Wii counterparts. Even with the smaller courses, MK64 is probably faster on average than the Wii version. Driving off-road doesn't slow you down much, and neither does bouncing off a wall. The only thing that will really stop you is getting hit by a weapon, which is rare (I'll get into that later).

The first thing you notice about MK64 is that the controls are touchy. Tapping the control stick to the right will actually make you go a little bit to the left sometimes. It's nearly impossible to trail directly behind someone for drafting. And if you tweak out too much, your kart will spin out. I think it's safe to say that MK64 has the worst controls of all the games.

Like in SMK, the AI cheats. They can reach speeds unattainable by human players without using speed boosts; the AI will often catch up to and pass you even while you're constantly drift boosting with the fastest character. They also don't fly in the air if you hit them with a shell from a distance. If you're up close, they react normally; but if the computer thinks you can't see them, they'll just stop for a moment then keep driving.

To balance this, the game favors the human player immensely. This mostly deals with weapons, though, so I'll outline them first:

Weapons

  • - Seven offensive weapons - bananas, fake item boxes, green shells, red shells, invincibility star, lightning, blue shell
  • - Two speed boost items - mushroom, super mushroom
  • - Introduces five-banana strings and three revolving green and red shell clusters
  • - Almost all weapons can be used defensively

If you're in first place, you'll get the normal blend of bananas, green shells, item boxes, and even red shells. But the moment you drop behind, even in second place, you'll start to get the "big" weapons, such as lightning, super mushrooms, and stars. If you get behind, you'll quickly catch back up because of the weapons. The AI will also drive slower ahead of you to allow you to catch up.

I played a whole 150cc circuit in which I intentionally began the last lap of every race in eighth place. I ended up finishing third in the final standings, trailing the leaders (who tied) by only three points. I never failed a race by getting fifth or worse. The "random" choice of weapons gives human players a definite advantage over the AI.

The AI only uses bananas, fake item boxes, stars, maybe mushrooms, and (rarely) lightning. They never shoot shells, including the blue shell. In fact, the blue shell only popped up twice (in my possession both times) in the dozen or so circuits I played, even the ones where I intentionally kept at the back of the pack for most of the races. It's a shame that the best design of the blue shell was wasted in such a way. (For those who don't know, the blue shell in MK64 traveled along the ground instead of in the air, hitting whoever got in its path.)

Edit: Somehow I forgot to mention that you can tap the break after hitting a banana to keep from spinning out. This basically renders bananas useless. Since bananas are by far the AI's most used weapon, they don't have much chance against a human competitor.

I also played a circuit in which I didn't use items whatsoever. I placed first. Easily.

MK64's weapons system is only a slight improvement over SMK's, mainly in the fact that the AI actually uses real weapons. But the game intentionally favors the human players, causing it to be completely unbalanced in terms of weapon selection. If Mario Kart Wii used the weapons system of MK64, the online mode would be worthless. If you could frequently get lightning and super shrooms in second place, we'd hear a lot more complaints than we currently do.

Modes

  • - Grand Prix - one or two players
  • - Time Trials
  • - Battle - two to four players
  • - Versus - two to four players (no CPU)

There's not much to say about the modes. Battle mode is great with four players, since the size of the levels fits the number of players. It isn't so fun with only two players. The other modes are exactly the same as in SMK, so my complaints there return here.

Conclusion

MK64 improves on the gameplay of SMK in some areas while keeping some of the faults. The weapons system is slightly better, but it suffers from favoring the human players too much. You have to try pretty hard to fail a race; the competition isn't really there. The AI is a problem and will continue to be a problem even in Mario Kart Wii, though it is much improved in the latest installment.

MK64 introduced a lot of the features we've come to love, though. Drifting, drift boosts, drafting, more hectic gameplay, more items, turtle-heading items. Despite its faults, it's even more fun than SMK. But like I said before, the sequels trump it in nearly every area.

A detailed evolution of Mario Kart (Super Mario Kart)

If you missed the introduction to this series of blog entries, check it out first.

Before I get into it, I have to say that Super Mario Kart hasn't aged well. It's fun in and of itself, just like it was when it first came out, but the sequels have surpassed it in almost every area. There's really no reason to go back to SMK unless you want a brief gust of nostalgia blowing in your face. It feels good at first, but then it just gets annoying.

In case you haven't played SMK in awhile (or ever), I'll list some of the more important features:

Features

  • - Five laps per race
  • - Opponents use only their personalized weapons and don't pick up item boxes
  • - Coins, which make you go a little faster the more you collect, are scattered throughout the course
  • - No drafting or drift boost
  • - No kart selection, though characters' weight affects their speed, acceleration, and bulliness

There are five laps per race because the tracks are shorter and more narrow than in the sequels. Even with five laps, some races last little more than a minute. This isn't due to the blazing speed of the karts, though, but rather to the tight nature of the tracks. I did some test time trials in the SNES version of Mario Circuit 3 and the Wii version of the same track. The Wii track is greatly enlarged to fit twelve racers at once. It also includes three mushrooms and one boost pad, neither of which are in the SNES version. I averaged about 25 seconds per lap in the SNES version and 30 seconds per lap in the Wii version, using Yoshi for both (and the standard kart for the Wii version). Considering the Wii track is much larger, I have to say that it isn't much slower than the SNES version, if at all. The mushrooms and boost pad do help, but that's part of the game to make it faster.

Weapons

  • - Five offensive weapons - bananas, red shells, green shells, invincibility star, lightning bolt
  • - Three others - coins, mushroom, feather
  • - No weapon can be used effectively as defense, except the star and the feather to jump over stationary weapons
  • - Item boxes are scarce, usually only two or three chances for a weapon each lap

In all honesty, weapons aren't much of an issue in SMK. They hurt you much more than they help you on average. Anything you hit will cause you to spin out and lose coins. If you're not already really far ahead, you're bound to be passed by three or four people.

And the AI cheats. They'll jump over your bananas, green shells, and even red shells often. You can't jump over weapons without a feather.

The AI also has an unlimited supply of their personal weapons - Mario and Luigi have a star, Princess and Toad have a shrink mushroom, Donkey Kong Jr. has a banana, Yoshi has an egg, Koopa Troopa has a green shell, and Bowser has a fireball. Human players don't have access to the shrink mushroom, egg, or fireball, even when they play as that character.

You also can't lose your weapon, no matter what happens to you (including falling off the edge).

After playing all the games, SMK seems to have the most unbalanced weapon system. And there's no blue shell here to whine about. Sometimes you get the feeling that the computer really wants you to win, by giving you lightning and mushrooms and stars when you're behind. But other times, you'll get bananas and feathers and green shells when you're behind, giving you no chance to catch up, even though Bowser's fireball made you fall behind in the first place. Even if you do get some shells, chances are good that your opponents will just jump over them. There seems to be almost no rhyme or reason to the weapons in SMK.

Modes

  • - Grand Prix - one or two players
  • - Time Trial
  • - Battle - two players only
  • - Match Race - two players only

I've seen a couple people say that SMK has the best battle mode of all the games. My only response to that is are you kidding? You can only play with two players, and like I explained earlier, the weapons aren't all that great. Frankly, it's boring. Compared to what we have today, it just doesn't live up.

SMK's Grand Prix mode is the strongest mode, especially since it's fairly difficult. But like I said, it's rather unpredictable. Funny, because that's what a lot of people have complained about with the Wii version. I found the SMK Grand Prix mode to be even more unpredictable than the Wii version, though. One major difference here is that if you place fifth or worse, you're forced to retry the track. This basically makes it so that you either place in the top few slots at the end of the GP, or you fail out before you get to the end. I never questioned it back in the day, but looking at it now, that doesn't really make sense. The game is forcing you to either do really well or fail completely. The new points system and "always move on" aspect of the Wii GP mode is superior.

Conclusion

SMK has the most unbalanced weapons system, the most unfair AI, the most unpredictable races, and the fewest options; yet it's still a really fun game. It's not as fun as its sequels, though. The thing to notice here, though, is that many of the complaints we've seen about the Wii version have roots all the way back to the first game in the series. These are features of the game that we've come to expect... most of us, at least.

This series of blogs is called an "evolution of Mario Kart," though. Evolution means that there have been gradual changes for the better. As you'll see in the following entries, Mario Kart Wii sticks fairly strongly to its roots, but it improves on all of the weaker features of the other games.

A bit drained

My brother's wedding was yesterday. One of the guests was killed in a car accident on the way into town on Friday afternoon.

I didn't really know the guy (Nathan), though I'd met him a handful of times. He wasn't a close family friend, but he was the brother of a close family friend. His sister and her husband (who was a groomsman, one of my close friends) still came to the wedding the next morning. I have mad respect for that. They said they wouldn't miss it for anything.

Needless to say, it was emotionally the strangest wedding I think I'll ever be at. On one hand, my 30-year old brother was finally getting married to a great girl. On the other hand, someone was killed on the way to see it. At the rehearsal on Friday night, the priest said that it seems like people think they need permission to laugh and be happy when something terrible happens to someone else. That's definitely true. He broke the ice a bit by saying that, but conflicting emotions kept hitting most of us during the whole event. I didn't have to fake my happiness, but every once in a while I'd get hit with a wave of grief for my friends.

At church this morning, several people asked how the wedding went, since most of them know my brother pretty well, though they weren't at the wedding. I did have to fake happiness this morning. The experience was too complex to explain simply, so I just said that the wedding was awesome. After church, I bolted out of there to avoid all the questions, since the pastor had announced Nathan's death during the service.

I can't even imagine how it is for my brother and his wife or Nathan's sister and her husband. Every time they think of the wedding, they won't be able to forget the tragedy associated with it. It's a tough thing.

A detailed evolution of Mario Kart (introduction)

If you've been reading the Wii Forum for the last week, you know that there's been a ton of complaining about Mario Kart Wii. Here are some of the most common complaints:

  1. Unbalanced items
  2. Blue shell = worst item ever created
  3. Slower gameplay
  4. No two-player Grand Prix mode

Rather than arguing against these points directly, I'm going to use evidence from the past Mario Kart games to prove that the above complaints aren't entirely legitimate. I've already played through all the games except the original Super Mario Kart (because I don't have a copy available today) and Mario Kart DS (because I over-Mario-Karted myself already today). I took detailed notes about the unique or similar qualities among the games. My preliminary conclusion is that gamers have short memories, and we expected things from Mario Kart Wii that we never should have, even from an evolving franchise.

I'll be making a separate blog entry for each game in the series, then I'll wrap it up with a grand conclusion. I'm looking forward to writing this, and I hope these entries will help some people find a new appreciation for Mario Kart Wii.

Best of the Wii Forum - April

*stops playing Mario Kart* Oh yeah, I have stuff to do!

Welcome to the first monthly edition of Best of the Wii Forum, now with a new design! I warned you in the first segment that this would be an evolving thing, so if you don't like it... well... go play Mario Kart. And don't come whining back to me when you lose because of a blue shell. I'll just smack you. Hard. And everyone will laugh at the red handprint on your face.

I'll be posting the best threads in order of appearance rather than order of quality. I have a couple reasons for doing this, but they don't really matter. What matters is that these threads are awesome. Enjoy!

April 12

Nintendo: The Most Stubborn Gaming Company

- by WhiteSoxBud

Nintendo's refusal to release a hard drive for Rock Band sparked this topic. WhiteSoxBud explains why Nintendo won't release a hard drive, namely because it doesn't serve first-party interests. He also gives the other side of the coin, that Nintendo's stubbornness isn't all bad.

This topic made for some decent discussion. Everybody seems to agree that Nintendo is stubborn... except Dion4ever, who didn't explain himself whatsoever. Party pooper.

April 13

A 2-D gameplay Metroid for the Wii with aiming example
- by Mike1978Smith

You'll have to read Mike's first post to get the gist of it, but he lays out a complete plan for a 2D Metroid game on the Wii. If you like hearing game ideas, check this one out. And if you have a good enough imagination, you can even play his game. Just look at the picture he provided and close your eyes. Ah.... who needs a 50" plasma TV when you've got the back of your eye lids? For free!

April 18

A few considerations on Wii fans reaction after The Conduit announcement...
- by Wintry_Flutist

You may already know my reaction to The Conduit and how amazed I am that so many people bought into IGN's nearly baseless hype. Well, Wintry wrote up rebuttals to seven common reactions to the game's announcement. This was a much needed post at a time when the forum was being flooded with "OMG CONDUIT GAFRIX!" posts. Remember that? I would've created a sticky to contain all the excitement, but I didn't want to give the hype more credibility than it deserves.

If you haven't seen this thread, check it.

April 23

Now that the SSBB flame has died down...
- by icarus212001

You know why I like this topic so much? One word.

Honesty.

Personally, I gave the game too much credit for being the ultimate Nintendo franchise orgy.icarus212001

That's icarus wearing his heart on his sleeve. Several people warned SSBB fans of overhyping the game. Icarus has the guts to admit that he had done just that, and that there were other games that should've received hype that didn't because of Brawl's inflated shadow. This is just a great post.

April 25

Would you end a small bird's life for your most anticipated game?
- by theweakbear

This thread was featured in bob_newman's Funny Quotes segment for a reason. Like he says, it's a great thread from beginning to end. I like it because it causes you to think about how much you really love games. Some of the responses are insightful, some are hilarious, and some are downright disturbing. One person even admits that he'd kill a person before he'd kill a bird. A bit twisted there, I'd say.

This is one of my favorite threads ever. Thanks for it, weakbear.

April 30

Does Nintendo really have a heart?
- by TheAcejoel99

Aside from the gross generalization in the first post about all corporations being evil, TheAcejoel asks a good question here. Nintendo seems like one of the more caring companies, but is that just a facade? Of course we can't know the answer to this without working closely with Nintendo, but it's fun to talk about. There are some good answers here, and it's only a day old, so join in on the discussion!