Recent History – Mario Kart Wii
It’s time to wrap up the subject of the week, Mario Kart 7, by comparing it to Mario Kart Wii, the game that came just before it in the series, back in April 2008. Now, this game is very popular (like most of the series) and also very common, due to high sales and the fact that it is now bundled with new Wii systems, and has been since early 2011. I personally have a lot of experience with this game, having spent many, many hours racing against AI, ghosts, and other people online. Combining that experience with the many similarities between MKWii and MK7 has made me realize that there is no game more appropriate to cover today to finish our look at MK7.
MKWii introduced motion control by way of the wiimote, either alone or in conjunction with a steering wheel attachment. This was cool at the time, and I still think it’s not a horrible idea, even if I choose not to play that way. This trend is continued in MK7 on the 3DS, but I do feel like they are better in MK7.
However. whether I like them or not, the motion controls for MKWii work, and I know a lot of people that do enjoy playing with them. I may be too stuck in my ways, and always prefer a controller, but I am in favor of options like these, as long as my preferred method is still a choice. I want to take a moment here to talk about motion controls in general, though, and say a few things that are relevant to this series and also video gaming as a whole. Motion controls are important. It doesn’t matter if you or I personally think they are a waste of time, or if we think they are being shoehorned into places they don’t belong. What matters is that they have become a part of almost every video game medium, and aren’t going away for the foreseeable future. My role here is to look for the good and creative parts of games, and that’s what I am doing.
I’ve played many games where motion controls felt silly or unpolished (Skyward Sword, flying), but I’ve also played some where they enhanced the game in different and subtle ways (Mario Galaxy, seriously, shaking the controller to spin is now a reflex for me), and I can see that designers are usually at least trying to make the player feel like they are actually doing the action that the game requires. I like this, and I think it will eventually lead to better immersion, even if right now everyone is working out the kinks and glitches. It’s important to keep an open mind when a new mechanic or idea comes on to the field, because innovation, while not always good, is something worth pursuing. I’m a long-time gamer, and I constantly have to remind myself to keep trying things that are new, and not stay in the same safe pool of stuff I’ve already tried.
I won’t apologize for that digression, because it’s relevant. Now, back to MKWii.
So MKWii probably has the most competitive fanbase out of the games in the series, and this is both a good and bad thing. MK7 is a very similar successor in playstyle, but for some reason I haven’t seen the level of aggression and elitism from that game’s fanbase, at least not when compared to MKWii’s. I believe this is because MK7 took a step back to recapture the fun and freedom from MKWii, and made it so there are more choices, and more dynamic tracks and shortcuts. What I mean when I say MK7 has more freedom is this: in MKWii, there were two acceptable characters in high-level competitive play: Funky Kong and Daisy, due to their innate speed attributes. Also, you had to use a motorcycle, karts were pretty much out as a whole in most cases. People, this was (and still is!) bad design. Eschewing customization actually made the game unbalanced, because players quickly figured out which motorcycle/character combos were the “best” for the setting, and used only those. Even worse, it made the game samey and boring, which is a shame for such a bright, colorful, high-speed game series.
MK7 is like MKWii in appearance, items, and setting, but is so different in freedom and player choices. I don’t need to talk about choice again, but I do think that this factors heavily into the fun. And while I did have fun with MKWii, I like MK7 better, due to less restrictions, and the higher quality game that came about because of all the ways people can choose to play it. It may be less competitive in the long run, and the online functionality still needs fine-tuning, but does playing Mario Kart really need to be SERIOUS BUSINESS? I don’t think so.
So that’s about it for Mario Kart 7 (and Mario Kart Week), I hope you enjoyed it, and maybe even thought about some things in ways you never had before. I don’t plan to do every week on a series of games, and in fact I really do like comparing games that aren’t from the same company or universe or even genre. I appreciate any and all feedback, and love to hear your comments. Please feel free to quote or reblog, and come back Monday for a whole new topic!