Nintendo's greatest strength has always been the company's ever-expanding roster of colorful mascots: From their humble beginnings riding the coattails of a certain Italian plumber to last month's release of Super Smash Bros. Melee, the constant repackaging of Nintendo's characters has proven consistently charming, and more importantly, extremely lucrative.
With the just-released Mario Kart Wii, Nintendo hopes to tap the collective nostalgia vein yet again, and while it doesn't quite live up to the phenomenal Super Smash Bros. Melee, Mario Kart Wii still ranks among the best games on the console.
Like previous iterations in the series, the concept for this Mario Kart is simple: Gather a handful of Nintendo's most beloved icons, strap them into go-karts, and unleash the group on cutesy, well-tuned tracks. The roster remains basically the same as previous versions, though this latest version includes the Wii's own avatar characters, the Miis. Yes, these are the same Miis that you can create and use in games like Wii Sports, and yes, they're exactly as dull here as they are in that pack-in title. It's not that your own customizable characters are all that lame, but they lack the charm of Yoshi or Luigi.
As usual, the key to winning each race is proper item use, and each item behaves essentially as it always has: Green shells are almost worthless at long range, red shells hone in on your target like angry bees, and the moment someone picks up an Invincibility Star, your best move is to get the hell out of their way.
Luckily, Nintendo manages to avoid the dreaded "rehash" label by including online play this time around. Though it's still hampered by Nintendo's idiotic "Friend Code" system, that minor flaw is balanced out by the free (if almost useless) racing wheel Nintendo has packed in with each copy of the game.
In short, if you've ever enjoyed Mario Kart before, give Nintendo your $50 and enjoy a few weeks of nostalgic bliss.