27 May 2008
I have a strange love/hate relationship with our Wii.
On one hand, I love it for the few really great titles that have been released since it was introduced – Phantom Hourglass, Mario Galaxy, Guitar Hero 3, and the very latest in the Wii pantheon of “most favorite” … by a long shot … the new Mario Kart. All of these games have miraculously perfected (for the most part) what can be done on the hardware available to it. All provide hours, weeks even, of fun that can be had. Mario Kart alone has gotten me to break through the barrier of getting Sara’s entire family playing one game all at once. That’s a feat I would have never, ever, suspected to be overcome. For that alone, I give the folks at Nintendo mega props. Kudos for getting the non-gamer to enjoy sitting in front of a TV as a family, playing your console.
Which leads to this question – what about the non-casual gamer? The gamer who bought the Wii hoping to milk literal *months* of time paying for and playing your console’s games? What about the gamer with the wireless 80211G router sitting in the corner of the room beckoning for the flood of packets that will connect to the thousands, nay – millions, of other Wii owners also connected to the internet? What if you’re one of those gamers who dashed to your local store to purchase Mario Kart with hopes that you’ll finally get a chance to race your friends in Waluigi Stadium and Delfino Square with seemless internet support?
Guess what pal? You got screwed. This is where the “hate” part comes in, not necessarily for the Wii in general, but for one particular aspect of it.
I’ve been playing this version of Mario Kart for almost a month to the day now, and while it’s a fun game to play at home with a friend or two, it’s crystal clear that Nintendo dropped the ball on its internet game-play. Not only for Mario Kart, but for all of the internet enabled games. Why? Let’s run it down.
- Putting your disc into the Wii and bringing up the game, or even jumping into the Mario Kart Wii Channel, will not automatically sign you into WFC. It will, instead, make you log into WFC before you can check to see if your friends are online. If they’re not online, shouldn’t it just leave you logged in for the off chance that your friends will log in soon? No. Not unless you sit there staring at the WFC menu screen while you wait. Instead, you’ll log OUT of WFC and head back to your Kart Menu.Why?!Why not leave a user logged in throughout his whole game-playing session? I should be able to play a single player game, working my way through the circuits, and maybe get a notification that “Matt” just logged in, and joined a regional network game.
- 12-digit numbers to be associated with, instead of a “Gamer Tag”-ish scheme like the folks in Redmond came up with. When you run into your friend at work, and you exclaim – “Dude – I just got Kart last night! I’m PSYCHED! I played it for a while and even got online!”. Your friend will reply with something to the effect of – “Perfect! Now we can play against each other online!”…pause …“So uhhh … what’s your 12 digit ‘license’ number?”After said exchange, someone in the background would be cue’d up to press the play button here. Because the both of you will be left thinking how stupid it is that you have not just one, but two random numbers you will never remember. You WILL both be irritated and wondering what the hell the deal is with all these random “friend codes”. Having said that – Add me to your list … 0731-5563-2578 … and let me know what yours is. I promise I’ll add you, no matter how irritating it is :).
After some friends bought their own copy of Mario Kart, I started receiving some messages to my Wii Messageboard saying something to the effect of – “Matt has sent you his Mario Kart information. If you would like to add him to your list, click Start”. Alright that’s not so bad. It keeps me from having to input those stupid numbers, right? Not too shabby!When I thought of sending my own notification to those people I found worthy enough of going through the trouble of bugging for their Wii friend codes and inputting them into the Wii, I was left scratching my head. Where in the hell in this game is it that I send my message from? ** **I even went so far as to look in the manual! (If you’re a male reading this right now, you might now think less of me. Who the hell reads the manual for help, right?) Guess what? Nothing in the manual that I could find. After a bunch of google’ing (most of which was completely fruitless. What are you going to come up with when searching for “Wii Message board Mario Kart”? That’s right – a few hundred ACTUAL wii message boards!) and copious cursing, I found it. In the WFC menu at the very bottom, not only inconspicuous, but also sharing the same menu button as other option. Why? Wouldn’t they suspect their users will want the fastest and easiest way to get connected with their friends? At the very least they could have documented how to do so, no?
So there you have it – “Invite Wii Friends”. Tonight it was only the second item it will have to cycle around to. Other nights it was the third, because a tournament was being featured in that same button. The kicker with this bit? After I sent invitations to about 5 or 6 friends, it would not show up anymore. That’s just perfect.
- Lastly – the lack of any web presence for the game. If you go to the official website it’s pretty much just a bunch of marketing. No way to manage your friends. No way of viewing your best times/score. No way of viewing the rankings in your area, state, country, anything. With all that data they undoubtedly have, couldn’t they put something together that could at least generate some ad revenue? Instead of a single site that noone will care to go back to again? If I were a true nit-picker (contrary to this post, I really am not) I could probably come up with a handful of other gripes, but I won’t. These four points above are the tip of the Kart iceberg, and are enough to only get me to come to my semi-neglected website to vent about how Nintendo screwed the pooch on what might be the one most important part of their Mario Kart franchise.
Disconnect? I really don’t want to, but I guess I have no choice.
I’d like to know what you think. Leave a comment at the bottom of this post’s page and let me know if I’m off base or not.