Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Nintendo Hates Multiplayer Gaming! Part Two

Why I hate Mario Kart now
A not so short rant by a frustrated gamer

Part 2.

When the Nintendo DS came out last year, there weren’t any titles I was excited about and after actually playing one, I decided that I could wait until they had a new Mario or Mario Kart game for me to play. Last week, a new Nintendo DS bundle was released. I’ve been waiting for it since I heard about it a couple of months ago, and ordered one the day it went on the shelves. The bundle was a special edition red Nintendo DS packed with Mario Kart DS and all sorts of racing stickers.

The first time you play it, this game is great. It combines many of the tracks and game modes from past versions of Mario Kart with some new tracks and new game modes. Playing the single player was a blast. They also advertise the ability to play multiplayer and though I feared what could happen after the disaster that was the Gamecube version, I was still excited to try it.

The Nintendo DS itself was made for children, so after playing it for a few hours, if you’re older than 12…your hands will cramp up pretty badly. Even so, I’m happy to say that playing wirelessly in a living room with your friends works great and that it was worth the pain. You can connect quickly and see a match that your friend creates. You can choose your kart; you can choose your track. The game itself is almost exactly what it should be, until you attempt to take it online.

The problems began with actually getting my Nintendo DS to see my wireless network. This took me several hours and 3 days of tech support calls to my router company. I had to make sure I had the latest firmware, change the channel a few times, change the WEP, change the SSID, reset the IP…and after all of that, it still only worked because of a wish on a star I made on Wednesday. The DS did eventually see the router, and I did finally get connected.

I was disappointed to learn that Nintendo has once again screwed the pooch named multiplayer gaming. They created an imitation of Xbox Live called “Nintendo WFC”. On WFC, you don’t have gamertags; you have “friend codes”. This is a 12 digit number that can actually change from time to time. After entering your friend’s friend codes, if they’re not right there with you in the room, you must call them with a telephone, or instant message them on your PC to tell them you want to play.

When you have several friends that have agreed verbally or via text on the PC that they’re ready to play, then you go to Nintendo WFC and try to find each other in the game. It takes quite a few minutes, and so far I’ve only been able to find my friend John. Andrew and I can’t see each other. Then John and I lose our connection while we look for him. It’s probably a router problem. If we decide that the two of us want to play against other players we don’t know, we can’t do that either….so the only multiplayer action I get is matches alone, with John….or playing with strangers in silence.

Let’s say for fantasy’s sake that I could connect to everyone I know wirelessly. There would still be one piece missing, and that’s the voice. Where’s the trash talk that has always accompanied Mario Kart? The “That’s what she said” jokes every time someone yells “get off my ass!” or “get those bananas away from me!” Gone.

Mario Kart DS is an excellent game, but once again….it could have been even better. The multiplayer features are just not quite baked, and Nintendo really needs to take a page out of the Xbox Live book and get it together already. I still hold out hope that one of these days, I’ll be able to play Mario Kart online and have the same fun I have with 4 people in my living room, like I can with Halo, Project Gotham Racing 3, or any number of other games on Live. Until then, the best Mario Kart experience ever is still playing it on the Nintendo 64, which is over 10 years old.

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