Ever since multiplayer gaming left the living room and launched itself onto the internet, there have been people hoping to take Mario Kart, one of the greatest party series of all time, along for the ride. It's been a long wait, but the mustachioed plumber is finally playing with millions of others in cyberspace. We've come to expect the dirt-spitting, powered-up racing and heavily themed courses with each version, so this time it's the online perks that will force your hard-earned money into the register.
Nintendo's Wi-Fi Connection allows up to four people to race online, and as far as straight gameplay is concerned, this kart ride is a smooth as they come. The same frenzied, off-the-wall competition that makes every lap a constant back-and-forth battle is carried onto the net in excellent form. With the usual complement of outlandish power-ups, including turtle shells, banana peels and item-stealing ghosts, no victory is ever assured and no lead is guaranteed. It's typical to see a room full of friends turn rowdy because some jerkhole in last place keeps frying everyone with lightning bolts.
While the core game shines as brightly as ever, the limitations of the Wi-Fi experience make the online aspect seem like a tease. To link up with specific people, you have to exchange Nintendo-appointed Friend Codes, and there's no way to do that unless you know the person or just go online and start advertising your code to internet forum regulars. Then you're at the mercy of total strangers to show up and play like they told you they would.