Nintendo promised the world a Revolution in 2006, and though they changed the name of their then-upcoming console to the Wii, they would bring a revolution to the Excite series at that year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo.
The return of the Excite series was revealed on stage by Reggie Fils-Aime, who at that time had not yet gone on to become the President of Nintendo of America. And in the brief glimpse we got before the actual show started, it was clear that much change was afoot.
A new developer had been brought in to breathe new life into Nintendo’s franchise: Monster Games, who wasted no time in redefining the series, while retaining trademark elements of the games which came before it. The most immediately noticeable change was, of course, that bikes were out and “big damn trucks” were in, thus forever changing what the series could be.
With the switch from bikes came an exodus from arena racing, as all of Excite Truck‘s races now take place across 20 courses from around the world, and spread across five “cups”: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond. Multiple tracks are placed in the countries of Mexico, China, Canada, Scotland, Fiji, and Finland. In addition, there is a special unlockable bonus track called Nebula, which takes place on a fantasy crystal mountain beneath a purple nebula.
Excite Truck deviates from the racing norm in that reaching first place isn’t your number-one priority; rather, the main goal during Excite Truck‘s races is to score more points (known as “stars”) than your competition through accomplishing a number of tricks and feats, both in the air and on the ground. Reaching first place merely adds an additional number of bonus stars to those scored throughout the race. However, the races are timed so that players are unable to exploit high-star areas by pulling off the same tricks repeatedly before heading to the finish line.
Accomplishing a number of tricks is handled by way of the game’s unique control scheme. Highlighting the Wii difference, steering is handled by holding the controller face up and tilting it left and right to steer. The 2 button handles acceleration, with the 1 button controlling brakes and reverse movement. Pressing any direction on the control pad enables the series’ trademark turbo boost, which lasts until the engine overheats… or run into shallow water, which cools the engine down and allows for prolonged bursts of turbo while racing in that water. Hitting jumps and soaring through the air also allows the turbo engine to cool down.
An aside for those interested, the game does work with the Wii Wheel, though some stunts and landings tend to be affected by holding the controller with the top facing you.
Using this control scheme, players can rack up stars by pulling off a turbo boost as they hit jumps, by pressing the brake button and turning the controller to twist the truck in midair, and by holding the controller so that the truck lands flush with the ground, granting an extra burst of speed. Other means of obtaining points include racing through trees while narrowly avoiding crashes, making other trucks crash, creating an exceptional crash of your own, and more.
If that wasn’t enough, there are also items that the player can drive through on the course, each having its own effect, morphing the terrain to throw trucks or set up an enormous ramp with a jump through a series of rings. One other item, the POW item, makes emergency sirens wail and the player’s truck nigh invincible, allowing it to race at top speed through numerous obstacles, including trees, cacti, and rival trucks.
Players are given three trucks to choose from in order to traverse the early courses, and as more races are won and stars are awarded, more trucks and courses will open up. Twenty-one trucks are ultimately available, each with their own unique attributes. Unlike Excitebike 64, however, these trucks feature no distinct drivers.
Excite Truck offers many modes, including the standard Excite Race, in which players race the computer in the various Cups listed above; Super Excite Race, which is a more difficult version unlocked by completing all Excite Race courses with an “S” Rank; Mirror Race Mode, a more challenging, reversed set of tracks which is opened by completing Super Excite Race courses with all “S” Ranks; Challenge, in which players must accomplish a series of various goals involving Gate, Ring, and Crush Challenges; the more difficult Super Challenge mode; and multiplayer.
As one of the November 19th, 2006 launch titles for the Wii, there is no online gameplay available, and so multiplayer is handled locally via splitscreen. After the leading player crosses the finish line, the second player has 30 seconds in which to catch up before being disqualified, with each second adding another star to their rival’s score.
One mode that did not make it into Excite Truck, however, is the series’ oft-revered Design Mode. In its place is a different kind of customization which allows players to put MP3s on an SD Card, and listen to their own custom soundtracks through the Wii’s SD Card slot.
Excite Truck has only been around a few short years, but has gathered a devoted following to it, and has been featured in other games and forms, including trophies, stickers, and music in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, where its predecessor Excitebike is featured in the form of an Assist Trophy and more. In addition, a Nintendo Wii promotion with fast food restaurant Wendy’s saw a toy version of one of the game’s many trucks featured as a Kid’s Meal item.
The game also seems to have proven popular enough to provide a sequel in record time for the series. Monster Games returns with another Wii title that is a sequel to Excite Truck known as Excitebots: Trick Racing, which goes above and beyond what the company brought us in 2006. The trucks are out, but so much more is in, including more stunts, Wii Wheel compatibility, and online capabilities via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Keep your browsers pointed at Kombo, and we’ll tell you all about it soon.
“Building Excite-ment” is a three-part feature which was originally published on Kombo in the weeks leading up to the release of the Wii title Excitebots: Trick Racing. The original post for this third part, Excite Truck, can be found here.