Told you, didn't we? But knowing that Mario Kart Wii was going to be announced at Nintendo's E3 press conference didn't make us any less excited.
When it came to the thing actually being revealed - in precisely 30 seconds of mouthwatering footage - we were cheering on the edge of our chairs just like you, gawping at the promising new tracks and classic old ones just like you... squeezing our eyelids shut and wishing that we could be transported ahead to 2008 in order to play it right now, just like you.
Of course, you want to know everything there is to know about Mario Kart Wii. So we've dug away with our info spades to uncover the secrets behind Mario Kart Wii - the characters, the vehicles, the tracks, the items, the online play - and brought the whole lot to you here.
Nintendo's E3 showing couldn't have delivered us a more exciting announcement. Drink it in, and try to come to terms with the fact that if Nintendo's plans work out, you'll be overtaking people on your big telly - online - in less than five months.
THE TREES ARE ALIVE
No kidding - as with Super Mario Galaxy, Mario's world seems happier than ever. The trees lining Mario Circuit here actually wiggle from side to side - part of the general visual bounciness that sees smoke rising from pipes and tubfuls of gold careering over your head in Wario Mines. The waterfall in Yoshi Falls looking about a bazillion times better than it did on DS, yessir. You can bet that Nintendo's saving the dreamiest tracks for revealing much later: including this generation's optically-overloaded version of Rainbow Road.
HOP-AND-BOOST IS BACK
Hop! Hop! Hop! Forget Double Dash!!'s tarmac-glued karts. The briefest glimpse of Yoshi pogoing past Luigi proves that the ace jump/skid controls from Kart 64/DS are back. The Wii's 2 button would be the natural fit for it too, and it marks a return to gratifying last-minute foe-slamming, hours spent teasing out secret/glitchy trampolining shortcuts - not to mention boosting your way out of corners with that beautiful blue burst of blowtorch-exhaust.
ANOTHER BLOCK PARTY
Mario Kart wouldn't be Mario Kart without rainbow-shimmery '?' blocks dotting the tracks, and one section of Wario Mines shows them grouped in typical evil manner - a zig-zag across the track - that's just primed for those teeth-gnashing sliding-right-through-and-missing-them-all moments. Check the box right for the items we know of.
WAIT - WHAT? 12 PLAYERS?
Yes - it's online. Properly. Race anyone you have a Friend Code for - or, if Mario Kart DS is the template, random worldwiders. Unlike on DS, Battle mode will also be online. And while Reggie told us to "wait and see" how many karters will be racing, the video screen behind him showed a dozen karts on the track! You'll understand if we don't get round to making the magazine any more.
THOSE LITTLE TOUCHES
Do the characters' heads actually turn to look at the vehicles they've just sent flying bonnet-over-exhaust with a perfectly-timed red shell? Looks that way, judging by Luigi's smug glance at Bowser - and Henman-esque air-punch. Perhaps there'll be Mario Strikers-style 'highlights' bits at the end of the race to really rub it in, too.
Don't blame the Goomba - it is a zebra crossing after all. But do get ready to curse more pesky kart-clattering obstacles than ever: happily bouncing cows at Moo Moo Farm, roving barrels of gold in Wario Mines, and inconveniently-placed treehouses at Yoshi Falls.
We're such devious gits, we're already planning a Mushroom-aided shortcut behind that lamppost and over the pathway leading past these houses. YouTube is going to be filled with videos of people finding evermore ingenious and unplanned routes over, around and through different bits of scenery. Mario Kart's back all right.
The tracks are choc-a-block with cutesy Ninty references, such as these NES-sprite lamppost placards (with 'MARIO KART' written like the Nintendo logo). The pipework of Wario Mines makes us wish we could leap out the kart and explore... even if ducking down the green chimneys would get you a singed 'ass' if the smoke's anything to go by.
Check out these screens and you'll see Wario performing the kind of 360-degree spin that will have Excite Truck players' wrists contracting in sympathy. But what's the point? Nintendo's keeping something back from these screenshots: we're predicting that repeated stunts like this - which are bound to involve waggling or rotating the Wii remote - will build up an SSX-esque boost bar that'll do... something. Extra speed maybe, like Mario Kart GBA's coins? Spontaneous powerups appearing in your grasp? We'll see.
So the end of Matthew and Greener's Big Cash Bet over whether Mario Kart Wii would appear at E3 ended how it should: with Greener a full £1.75 richer, and a brand new version of the greatest multiplayer series ever made roaring out of Reggie's triple-screen TV-mothership and into an applauding crowd. And - pick us up off the floor and shake us by our shoulders until we come round - we're getting 12-player online racing and battling. Aren't you glad you bought a Wii now?
So: best Mario Kart ever? Impossible to tell at this stage. But there's an unmistakeable aura of Nintendo returning to the series's standout instalments. In controls, design, items and tracks, Mario's tit-for-tat kart battles on Wii seem to marry the best of Mario Kart 64 and its handheld sibling Mario Kart DS - everyone's favourite MKs - and throw just enough new stuff into the pot to get us rubbing our hands and cackling like crook-nosed witches.
Dash it all
Personally, we loved Double Dash!!, but many didn't. And that was blamed partly on the ditching of the hop-and-skid mechanic of yore. Nintendo haven't just brought the old scheme back - they've thrown in tracks from DD!!, so we can experience that game's exemplary track design with the traditional controls.
The weapons look back to normal too - swapping characters and doubling-up weapons in DD!! was a pain for newcomers; now Mario Kart's back to its accessible best, and there's no excuse for nan not to ditch the Platinum Sudoku for a few blue shells up the ass.
Take it online
And online. After some early tantrums by Nintendo's servers, Mario Strikers Charged proved Wii can work as seamlessly over the 'net as DS - even if the game itself led to Greener putting his face through a window in frustration. With 12 players at a time (and possibly more), Mario Kart will be Nintendo's crown jewel of Wi-Fi - the game that puts Wii on the online map. No doubt there'll be official racing tournaments to keep us on our toes, loads of online leaderboards, and, hopefully, decent matchmaking.
But the really big deal is an online Battle mode - something that we didn't see in Mario Kart DS, and a tongue-dribbling treat for anyone who stayed up late with friends to play pop-the-balloon. Block Fort please, Nintendo. Block Fort.
But here's the best thing about Mario Kart Wii: it absolutely guarantees that all those people who were 'meh' about Wii before will go out and buy one. In some ways it's a better party prospect than Wii Fit - everyone knows it, everyone loves it, and without the double-kart, character-swapping befuddlement of Double Dash!!, it'll only be off-putting for people who've had some kind of debilitating real-life banana/kart tragedy in their past.
So: when, when, when? Rumours point to Mario Kart Wii hitting the US as early as January - and, even though the Nintendo of Europe release schedule has the game down for 2008, there have been continued rumblings about Nintendo's Euro HQ pushing hard to have it ready for Christmas 2007 (a plan that's also being enacted for Wii Fitness). A strange move, seeing as Wii isn't exactly short of big games in the immediate future - but when it comes to Mario Kart, even tomorrow isn't quick enough.