This is it. Nintendo have finally hit the nail on the head with a blue shell. Mario Kart 8 has finally culminated the Mario Kart franchise into what it has always been dreamed out to be. The look, the feel, the speed, the intensity, the exhilaration. These without a doubt, were questioned with the last installment of Nintendo’s biggest racing franchise, but Mario Kart 8 looks to bring all that back in a big way. Nintendo have not only aimed at re-inventing the wheel, but making it look, sound, and play incredibly better.
With it’s amazing grandeur, Mario Kart 8 speeds it’s way on the Wii U to a very warm welcome from it’s fans. It’s been a long wait for the next installment to the series, and we were chomping at the bit to know if the game had finally been perfected from the amazing development team, lead by Kosuke Yabuki, who had been critically acclaimed for taking over the series in 2011, and directing the Nintendo3DS’, Mario Kart 7. With strong emphasis being on presentation, did gameplay suffer at all? or were Nintendo able to produce the perfect Mario Kart?
To say the basics of Mario Kart 8’s gameplay have been completely revamped, would truthfully be an overstatement. But it’s not a bad thing to say, you can pop the disc in, sit down and play with anyone. That’s what makes the game great to begin with. What Mario Kart 8 redefines in kart racer’s, is it’s ability to inject a major wow factor in how the gameplay is presented. The new anti-gravity feature, which many have cried gimmick over, has turned the world of Mario Kart on it’s head and has taken the game to new heights. While the similar idea may have not received praise from older go-karting titles like Crash Nitro Kart, Nintendo take the mechanic and turn it into a refreshing piece of creativity and perfect it. Nintendo adds the feature into many tracks in-game, including the revamped retro tracks, but still keep many of the throwbacks in their original intended racing form. Anti-gravity takes on it’s own style separate from the standard racing mechanic usually seen in the series. The motivation to actually bump into your foes on screen while in this mode will actually give you the advantage with a slight boost, instead of knocking you off path. Of course, this is all for look and style to the sleek ingenious of this new installment, so what does the game do that’s new?
Well, Rainbow Road won’t be such a pain any longer with Nintendo revamping Lakitu and making his appearances much more streamlined. Once falling off a track, the screen won’t suddenly transition to black, and you won’t be put back to last position all because of a slight hiccup. You will be swiftly airlifted by Lakitu right onto the track faster than you can say “Lakitu”. Item boxes seem to have been re-programmed in the game to player’s positioning but still has it’s potential issues. New item’s introduced to the racer is apparent with the use of the brand new horn. Finally, an item to break that blue shell’s nasty streak. However, with the introduction of this item, the blue shell seems appear alot more now, so it’s really up to whoever is in first to make sure they keep a horn in their inventory, strategically as a guarantee, more than an item of random use. Coins are back once again from the original Super Mario Kart. What this means is if you’re first place, expect a whole lot of bang for your buck. This has the potential for being in first place to be as dangerous as any other position in the game, with coins being sparse for first place players. Red Shells, green shells, blue shells, it won’t matter if you’re first place, you’re now in more danger than ever. Hold onto those horns now, ya hear?
Choices to customise your kart is bigger, but won’t really effect the way you race. It’s more about the character of choice, I mean everybody races as Toad right? The roster includes a nice round number of 30 characters to choose from, with the introduction of The Koopa Kids. All your favorites from previous entries return this year, but there aren’t any ground breaking characters to introduce to the series, besides a couple of re-skins.
The smoothest Mario Kart, ever. With many upcoming next generation titles on the way for many platforms, it seems to be the natural thing to throw around the whole “60fps” and “1080p” deal. Nintendo stated that Mario Kart 8 would deliver this, and delivered they did. Not only does playing alone in Grand Prix and Time Trial look like a flowing faucet, playing local split-screen multiplayer with a friend still holds up the amazing detail and framerate as well, that is until you hit 3-4 players on screen at the same time where you will notice a slight decrease. Online will always have the standard “Game experience will differ”, depending on your connection. Though slim in how you customises, what is amazing about online mode is Nintendo’s ingenious idea to potentially create mini-communities through it’s tournament creations and upload your own edited highlights to it’s MKTV mode, which you can also share on your YouTube channel.
The poor form from Nintendo here is evident with no way to invite friends into races. This is something Nintendo need to seriously consider patching. In-game chat is virtually non-existent. Though it was promised, you can only chat to your Friends in the lobby, before setting up and completing races, so what’s the use of even having the feature at all if you can’t even invite your friends. They’re going to be too busy playing the game to stop in the lobby and have a quick chat.
New track designs are awesome, and aren’t easily forgettable. When people ask what’s your favorite track from any Mario Kart game, it would be hard not to choose from the awesome choices you get in this installment. The ever inspiring track designs that come from previous Nintendo gaming franchises are evident. Even with the use of retro tracks, you will get the small feeling of nostalgia come over you with small call-outs to previous Mario Kart games. The skill level of each track designed is somewhat moderate, so you won’t have to be a complete Mario Kart master to have fun, but will need to know your character’s style well enough to master each track.
Detail and design of everything in-game is insanely remarkable, that we almost forgot we were playing this on a Wii U. From the facial expressions and the wind flowing through Mario’s mustache, to the amazing shading and lighting that mirrors off racers on Rainbow Road, Mario Kart 8 gives off a true next-gen experience for fans. Mario Kart has always had it’s background features that players would point at and smile, but it’s the small things count in every way for this entry. Water drops on the camera, similar to the ones seen in Super Mario 3D World, Hot air balloons that actually have flames to keep them afloat, and dirt that sticks to wheels, it’s all there and it’s eye candy. “Mario Kart Stadium” and “Sunshine Airport” truly brings out every characteristic feature in technical design, and are probably the most memorable tracks from the entire game. For a Mario Kart game to have you on your toes in awe, on the very first track is unheard of. And for Sunshine Airport, You get the sense that you are actually at an airport on the beach.
Battle mode’s design is somewhat questionable. The selection exclusive tracks to the mode has now been scrapped in-turn for a handful of tracks that are regularly available in GP and Time Trial mode. The only problem I have with this is trying to find players to battle with. You will have to race around an entire track before actually finding anybody. Truth be said, I did have alot of fun with this mode, but would rather they had stuck with the traditional arena maps. That’s just personal preference.
And finally, the soundtrack. Holy balls, can I say that?… Holy Balls it’s awesome. In the past we’ve heard some memorable tunes from the Mario kart series that have us humming them to this day, even while writing reviews. But Mario Kart 8’s soundtrack is the elixir of the Karting gods, it’s what makes the game whole. The entire track-listing from Nintendo’s in-house band contains not only music from it’s retro counterparts remastered for your hearing pleasure, but brand new orchestrated tracks that actually have you tapping your feet, bobbing your head and listening in with a smile on your face. You know you’re going to have a good time when hearing it.
Mario Kart 8 is almost Nintendo’s way of saying, we’ve finally arrived. It’s been a tough ride for the Big ‘N’, with much of it’s development in question, and with many of it’s following anxiously waiting for them to go for gold. Mario Kart 8 delivers, and that’s all that matters here. From the amazing detail, to the exhilarating races that players will experience, it’s sure to be a memorable ride for many Nintendo fans, and gamers alike. If there’s one thing to say about this title, it’s that Mario Kart 8 is the savior that the Wii U desperately needed. We’ve seen many key franchises release titles over the past year, but nothing comes close the amazing detail that Mario Kart 8 gives. From the characters, to the track, the full Nintendo experience is here, and it is glorious. Well done, Nintendo.