HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Mario Kart 8 could be the system-selling title Nintendo’s Wii U needs. The latest entry puts even more polish on a great formula to make a great game.
Customization is a huge part of the Mario Kart 8 formula. New karts, parts, and characters are unlocked at a dizzying pace. You always feel like you’re moving ahead in Mario Kart 8. Nearly every Grand Prix success nets you a new unlockable item. Some games bog you down to unlock things, but that is never an issue here. I have to say my favorite entry in this series is GameCube’s Double Dash with its dual racers but this edition is quite strong. The ability to tweak your ride is really nice. You can pick the kart, wheel type, and the type of glider for flying. Each item affects your speed, handling, acceleration, weight, and traction. Your character also affects these categories. It makes planning a huge part of your gameplay.
The game also features several new items. The most talked about of which is the Super Horn. It can destroy incoming projectiles, even the dreaded Blue Shell. When you’re in first and holding on to the lead it’s a huge help. There is also the Boomerang Flower and the Piranha Plant. The Boomerang gives you three shots that travel a good ways before returning to you. It can tilt a race and take out several opponents. The Piranha Plant can chomp opponents but also provides a small boost.
There are 30 total characters in this game. 30! For non-diehard Nintendo fans it might be hard to recognize some of them. I will say Nintendo did utilize the baby versions of many of the characters though. I found Lakitu to be especially effective.
I found the track design to be inventive and fun. Each course has its own quirks. Mount Wario changes with each lap. It’s a cool feature that had me smiling. There are 16 new tracks, and 16 retro remakes. That’s a ton of variety that ensures the player won’t get bored of the same tracks. And yes, Rainbow road returns folks. There are TWO versions. Both are pure speed killing terror.
When talking about track design I have to mention the Nintendo’s newest feature: anti-gravity. On certain parts of tracks your kart switches from on-wheels into a hoverboard. The coolest part of this feature is the way your kart can then drive upside down or on the sides of walls. It allows the tracks to have even more variety. The anti-gravity also affects your driving strategy. If you bump into a fellow racer you gain a small boost. I found myself planning when to bump an opponent and how it would sling me ahead of the pack.
The Wii U has received a great deal of flack for its perceived “lack of power.” Mario Kart 8 puts those fears to rest. It looks incredible. The game, with one or two-players via split-screen, runs at a gorgeous 60 frames-per-second without a single glitch. Three and four-player local racing runs at 30 fps but it still looks really good. The levels feature beautifully rendered environments that are simply jaw-dropping. I would put this title up against a sharp-looking PlayStation 4 or Xbox One title any day. It’s that pretty.
I mentioned the ability to have four-players locally but you can also play with up to 12-players online. Online is a surprisingly deep experience. You can customize tournaments, and races. If you only want Green Shells then have at it. It’s racing the way you want it. Nintendo drops the ball when it comes to other online areas. You can only chat in a lobby and you can’t invite friends into a game! Come on Nintendo, it’s 2014. It’s time for the company to embrace the importance of online multiplayer gaming.
Mario Kart TV is another new addition to the series. You can share those “holy cow” moments with friends online in the Miiverse and via YouTube. You can even apply some minor editing to make that victory look even sweeter. It’s easy to use and adds another fun layer to the game.
Let’s get to the game’s major gaffe. I have always been a gigantic fan of the series’ battle mode. My friends will still tell you to this day that I am quite the sharpshooter with a Green Shell in Double Dash’s battle mode. Well, Mario Kart 8 basically ruined battle. Instead of placing racers in an arena style course, they are now placed into existing tracks. It’s essentially a race track with three balloons. I played it for less than half an hour and I will not return to it unless arenas are added as downloadable content. Battle mode is unplayable in my opinion. This was seriously disappointing to a longtime fan of this series.
Overall, the good outweighs the bad. Mario Kart 8 is a finely tuned racing machine. The new additions to the long-running series are refreshing (for the most part) and creative. I love the track selection, customization, and finely tuned racing. The power sliding turbo boost has never felt better. I highly recommend this game to all Wii U owners. For those who don’t own a Wii U this may your reason to jump on board.