Nintendo’s last console Mario Kart game on the Wii sold north of 35 million copies. The Big N hopes that this sales magic continues with the release of Mario Kart 8 (MK8) to help move Wii U hardware units off of store shelves. While Nintendo fans have been beating their chests proudly since midnight on May 3oth and actively uploading their triumphs on YouTube, this game isn’t perfect nor is it the best game on the Wii U right now. However, what you will find is the best reason to own Nintendo’s latest console. Read on and find out why.
Let’s call this series what it really is down to its core. The Mario Kart series has always been about car combat first…and racing second. Anyone who thinks otherwise should holster those red and blue shells and stop hating on me when I get close to the finish line. Nintendo EAD has decided to add more weapons to the fold, but not to the detriment of the racing balance of the game. Between the Wii and 3DS versions, the game has added projectile weapons of boomerangs and fireballs. MK8 also features new proximity weapons such as the Piranha Plant and a proximity Super Horn. Each of these weapons have their pros and cons and adds new value to the same old weapons used since the sprite-cart racing of the N64 version. Stripped from the weapons gameplay is holding down the fire button to put a weapon (e.g., shell, banana peel, etc.) on standby behind your vehicle while hitting the “?” block to acquire another weapon. It’s now one weapon, one queue and that’s going to take some time to get used to. Another weapon missing is the fake “?” block that can be carefully placed to fool other unsuspecting gamers. One final weapon of note is the Crazy 8. If you’re falling behind the race a bit, the Crazy 8 will give you access to 8 different items at once to help you shoot (and cheat) your way back into contention.
MK8 offers six control options: (1) Wii Steering Wheel or Wii Remote Plus held sideways; (2) Wii Remote Plus and Nunchuk combo; (3) the Wii Classic Controller (4) Wii U Pro Controller; (5) the Wii U GamePad buttons; and (6) the Wii U GamePad tilt controls. As with the Wii version, the steering wheel style is much more forgiving for users who opt to go the motion-control route. Moreover, online connectivity will require the use of the Wii U GamePad. Using the GamePad will also give you a small screen layout of race ranking, a small video feed, a map, and a horn. While these are cool additions, they feel as comfortable as texting while driving. All-in-all, controls don’t require much of a learning curve and Nintendo has allowed for gamers to drift around corners much easier with this version to get that extra boost of speed.
Upside down and inside out MK8 is about to show you folks what it’s all about. As far as terrain gaming goes, MK8 takes the 3DS version’s air and underwater elements and adds an anti-gravity element reminiscent of Nintendo’s own F-Zero series. The anti-gravity means a refresh in course design and racing dynamics while not hindering the ability to control your cart. As a matter of fact, some of you may not notice your zenith until you look into the distance and see waterfalls falling in the wrong direction.
Online modes are the same as the Wii version. Up to two players on a single game can go split screen with the rest of the MK8-racing world. The Wii U horsepower allows for a better online experience with no lag issues experienced. You can race your friends from Miiverse or compete against strangers both regionally and globally. Online rankings are handled the same as the Wii. You start off with 1000 points and depending on how you do, you either lose points or gain points. If you’re a newbie, I don’t recommend racing online globally as you’ll have your ass handed to you by aggressive players.
Mario Kart TV is Nintendo’s admirable new attempt at a highlight reel so that you can relive your recent moments of awesomeness. Keep in mind that it also stores your recent online racing as well. Depending on how you do, you may not want to watch the highlight reel as it’s like watching ESPN highlights when your favorite team gets spanked. Not good.
YouTube integration has also been added for these short highlight reels that you can edit prior to uploading. You’ll need a Google account to make it happen. While this is new territory for the Big N and its fans, it’s not new to gaming as the PS4 and Xbox One have these features much more fleshed out on their systems. Nevertheless, Nintendo is getting with the times and it’s a good sign for future titles. *Cough-F-Zero-Cough*
Offline modes includes a single-player Grand Prix mode with speeds/difficulty of 50cc, 100cc, or 150cc to start off with. After each trophy collection, you unlock a new character. Once you unlock all of the tracks and finish all six cups, you will unlock the ability to use your Mii character in the game. There’s also a thrown-in coin collection aspect of the game where you have the ability to collect a max 10 coins per race. As you take damage or fall off a course, you lose 3 coins. These coins don’t have a transactional purpose as there’s not store where you purchase power ups in the menus of the game. Simply collecting them will lead to unlocking more cart options for the body, tires, and gliders. The downside to these unlocked customized parts is that you can’t save them as part of your profile and have to put your vehicle together every time you come back to your Wii U.
The MK series has always been about the living room offline experiences more than anything since the franchise was built. Four-player split screen has never been better…especially with the option for all 4 players to participate in Grand Prix mode. The addition of the highlight reel in Mario Kart TV and the YouTube integration will take your living room bragging online and into social media. Let the worldwide, non-bullying, smack talk begin!
When the Wii was released and underpowered compared to the competition, Nintendo took the stance that graphics don’t matter. With the Wii U the Big N is still underpowered, but MK8 has to be the prettiest game on any existing system in the market today. Again, the course designs in MK8 are refreshing and don’t always follow the traditional lapping formulas of old MK games. Mount Wario starts you off at the top of a snowy mountain and instead of repeat laps, there are checkpoints that you pass as you hit one of each phase of the mountain until you reach the crowd waiting at the bottom. Not only does Nintendo tap its F-Zero series, but maybe a little 1080 Snowboarding along the way. The tiny downside to the course design refresh is that it affects a retro course like Rainbow Road. Instead of the 10-minute long race of the N64, the race is one big lap with three checkpoints in the middle. It will be a little disappointing to those who remember the old Rainbow Road, but you may not even notice.
Videogame music fans will find the tracks (music not courses) in MK8 as some of the best the Big N has produced in quite a long time. Each stage has some interactive music elements as in the past, but this game seems to push more of a modern feel. It’s as if Kondo-san’s school of music had four of its students – Shiho Fujii, Atsuko Asahi, Ryo Nagamatsu, and Yasuaki Iwata – assigned to modernize MK music. The results are memorable tracks like the Daft Punk-esque Electrodome electronica dance composition, the quick-paced western-inspired tune of Shy Guy Falls, and the Toad Harbor beach music that sounds like something out of Wave Race 64. There are 32 courses and each one has a carefully crafted soundtrack that’s just beautifully arranged and executed.
Often imitated but never duplicated, there have been many clones since the original Super Mario Kart landed on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) in 1994. While a few copycats have come close, I’m looking at you Rareware (Diddy Kong Racing) and Sumo Digital (Sonic All Star Racing), this game is proof that only Nintendo can code this type of experience. Mario Kart 8 delivers in every way with a few gripes that won’t detract from the magic and love Nintendo poured into this gem. The packaged graphics, the musical genius, the course design, and gameplay is another Big N clinic on how to make elite games that don’t require testosterone demonstrations of violence and gore. If you own a Wii U, this is a must own game to sit in your library next to Super Mario 3D World, Pikmin 3, and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. If you’re on the fence, open your wallet and take the plunge…you’ll get a choice of 3 awesome games for a limited time. Yes I know, Wii U Party doesn’t count.
Source of Images: Island_Gamer’s Miiverse.