Mario Kart 8 Review
Well, it’s here. The first of many games people are saying will turn the WiiU’s favor around. Mario Kart 8. While I think it’s ridiculous to say that one or even two games will “save” the system, let’s take a look at the newest entrant in the Mario Kart series and see if it gets the checkered flag or burns out at the starting gate.
First off, this isn’t going to be a terribly long review, because there is only so much that can be said about Mario Kart 8. It’s Mario Kart. Surely I don’t have to go into in-depth detail about what Mario Kart is, if you’ve played a Nintendo console in the past 10 years, you know what Mario Kart is and if you like it or not. So instead, let’s talk about the stuff they added, and what’s good and what’s bad.
The biggest notable change in Mario Kart 8 as advertised on the box is the antigravity sections that the game has. Almost every track has a section for it, noted by what looks like a blue dashpad, where the wheels on your kart/bike/atv/yoshi bike/flying battleship will turn sideways. In these sections, you can actually get a speed boost by hitting other racers and certain special bumpers. This actually adds a bit of timing and strategy to racing, where a good timed hit in these sections can speed you up, and knock one of the other racers off the edge, slowing them down. It also looks really cool. 3 New items have been added to the collection, the awesome boomerang flower, which works exactly like how you think it does, a potted piranha plant, which isn’t as cool, but does chomp on nearby racers and gives you a speed boost for a limited time, a little like the bullet bill item. The super horn has one use, protecting your lead from a blue shell, as when used it destroys any items that its shockwaves hit. Also added is the crazy 8, which gives you 8 items (Coin, bob-omb, star, green shell, red shell, mushroom and a blooper), it’s rare though, and I don’t know how useful it actually is, as I’ve never actually gotten one myself. The items additions are ok, finally adding a way to protect yourself from that dastardly blue shell destroying your lead. It also seems to be less common than the blue shell( I can’t speak for the math, only by how often I see it vs how often I see blue shells) and lighting strikes are VERY common, which of course not only shrinks you, but takes away your item too. So, even though they added an item to counter the blue shell, don’t rely on it too much. I don’t mind the new items to much, as the boomerang is an awesome addition, which kind of makes up for the other lackluster additions.
Control wise, the game is very smooth on every controller I tried. This is the first WiiU game I’ve played that did not require me to use the Gamepad to play on my own, which is awesome, because I’ve been looking to use my pro controller for quite some time. The motion controls are still there, and they are still as weak as they were on the Wii, but thankfully they are turned off by default, and if you do wish to try it, it can be turned on and off with the press of a button on the gamepad which is handy because once you try it once, you may turn it off just as quickly. It’s very comfortable to play this game on the gamepad, and nothing is lost if you switch to say another controller type, and thankfully this game lets you use any controller setup you want, so if you found a favorite in the Wii version, you’re in luck here. Well, unless you wanted to use a Gamecube controller, but that might not be an issue for much longer.
There are 32 tracks in the game, half of which are new tracks, and half of which are retro tracks, updated to make use of antigravity, underwater, and gliding sections in case they were missing them before. The new tracks are really well made, and are gorgeous to look at, making full use of WiiU’s capabilities graphically. I didn’t feel that I hated any new stage, they were all great, even the rainbow road stage, the most hated stage of all, has some cool moments. The retro stages look great as well, but I’m not the biggest fan of some the changes to these tracks, and one stage from the SNES days feel really out of place in this shiny new world of karting. Still, the tracks are fun, and upgrades to certain tracks make them much more fun they were before. I’m looking at you, Toad’s Turnpike. I only have two issues with the stages, and one is more a personal nitpick. We see some stages from Mario Kart 7, and I think it’s too soon to call those stages “retro”. But considering they have been doing retro stages for years, they may have used the good ones already. The second issue I have is there are no arena stages for battle mode. When you play battle mode with friends, you choose from 8 of the tracks, but they are unedited for battle purposes. You can go forward and backward on any of these tracks, but it’s not the same as having a arena to battle in, as battles are not as frantic as they were before, with far too much ground to cover.
Online isn’t too bad. The races are smooth and lag free, and it doesn’t seem to matter who you race with. It does take longer to start sometimes, but if that’s the tradeoff to no lag, I’ll take it. The only downside I had with online is some connection issues, but there could be any number of reasons for that, it might not be Nintendo’s fault. Still, it’s relatively painless, and bodes well for the future. Maybe Nintendo is finally ready to enter the online market of gaming. Another new addition is MKTV, which allows players to share videos of their racing highlights. After each race the game makes a highlight reel for you and it takes no time to do so, and it has some neat editing features, like how long the reel is, who you follow and what type of action you follow. I don’t imagine it will last too long before the novelty wears out, but still, it’s another cool feature. Hopefully Smash Bros will be released with something similar. You can upload straight to YouTube as well, but you sadly have fewer options and the videos are compressed to 720p. It’s not a deal breaker, as least not to me but I know some people who will be put off by that.
(a highlight reel, from one of my new favorite tracks, to give you a taste of what its like)
Do I feel this is the game to save the Wiiu? Honestly, I think Nintendo is putting WAY too much on this and smash bros shoulders to save their struggling system. They are doing everything possible to make people buy this game, including giving away a free game when you buy it. That’s not to say the game is bad however, as it is a blast to play. Mario Kart games are always fun, and this one is no exception, and for all the WiiU owners out there, I do recommend it. But all the WiiU owners I know already have it, and I’m not convinced it’s going to get people to purchase a WiiU. Regardless, it’s a great party game, a great racing game, and just in general a fun game, easily worth your time. I give this new Mario Kart a: