Another generation of games consoles, another home console from Nintendo and inevitably another entry to the Mario Kart series. We all knew it would come, even before it was announced just like we know it will come on the next generation of games consoles and every generation after that. It’s not the only franchise that we know will be released on every single Nintendo console though, we can be pretty certain of ourselves if we were to be that a new Mario or Zelda game was to be released on every Nintendo console too. But Mario Kart has proven particularly in more recent generations to be an ace up Nintendo’s sleeves when it comes to sales and moving consoles. But why wouldn’t it be? Mario Kart games throw in enough of a challenge to keep the dedicated gamers coming back for more and with it’s family friendly vibe, Mario Kart also maintains a level of fun for a more casual crowd. Mario Kart 8 on Wii U is by no means an exception.
Throughout this review I will be explaining to you why I think that Mario Kart 8 is the best in it’s franchise. First we will focus on how the game looks, one simple word will explain that: STUNNING! The game runs at a native 720p and although there may be people out there who say “well, 720p resolution is good and all but it’s not exactly 1080p….can’t be next gen or anything!” Seriously, if you hear anyone say anything like that you need to slap them in the face. When you play the game on your big HD screen at home you will not be able to keep from smiling in awe at how gorgeous the graphics are. Even when you play on just the gamepad in off TV play it still looks that good, so yes, games can look “next gen” even if they do not run at 1080p.
Like with Mario Kart Wii, Mario Kart 8 includes tracks from past Mario Kart games, some of which look amazing and totally worthy of an HD upgrade. Two in particular, the first track that caught my attention was Donut Plains 3 from the SNES with it’s gorgeous reflections shining of the puddles of water on the track. The second track being Rainbow Road from the N64 which a lot of people would find it hard to ignore the breath taking and sometimes off putting fireworks display going on in the background. Although as a Wii owner myself in the last generation, I was among many other Wii owners that said that HD isn’t everything, gameplay over graphics man! (which is still true by the way) Now that we are getting quality Nintendo first party games in full HD, (which we have waited extremely patient for) I for one would find it extremely difficult to imagine a new Mario Kart game without as good visuals as Mario Kart 8.
No game is utterly 100% perfect (not even Ocarina Of Time!) and some people have stated that because the game alternates between 60 and 59fps while running, it bugs them. While to me this is not noticeable in the slightest, some people would have this fact down as a Mario Kart 8 low point and if this is a low point it’s a very nit-picky one. The game runs very smoothly and whilst racing across the classic Moo Moo Meadows from the N64 whilst dodging cows and moles, you are not going to notice the frame rate alternating between 60 and 59fps. So in all, I am finding it extremely difficult to mark Mario Kart 8 down in it’s visual department.
Moving on to how the game plays, like pretty much all Mario Kart games, it handles like a dream. You can choose to play using various control methods including: Wii U gamepad either with analogue stick to turn or via motion control, Wii U pro controller, Wii remote and nun-chuck, Wii remote on it’s own (therefor using the Wii wheel) and via the Wii classic controller. Players therefor have a choice to play the game as they prefer and being a pro Wii wheel user myself on Mario Kart Wii last gen, I thought the best way for me would be using the Wii U gamepad with motion control. (I got rid of my Wii wheel) It turns out that this time around I am much preferring to use the gamepad with its analogue stick, although I wouldn’t call myself a pro, I am having a blast all the same. Mario Kart 8’s biggest feature that it brings to the Mario Kart franchise’s table is the anti gravity feature. You can basically race up walls and even on the ceiling in certain tracks in the game. There will be tracks where you can choose between racing up a wall or staying on the ground. Personally, I like the inclusion of the anti gravity but I feel that it does not give me an advantage if I choose to race up a wall rather than on the ground, in fact to me it seems as though you are better off on the ground and can get around the track quicker. Whilst in anti gravity mode, players can bump into each other giving each of them a small boost giving the game a small competitive edge at the time.
Just like in Mario Kart Wii, there is no snaking in Mario Kart 8 so players will have to find alternative ways of getting up the track faster like finding shortcuts or using power slides or power ups more wisely. Speaking of power ups, Mario Kart 8 in my opinion offers the best line up of power ups ever seen in any game in its franchise. The main thing I like about the power ups this time around is the fact that the Star is not as over powered as it has always been previously. It doesn’t last too long and does not make the player all that much faster. I personally would rather get Three Mushrooms than a star and try to utilize them by cutting corners cheekily or using them to access certain shortcuts. You have the return of other fan favourite power ups like the Bullet Bill which transforms you into a giant Bullet Bill and basically carries you a good length up the track destroying everyone in your path. The Golden Mushroom makes a return giving you as many speed boosts as you can get out of it before it runs out, be careful when using it on tracks like Rainbow Road that have a lot of turns making it easy to get carried away a boost yourself off the track. The lightening bolt is also back (although I have found it very rare to come across) which makes everyone about a tenth of your size leaving them vulnerable to get squashed by you. Activating the Star power up will make you invulnerable to the lightening bolt which is extremely handy!
Among fan favourite power ups we have four new power ups in Mario Kart 8, one of which makes me sigh when I get it: the Boomerang Flower. It was one of my favourite power ups on Super Mario 3D World but it just does not cut it for me here. It enables you to launch a giant boomerang either forward or backwards three times and to me is particularly hard to hit someone, which only stuns them very briefly as it is. Next up is the Piranha Plant which chomps every now and again giving you a very small boost each time, although you can control how often it chomps by pressing fire. Of course, it goes without saying that the Piranha Plant will chomp anyone in its path. Next is the Super Horn which activates a shock wave in the near vicinity around you stunning other racers nearby. Interestingly enough, you can use the Super Horn to defend yourself against the much hated Blue Shell (which hunts down the player in first place destroying any racer that gets in the way) so is a handy power up to keep hold of if you’re luck enough to have one in first place. Lastly we have the Crazy Eight which basically gives you eight power ups to use including a Bob-omb, a Green Shell, a Red Shell and a Star to name a few. All in all it’s a good list of power ups that doesn’t make the game ever seem too unbalanced, Although Mario Kart 8 is guilty of rubber banding but let’s face it, Mario Kart wouldn’t be Mario Kart without a bit of rubber banding.
Onto game modes now starting with single player. Game modes are pretty standard when it comes to Mario Kart games, in single player you have the choice of playing the grand prix mode or the time trial mode. Grand prix will enable you to race against 11 AI racers in a choice of 8 different cups, two of which are unlocked to begin with and you unlock more as you progress through them. Some of the best tracks in Mario Kart history can be found within these cups such as the all new Mount Wario and the amazing Thwomp Ruins, as well as some returning classics that I have touched on already. As in any Mario Kart game you can race in either 50cc mode, 100cc mode and 150cc mode. 150cc being the hardest and fastest…obviously! But once you have beaten 150cc mode you will unlock Mirror Mode where you can race in all of the tracks in each cup backwards! This is all well and good but also very expected, I’m not saying anything should ever change in the grand prix modes of future Mario Kart games but it is literally the same modes every time. Single player is not where the game shines so it matters little, but at times I felt that the game was becoming a chore after a while especially if you want to get gold in every cup. Time trials allow you to race any track in the fastest time possible, you can upload your ghosts onto Miiverse where players can leave comments about it. You are even able to race against Nintendo staff members and will get a stamp if you manage to beat them.
Stamps can also be obtained within the game by beating a cup using each character. Racers have the choice of racing with 30 playable characters, 14 of which are unlockable. Thankfully, Funky Kong does not make a return from Mario Kart Wii, but replacing him is the just as bad Pink Gold Peach and Baby Rosalina. I mean, what is Nintendo’s obsession with making every character into babies? It’s beyond me it really is. There are however all seven Koopa Kids to unlock as well as your own Miis. Racers also get the choice of racing in a Kart or motorbike that makes it’s welcome return from Mario Kart Wii much to my delight as bikes happen to be my ride of choice in Mario Kart 8. Mario Kart 8 allows you to choose not only they type of kart or bike to race with but it also gives you a choice of wheels and glider (used whilst airborne) to use. Which ever set up you choose will determine the kart or bikes stats including: acceleration, top speed and weight. Depending on which character you choose to play as will also determine the stats depending on their weight. One disappointment about choosing your set up is that you cannot save your set up to use the next time you play, but I am hearing that this will be rectified in a near future free DLC patch.
Mario Kart 8 (like all Mario Kart games) really shines when it comes to multiplayer. In local multiplayer, you can race against up to 3 other people in VS mode, where players can adjust the rules to how they see fit. For example, you can tweak which power ups will appear, including turning them off completely, the difficulty level of the AI and race in teams or solo. Players can also choose how tracks appear, choose a track after another or race all tracks randomly or in order. The one real disappointmenmt for me in Mario Kart 8 lies within the other local multiplayer mode which is Battle mode. I have always had a good time in Battle mode in previous Mario Kart games, but there is one glaring change to how you play Battle mode in Mario Kart 8 which has ruined it for me. You no longer battle against other racers in separate arena’s, you now battle against them in remixed versions of tracks in the game. It makes each battle feel like a slog when you’re hunting down another racer since some of the tracks are fairly long and makes the entire mode itself seem rather tedious. The premise of the mode still remains, each player starts with 3 balloons and will lose one if they get hit by another players power up. The last player that remains without losing all balloons is the winner. Thank goodness Battle mode is not the be all and end all of the Mario Kart franchise.
So what is the back bone of Mario Kart 8? It has to be the online mode. You can choose to play single player online or two players online in races with a total of 12 players either continental or globally. It never gets old, once I pick up my gamepad ready for another session online I find it very hard to put it down. All of a sudden a good few hours have passed. Players start with 1000 points and gain more points or lose points depending on where they finish in a race online. Before a race begins, you are given a choice of 3 different tracks to vote for or you can choose random which will pick a completely random track and one players vote will be chosen at random. Players can also make a lobby to play against friends where they will also be able to talk to each other in the lobby via the mic on the gamepad. Players can also participate in tournements where they can set their own rules. Just like Mario Kart Wii, Battle mode also makes a return online in Mario Kart 8 which I am finding as disappointing as it is in local multiplayer. Playing online gives this game enough replay-ability to surely keep myself and many others playing Mario Kart 8 for years to come, it worked with Mario Kart Wii and yet Mario Kart 8 feels even more polished.
Finally there is Mario Kart TV. What on earth is that? I hear you ask. Well I don’t blame you because I was asking the same thing before I knew what it was. Mario Kart TV is an all new mode for Mario Kart 8 that allows you to upload your races to Miiverse and also straight to Youtube. You can also view other peoples races around the world and pause, rewind and even play highlights in slow motion. I didn’t really think much of it to begin with but find myself checking out Mario Kart TV quite often, being able to slow down certain highlights and play them backwards is a neat touch and looks great. Sometimes it’s fun just to go onto Miiverse and watch a few highlights from some of my friends races.
Despite being somewhat disappointed with Battle mode, Mario Kart always has been and still is pretty much the pinnacle of multiplayer gaming. Not only does it cover local multiplayer very well, online multiplayer is pretty flawless too. Free DLC is also coming too, players will soon be able to download three Mercedes cars to race in and while this doesn’t excite me too much, it’s free and Nintendo are a business needing to make money so I cannot complain. DLC that I can see happening in the future are new tracks, new characters and maybe the option to customize your own tracks. (I think that last one might be a stretch too far sadly) Mario Kart 8 has a very high attach rate and has exceeded over 1 million copies in the US alone and it is no wonder why. It throws in new characters, new tracks, new power ups and new game modes whilst maintaining the level of complete enjoyment whilst playing. Throw in the stunning HD visuals and you have a package that has acquired a must own status for every Wii U owner.Please enjoy the game play video below.
– Stunning visuals
– Same faultless controls
– New tracks are all great
– Playing online is as addictive as ever
– Separate arenas in Battle mode are a thing of the past
– Pink Gold Peach and Baby Rosalina!
Uploaded by Nene139 – #1 Fifa Player, Funny Daily Videos.
Written by Sammy J on 18 August 2014