As I’m speeding down the road, I notice a turn coming up. Instead of braking and taking the corner easy, I decide to powerslide into the curve, and with a flick of the analog stick, boost out of the turn. As I’m all alone on the final straightaway, the nearest racer’s icon just spun, signaling a slip on a banana. The checkered flag is in my sight. Then…a pulsing sound signifies an impending doom, as a quick blue flash streaks across my screen, followed by an explosion of light. As my kart flips in the air, I watch my position change from 1st to 3rd and I slowly, begrudgingly, make my way across the finish line.
This is Mario Kart, and it’s moments like these that have endeared it (for better or worse) to gamers all over.
Everyone has a chance with the right item. Of course, that item more often than not is the feared, hated, but always hilarious blue shell. You want to test how well you handle yourself in front of kids? Race them in Mario Kart and let one of those kids drop a blue shell on you as you’re about to win.
Mario Kart 8’s newest feature for this iteration is item customization. Like Super Smash Bros. before it, you will have the option to turn items off in favor of straight up competitions. I’m sure there will be a crowd for this, but personally? The items are what make Mario Kart the game it is, as there is truly a layer of strategy involved in item usage. The two most popular tactics for me are the item box/fake item box swap, and dropping the banana in front of the item box. Items can be used both offensively and defensively as well. If you have a banana and pass someone that you see holding a red shell? Hold your banana behind your cart and let it go just before the red shell hits you, no effect. The items have such a big place in the game, that it begs the question: what does Mario Kart become without items?
Now obviously its optional to turn the items off, and Mario Kart 7 did have some customization in that you could have mushroom only or shell only races. But to play Mario Kart without its trademark items is something that intrigues me. It will be interesting to see if the gameplay holds up with strictly skill based racing. Check back over the month of May as I’ll be recalling some of my favorite Mario Kart tracks, moments and entries in the series. Mario Kart 8 comes out May 30th on Nintendo Wii U. Take it easy everyone.