Mascot kart racing fanatics rejoice! Mario Kart 8 is finally here, and it is among the best in the series. Nintendo nails it again with incredibly tight racing, great track design, and the long-awaited Blue Shell counter, the Super Horn.
First off, this is the best looking game released on the Wii U thus far. It’s to be expected from a first-party title, but that doesn’t take away from the work and detail Nintendo have put into this game. Post-Race replays allow you to slow down your highlight package,allowing you to see the more subtle details in the visuals. Not to mention Mario’s bouncing mustache, which is hilarious to me every time I see it.
Mario Kart 8 has a Grand Prix mode with 8 cups and the standard 3 speeds: 50cc, 100cc, and 150cc. The big thing I noticed is that Mario Kart’s notorious rubber band AI seems to have been toned down a bit from previous entries. It’s still highly competitive, even against the CPU, but you experience less of the sudden “green shell, red shell, blue shell, 5th place” combos than before. Because of this, the races are more balanced. It’s much more possible to win a race strictly on driving skill, as opposed to living and dying by the item box. I have had many races where I’ve made comebacks from 7th or 8th place just because I knew how to tackle the curves on a drift, or use the coins to my advantage and gain a small boost. In game play, the coins are just as important as the items themselves. They give you a slight push, and your overall top speed is increased when you max out at 10. The anti-gravity sections of the tracks add a new dimension and level of strategy to races. Bumping a competitor while in anti-gravity gives both of you a boost, but depending on where you hit them, you could be shot to the side or forward. The best part about it, is that it’s not a feature that’s shoehorned into every track. The usage of the mechanic is tailored for the tracks its used on and makes sense in the context of the race.
Multiplayer is what it has always been. You have your options for local multiplayer as usual, and Mario Kart remains at its best when playing with friends in the same room. However, this brings me to my biggest problem with this game. Battle mode as we all know it is dead. In its place is what basically amounts to races with the 3 balloons attached. The rules are the same, but playing what we know as battle mode on tracks designed for races puts players in a position where they could go for minutes at a time looking for someone to hit. The track best suited for this style in my time with it has been the remake of Kart 64’s Yoshi Valley, due to the middle section of the track. Hopefully Nintendo will offer us DLC in the form of the original battle mode.
Online play is the part that I have most looked forward to in the days and weeks leading up to the release of this game. I’m happy to say that it runs extremely smooth. There was no lag, and I only experienced one disconnection to this point. The online options are varied and allow for races with no items (I expected more people on this, but nothing so far), a frantic mode with items all over the place, or you can limit races to only mushrooms, coins or shells. Quick matches seem to default to 100cc races, so experienced Kart players will have to search for 150cc races online. Those haven’t been too hard to find at all though.
My minor issue with the Battle Mode aside, Mario Kart 8 is a top entry in the series and can be THE title to boost the struggling Wii U sales. Nintendo made the right move releasing this game a week before E3. I’m expecting the last half of the year to be huge for Nintendo, and Mario Kart 8 is the game leading the charge. If you have a Wii U, buy this game. If you don’t have a Wii U, buy one and buy this game.
Mario Kart 8 is available now on the Wii U. In addition to the game itself, if you buy the game and register it on Club Nintendo before July 31st, you get a free game. The choices are New Super Mario Bros U, Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, Pikmin 3, and Wii U Party. Take advantage of that deal. Other than Wii U Party, you can’t go wrong with those choices. Take it easy, everyone!