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Mario Kart 8 – Wii U

Mario Kart 8 – Wii U

Mario Kart 8 - Wii UPlatform:  Wii U

Release Date (NA):  May 30th, 2014

Developer:  Nintendo

Publisher:  Nintendo

Genre:  Racing

Nerd Rating:  7 out of 10

Don’t forget to check out the updates to the game as well: 2.0, 3.0, 4.0and 4.1!

 

Does Mario Kart 8 beat out Super Mario 3D World for most anticipated Wii U game?  I don’t know, but one thing’s for sure: Mario Kart 8 is pushing plenty of gamers to finally take the plunge and purchase their own Wii U.  That’s good news for us Wii U owners, right?  More sales = more games, something that us early adopters still hunger for.  But while the latest Mario Kart might lessen the number of Wii U-less households, is it the game that the rest of us have been waiting for?

Mario Kart 8 - Wii U

What most have been waiting for…

Compared spec for spec, Mario Kart 8 is the series’ best offering yet.  It’s the first Mario Kart with true HD graphics, runs at about 60 frames per second on average, includes the ability to upload to YouTube (via “Mario Kart TV” which lets the player view highlights in slow motion, among other things), retains the online 12 player capability of of Mario Kart Wiiand boasts a total roster of 30 characters (once they’ve all been unlocked), 5 more than the previously highest total (also Mario Kart Wii) of 25.  We’ve got new weapons, new courses, and new mechanics, and the thing that everyone’s been looking forward to, anti-gravity racing.  

Mario Kart 8 - Wii USounds good, right?  Well, for the most part, it is. Mario Kart 8 delivers what most would expect – better graphics, smoother controls, and the same quasi-reckless, multiplayer free-for-all that the series is known for.  Mario Kart 7 (to me) feels slightly inferior to the previous Mario Kart Wiiand as such, Mario Kart 8 feels much more like a sequel to the latter.  And much like the latter, execution may be near flawless, but there’s a certain degree of variety missing here in terms of gameplay.

The controls and racing mechanics have gradually improved over the years, but the most recent notable jump was Double Dashand since then, we’ve had more or less the same game released time and time again with commendable but minor improvements.  The saying goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and I suppose it’s applicable enough to the franchise, but the revolutionary Mario Kart experience I was expecting never happened.  It feels more like a comparable previous game had some new tracks and characters added; there’s nothing fundamentally new or improved about Mario Kart 8.  It may not be a problem so much as it’s a disappointment, but I think it’s a fair criticism.

Mario Kart 8 - Wii UIt’s sort of like the negligible difference of microwaving something for 30 seconds versus 29.  If there is virtually no difference between 30 and 29, then there should be little between 29 and 28, 28 and 27, and so on.  But at some point you’re down to 20 seconds, quite different from 30.  That’s what the series feels like – incremental differences that leave one title barely indistinguishable from the one before or after, but the sum of these changes is more apparent.

“But what about anti-gravity racing?” you might ask.  To be fair, I thought the whole anti-gravity thing was going to be the selling point of the game.  What could be cooler than racing upside down?  Well, it turns out that it’s not all that different.  The screen adjusts accordingly, so although you may be perpendicular to the ground or even have your “feet in the clouds” so to speak, it doesn’t feel like it.  At all.  The transition is mildly noticeable and their are a number of sections where one can truly enjoy “sideways racing” for a few seconds, but it doesn’t quite have the profound impact that I’d hoped.  It’s hard for me to express exactly what I expected; I guess I just thought everything would feel different…and it doesn’t.

Mario Kart 8 - Wii U

You’ll be treated to the occasional full-on sideways racing, but the feature ends up playing a fairly muted role.

In general, the fundamentals haven’t changed that much.  First place will get little more than a banana peel while 10th or 12th will get Bullet Bills to rocket themselves to the front or either those damn shells that target the first place player.  Computer AI is carried over with the rather annoying feature of attacking the leading player full force with half of a lap left.  A human can easily get into and maintain 1st place for the majority of the race, and with seconds left to go, computer players will unleash an unrealistic barrage of attacks that makes it truly impossible to finish any higher than 4th or 5th.  This is a constant issue at 100cc and 150cc difficulties and something I’d hoped to see fixed.

The graphics are top notch, especially when it comes to the all new courses.  Sure, it’s all still steeped in fantasy and imagination, but the colors are bold and an enormous amount of attention has been paid to the backgrounds that spend most of their time whizzing by.  Truly impressive is the portrayal of light and how crisp the effects are. Mario Kart 8 may not be loaded with originality, but it’s impossible to deny the level of graphical superiority.  This might just be the best looking Mario game to date.

Mario Kart 8 - Wii U

Mario Kart 8’s deft handling of light produces spectacular results!

Like Mario Kart 7a reasonable degree of customization is available for each player’s cart.  Also like Mario Kart 7, most of the changes are superficial and although they appear to effect the kart’s stats, it’s difficult to notice any real differences in gameplay.  Bikes are faster than typical karts and slightly harder to control, but beyond that, the varieties of bodies, wheels, and parachute/hang gliding sails is lost on me.  Each character also has some bearing on the overall stats; again, I’ve yet to notice any significant differences.

Mario Kart 8 - Wii U

Just who I’ve always wanted to race as … Baby Rosalina!

Mario Kart 8 - Wii U

All of them are playable…eventually.

Mario Kart 8 is loaded with characters.  Many were excited to see the inclusion of the 7 Koopalings – are they Bowser’s children?  Nephews?  Does that mean Bowser Jr. is the 8th Koopaling?  Are they bruthas from another mutha?  Will we ever know?  It’s fun to bounce around so many characters for a while, but it’s tough to get into them since they all seem to function the same.  Accessing all of the characters will prove to be a long and arduous task, sucking up several hours of game time.  Roughly half of the game’s total roster needs to be unlocked through completing various courses or circuits in first place as well as simply logging hundreds of races.  This is a little disappointing; because of the somewhat repetitive nature of the game, it’s easy to get burnt out well before unlocking everyone, and if you do manage to survive the process, you’ll be so thoroughly acquainted with the game inside and out that having a few extra characters on hand might seem a tad pointless.

Besides the straight up Grand Prix mode, Mario Kart 8 offers up the usual Versus Mode, Time Trials, and Battle Mode.  Battle Mode is slightly disappointing since the standard courses are used instead of more specific, battle-friendly arenas.  Online mutliplayer is likely to be a big draw for fans since Mario Kart games are typically enjoyed best against human opponents.  It would be nice to see the Wii U’s Gamepad used for some novel purpose in single player modes, though it acts as little more than a standard controller.  In fact, using the Gamepad can be slightly awkward, but luckily the game supports all Wii and Wii U controllers including the standard Wii Remote (which can be used alone or fitted into a wheel), the Pro Controller, and the Classic Controller.

It might sound like I have nothing good to say about the latest Mario Kart installment, and in some ways I’m probably being harsher than I need to.  There’s really nothing wrong with Mario Kart 8 and when compared alongside other entries in the series it easily stands out as the best yet.  I suppose that I was personally expecting a more radical departure from “yesterday’s Mario Kart” and instead we have a tweaked and refined version of the last couple of releases.  As is typically the case with the Mario Kart franchise, it’s best enjoyed against human opponents though you’ll need to spend some serious time in single player modes to unlock everything.  Either way, it’s easy for the simple mechanics to get tiresome even after short periods of play, but then again it’s an easy title to pick up and put down at one’s leisure.

Mario Kart 8 - Wii U

More proof of how incredible Mario Kart 8 looks.

Aficionados of more recent Mario Kart releases may want to temper their expectations a bit, but if it’s been a few years since you’ve engaged in the pinnacle of kart racing video games, you should be sufficiently impressed.  One thing’s for sure – if Mario Kart 8 can turn more people onto the Wii U, it may mean that we’ll finally start seeing a larger volume of high quality games that we all know Nintendo to be capable of!

Also check out our review on the first DLC additions to the game!

Reviewed by The Cubist

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist


Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

Email me anytime, about anything: thecubist@nerdbacon.com

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6 Comments

  1. Frag Winterbrew says:

    Personally Mario Kart 8 just didn’t seem that exciting, Anti-Gravity as a selling point was completely lost on me. The Koopalings/GP peach/metal Mario were shuffled in as misc. characters that replaced actual iconic/relevant characters such as Birdo or Bowser Jr from the previous roster. Mario Kart Wii was a prime game while Mario Kart 7 was a filler title that felt incredibly empty. Then to have Mario Kart 8 come out with no real battle mode, a half worthless roster, and a aesthetic graphic feature as a selling point? That really makes me doubt the series’ quality as improving. Through I need to see what they did right in the new installment, if I can ever work up the nerve to buy the game. x_x

     
    • I’ve probably played this more hours since my review than I had before my review, and I must say that it’s growing on me more and more, especially after drifting back to Mario Kart Wii a few times. It really is a solid game, I just wish it was more of an improvement or a deeper experience rather than feeling like an update.

      Still I will admit that the courses are pretty fantastic since I’ve gotten to know them. Even those lifted from previous games have undergone a welcomed facelift in order to “fit in” with the rest of Mario kart 8. However, I’ve unlocked all the characters, placed about as high as I think I can on all the tracks at every difficulty, and I really don’t know how inclined I’ll be to play it for long periods of time at this point. I’m sure I’ll pick it up now and then for a few races, but beyond that, I can’t see spending hours at a time with it. Of course the same can be said of pretty much any Mario Kart game and it’s more of a reflection on the concept than Mario Kart 8 itself.

       
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