“3….2..*Holds down A button to receive speed boost*….1…Go.
Mario Kart 8 is considered to be the game that has started the engine of the Wii U, but does it live up to the hype of the massive behemoth franchise known as the Mario Kart series? Find out below.
Back when i excitingly picked up Mario Kart 8 at my local Gamestop, I raced home (no pun intended) in order to get some play time in before having to run some errands. I inserted the rather appealing disc, only to be welcomed by the sounds of engines and a menacing Bowser holding a red shell on the screen. From this moment, I knew I was in for quite the ride.
The home screen of Mario Kart 8 offers a couple of different ways to play and experience the game. These different modes are Single Player, Multiplayer, Online (One Player or Two Player), and Mario Kart TV. The first mode to be covered in this review is the single player, which consists of Grand Prix, Time Trials, VS Race, and Battle Mode.
For those that are new to the Mario Kart franchise, Grand Prix is the bread and butter of the game. The Grand Prix has three different difficulties (known as ccs) , as well as an unlock able mode once all of the difficulties are beaten. With that being said, lets get into the gameplay mechanics of Mario Kart 8.
Mario Kart 8 is, without hesitation, an extremely smooth experience. From using the Piranha Plant to take out enemies to destroying the infamous blue shell with the Super Horn, every aspect of racing in Mario Kart 8 feels natural and not to mention fun. The 16 new courses, along with the 16 retro courses, all have their own feel to them. These courses are, of course (again, no pun intended), only enhanced by the addition of zero gravity and HD, which are both brand new to the franchise. Did i mention it looks gorgeous? It looks gorgeous. Zero gravity, while not implemented in every course, proves to be exactly what the Mario Kart franchise needed. Some of the zero gravity areas, like the one in Toad Harbor, are extremely noticeable and apparent, while others, like the one in Shy Guy Falls, are rather unnoticed in what they actually do. What I mean by this, is that it took me a couple of play throughs on Shy Guys Falls to know that I was actually racing up and down a waterfall. It is very impressive how subtly they can implement this system, while having it be quite the game changer at the same time.
While in zero gravity, running into other racers gives a slight boost, as well as bumping into certain objects. With the addition of zero gravity and items like the Boomerang Flower, Piranha Plant, and Super Horn, Mario Kart 8 feels like a true succession to previous Mario Karts. Especially for those who skipped over Mario Kart 7 on the 3DS, it is a huge improvement over the its Wii predecessor.
The controls in the game are fined tuned to give the player the most precise feeling, and players have multiple options on how they want to race. I for one prefer using the gamepad’s analog controls over the motion controls, simply because I feel the analog controls are more precise. With that being said, nothing feels better than executing a perfect drift around a long corner and getting the red sparks indicating a speed boost after coming out of the drift. Mario Kart, you make me feel like a winner.
Playing through all of the courses can take anywhere from an hour and a half to two and a half hours. Assuming one does not win every Grand Prix the first time through, completely finishing all of the ccs and mirror mode can take around or even well over ten hours. Grand Prix, along with attempting to set records in Time Trials and fighting each other with green shells and such in Battle Mode, can keep one entertained for quite some time on single player alone. But hold your horses, reader, there is still multiplayer, as well as the beloved Mario Kart TV.
Offline mutiplayer can be played amongst four people, with a hectic split screen battle for the ultimate racer. Offline 4 player racing is one of the most enjoyable experiences, simply because the rivalries made are unbeatable when compared to playing online. Playing Mario Kart 8 split screen reminds me of playing Super Smash Bros Melee with my brother and friends back in the day. It was so hectic, yet so much fun. Of course, thats not saying that the online multiplayer is not extremely enjoyable as well. You have the option to play online multiplayer split screen with one other player, which is a nice addition as well.
In the online multiplayer section of Mario Kart 8, you have the options of playing against Worldwide racers, Regional racers, Friends, or playing in Tournaments. Each section has its own ranking system that starts off at 1000 and increases or decreases based off of your racing performance. The system is pretty forgiving, with the racer only losing a handful of points for a bad race but gaining a nice chunk for winning or placing highly in one. Having played in both Worldwide and Regional races extensively, I can say that each one provides a high amount of fun and challenge.
I do not want us to forget, however, that this is Mario Kart. It is not an extremely serious racing game. I have often gone from 1st to 10th place right before the finish line due to a sequence of red and green shells, as well as jumping into 1st because of a triple mushroom boost and a couple of well timed drifts. Each race is unpredictable, and skill does not always play a factor in how you place in the race. That is something that should be remembered when playing any Mario Kart game.
Battle Mode, a game type that was loved by many in previous Mario Karts, has been changed up so that the battles take place on a course rather than an isolated area. The premise of Battle Mode is that your racer has three balloons, and getting hit by items destroys a balloon. Destroyed balloons leads to a loss in points, while destroying other’s balloons and holding on to your own can lead to a point-filled victory. Battle Mode is a very fun game type to play with friends, but It is not by any means vital to the overall success of Mario Kart 8.
The last feature, and possibly the most loved, is Mario Kart TV. Mario TV allows one to view previous races, while using slow motion tools and different customization options to view different aspects of the race. Whether you want to view your drifts, action moments, or moments where you get big air, the customization options of MKTV isolates those parts and plays them in a theatrical manner. You can even save certain races and share them with others. Slow motion playback is one of the greatest additions to the Mario Kart series, simply because it is so darn funny to watch my mii look smugly at other racers as he boosts bye.
Mario Kart 8 is a game full of content and fun. It is one of the most well-put together and fluid games of the franchise, and it most definitely deserves the success it has been getting since its release. Mario Kart 8 is one of those games that will be played for years to come, and it can only lead the Wii U to even more success.
Reviewed by Nick Putnam.