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I saw that there is a review contest and I thought this would be my submission. I had logged over twenty hours into Mario Kart 8 before writing this review.
I’m crazy for a good kart racer. My favorite perhaps being Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed…well, until I burnt out on it.
I’ll have to be honest here: the past few iterations of Mario Kart and I haven’t gotten along. Most specifically, the ones that followed Super Circuit (with the exception of DS given certain circumstances.) It began to feel like a game of reverse Russian roulette, with item imbalance that would even drive the most patient competitive players insane. This caused skepticism for me when Mario Kart 8 was announced. However, not only does it try to fix any imbalances, but it’s also overall the best Mario Kart to come in a very long time.
Mario Kart 8
Nintendo Wii U
Release: 2014 May 30 (North America and Europe)
The core of the game is much like Mario Kart Wii and 7 mashed together. There are twelve players per race; vehicles are customizable with karts, bikes, and atvs all in the mix; and the underwater sequences in stages, as well as the glider portions make a return as well. So as a result, nothing has really changed here.
What Mario Kart 8 does new, however, is the anti-gravity mechanic. This allows for parts of the track to twist, turn, and go upside-down much like F-Zero. This allows for some of the more creative and wild track ideas that the series has ever seen, such as Shy Guy Falls, which has you scaling a waterfall. The game also introduces the ATV, albeit only three or so chassis to choose from; it essentially drives between the kart and the bike. There are also three new items: the boomerang (which can last for a few throws and hit multiple racers in one throw), the piranha plant (gives a short turbo and attacks any nearby racers), and the super horn which can slow down any nearby racers in a small radius as well as destroy any item coming your way including the blue shell. There is also the crazy eight, which is pretty much a modification of the lucky seven.
Speaking of those two, there is more of a difference between karts and bikes than ever before. Bikes have been nerfed to hell and back, so karts are actually better in a lot of cases (bikes have the upper hand in casual races as well as general cornering, but are beaten by karts in almost every other way.) Some items also have been nerfed in addition to the general balance fixes (however, you can still get hit by two or more blue shells in one race, it’s just slightly less common) The blue shell behaves more so like a red shell because of its shorter knockback (as well as it being possible to destroy give the super horn), and the items seem to overall be less aggressive than previous installments.
It's also more full of humorous scene.
The character roster this time around is absolutely terrible. It’s quite possibly the worst in the entire series. The roster from Mario Kart 7 is copy pasted, Honey Queen and Wiggler are removed (not necessarily bad), Toadette returns, and then the additional characters are pretty much all babies and the Koopalings, with the exception of Pink Gold Peach. It’s actually really disappointing considering that Mario Kart Wii had a big, diverse roster which is replaced by this.
The favorite battle mode makes its return as always, but this time it feels a lot less entertaining. The main reason is because there are no battle-specific maps. All of them are just slightly modified tracks with the only modification being that you can go wherever you want. While it’s nice that battle mode is even there, it’s all but in the way I would want it.
This time, a lot of the meat is in the online multiplayer. While it feels laggier than Mario Kart Wii, it’s still a blast whether it be casually or competitively. The game now gives three courses to vote on, and then a random option which will pick any of the thirty-two tracks the game has to offer (regardless of whether it was in the choices or not.) You can pick phrases of things to say in public, like you could in Mario Kart Wii and 7, but you can only partake in voice what when you’re playing in a friend-exclusive group. While it’s somewhat of a pet peeve, from Nintendo it’s something to expect. There’s a community code system much like Mario Kart 7, so expect to punch in a lot of them to play with friends.
Overall, the controls are pretty solid. Cornering is generally pretty tight with a few different quirks that the bikes have to offer, and it just all feels right. The game very much controls like Mario Kart 7 with a few additional refinements. However, it must be noted that I’ve only gotten to play the game with the Gamepad and the Pro Controller. I have yet to try the other four control methods.
Like in Mario Kart Wii, you can also download replay data from other players. You’ll be shown a few players who are slightly faster than you followed by the worldwide top ten for that track. It may not be as distinct as oh say, the Mario Kart Channel from the Wii installment, but it’s functional and is better than what 7 had to offer (AKA nothing.)
Welcome to Time Trials. Here's your choice of characters for 15/16 tracks.
Another new feature is Mario Kart TV, which is essentially the replacement for the Mario Kart Channel. This allows you to show race highlights to anyone around the world. The one problem with highlights though is that you can’t pick a very specific moment. You have to mess with the settings for what the game highlights and basically pray that what you is highlighted. It’s rather annoying.
The game looks outright gorgeous. It really shows that, regardless of the hardware, Nintendo can make any game look pretty. Colors pop out, everything looks clean, and there’s a lot of attention to detail (something that’s been mostly overlooked in previous games.) The game also runs at a consistent 60fps, with 30 occurring during split-screen. Artistically and technically, this is by far the best looking Mario Kart to date.
Mario Kart 8 has a new, mostly jazzy soundtrack that’s super catchy. It’s been a while since I actually wanted to listen to the game music when doing time trials instead of using my own (for the most part.) This largely applies to the new tracks, but some of the older tracks get a whiff of it too. Sound effects are pretty much what’s to expect from Mario Kart, so nothing new there. Thankfully, unlike Mario Kart Wii, character ‘dialogue’ is shorter and less frequent, which could cause irritation to some given that it’s a character that sounds extremely annoying.
I actually had to think about what problems outside of what I listed above, and in fact, it’s all nitpicking from there. The only other thing that irks me is the lack of the map HUD. While this give the game a more clean look, not everyone is going to have the gamepad next to them, let alone want to look down at it, to be able to see current standings. This has developed into less of a big deal over time, but I wish it was still around as an option (at least.)
At the end of it all, Mario Kart 8 is certainly a step up from previous games despite its own flaws. Hopefully there can be some DLC to help its shortcomings in the future, but knowing Nitnendo it’s not something you can count on. Despite only owning it for six days I have managed to log 24 hours into the game, something that can be only done by the likes of a new immersive Pokemon release. It’s certainly a game that will keep you coming back for more for months if not years to come. Most casual and general Mario Kart fans will find a whole lotta love in this game, but super competitive players might want to give it a pass.
Now before someone goes off on what would basically be looked at as a 7/10, let's just say that I rate things a little more leniently on the lower end but more strictly on the higher end (the lowest I've ever scored anything is a 2, highest a 4.5.) I made this chart to explain what I mean for what. I hope it gives an idea:
I find it a little interesting that you place something being a classic above being a masterpiece. That certainly does put the bar high for what qualifies.
I meant the dictionary definition of the term: essentially meaning it's the highest of quality, the standard that all other games should follow. And thus...yeah. The bar for what qualifies as the top is pretty high.