Review by pyoung30

Reviewed: 08/14/14

Mario Kart 8 Is Not The Best, But Is Worthy Of The Name

Mario Kart 8 is an exhilarating new entry into the Mario Kart franchise. Well established already as a leader (if not the leader) in the genre of kart racers, Mario Kart did not have too much to prove coming into this game but yet again, Nintendo set a new standard of quality. Exclusive to the Wii U, Mario Kart 8 is a gorgeous kart racer that combines previous attributes of older Mario Kart's with the more recent "gliding and underwater" traversing mechanics, with an all-new defying gravity element to racing.

Like before, you have 32 race courses that heavily vary in theme and difficulty which cater to different players' experience levels. As usual, expect 16 all-new courses and 16 remastered courses that now include modified elements to make the most out of Mario Kart 8's game-play. The typical Rainbow Road, Mario Stadium, and Bowser's Castle levels are all here but courses such as Electrodrome and Mount Wario are stands out among the available races. This game is very gorgeous on the Wii U so expect eye candy with every level, and many tracks have addicting musical themes in accompaniment.

The game's main gimmick, if it can be called that, is racing while defying gravity such as loops in the track or riding on walls. Transitioning between normal and defied gravity is seamless and as the player does not inhibit the control of your racer. Marked by a glowing blue, each individual kart transforms into what seems like a hover-craft in which allows the defied gravity driving. Controls are not effected by this change but new game-play elements are added to differentiate the racing. For example, coming into contact with other racers in this mode will give each player a boost which depending on the circumstance can be positive or negative. Also, while racing one of the only ways you will actually notice you are say on a wall or upside down is looking away from the track and observing the surroundings so as the player, you are not distracted by random camera movement or altered track physics.

One of the problems this game has is in its items, their abilities, and how they're used. Firstly, Mario Kart 8 tries to give players items depending on their position in a race. For example, a person in second place is unlikely to receive offensive items, while someone in seventh is less likely to receive defensive items. However, this system is bogus in MK8 because losing racers can only get back into races by getting strong items while leading racers can only hope they get defensive items otherwise, you do not want to be in first place. Secondly, the red shell has seen a significant power-up as opposed to previous game entries. Here, it can cross gaps and there is a triple-red-shell item which is probably the most over-powered weapon in the game. Thirdly, no longer do you have the ability to stack two items at once; the player is only limited one item of which they can hold in their hand or have follow behind them. This eliminates the ability to manage items and makes the game-play less complex. Finally, is the implementation of coins - the most unnecessary element of this game. Each racetrack is strewn with coins; you can hold a maximum of ten coins and every time you are attacked, you drop three. When driving over a coin, you receive a small boost that is practically unnoticeable. As well, if you are in first place, prepare to see this appear in almost all your item pick-ups as it is now an item. Other items in the game are new such as the "Crazy 8" (a combination of 8 items that can be strategically deployed), Boomerang Flower (a boomerang that can be thrown three times) and a Piranha Plant (an item that gives the player a boost every time it lunges at racers). These items are not bad but if you are constantly leading races, do not expect to draw them.

Mario Kart 8 contains multiple game modes of which include Grand Prix, Time Trial, and Battle Mode. Grand Prix consists of four races that are under a certain cup labeled by a Mario item. Time Trial has you racing against the clock to obtain the fastest lap. Battle Mode is the weakest of the three modes; players drive in opposite directions on a course and basically joust with their items, hoping to hit one another until they cross paths again. Each racer has three balloons symbolizing hits and when you lose all three balloons, you are out of the game.

Mario Kart 8 features on-line capability. In typical Nintendo fashion, they are lacking in this department in what is considered normal on-line conventions. The game does not contain voice chat, a streamlined lobby system for joining friends and entering a game mode together, and other necessities that the Wii U should already have. On-line racing is a fun experience but most times, you will not join a match without spectating the race before which detracts from the enjoyment. Battle mode is on-line capable as well, but normal racing is the true high point.

The game's character roster is not bad but is too full of similar characters. This time around, all of Bowser's "Koopalings" are playable but never do they fell distinguished or different from one another. In a similar situation are the many "baby" characters. With racers of the past such as Dry Bowser, Boo, and Diddy Kong, this game's roster feels lacking.

Finally, Mario Kart 8 features an extensive highlight reel and montage editor. Known as "MarioKart TV," races are captured and are available to watch, edit, and share. One of the most intriguing features is the ability to post directly to YouTube. I find this to be quite a feature for Nintendo to incorporate when they cannot put staple on-line gaming elements into the game.

In conclusion, Mario Kart 8 is a very solid kart racer that is quite a step-up in the series. Despite its setbacks in items, game-play modes, on-line capabilities, and character roster, the game is still such an incredible experience that proves that Mario Kart formula is still alive.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: Mario Kart 8 (US, 05/30/14)

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