Mario Kart 8 has a very prestigious family name to live up to. A family set in its ways, they hold tradition in high regard and some might call them a little old fashioned, but whoever decided that was a bad thing?
After 22 years and 8 games very few other kart racers can survive the first round with the titan that is the Mario Kart series, and many other kart racers and doing a lot more “innovative” stuff than Mario. I’m not saying that the series is stuck in a rut but instead of trying to re-invent the wheel with every release, Mario Kart 8 has refined the wheel from an ox wagon wheel to the performance Konig racing wheel.
The game is more balanced when it comes to item usage and track shortcuts, making it’s emphasis on skill more than ever. Nintendo even stated that they spent a huge amount of time reworking the items and the short cuts are riskier to take which leaves the player to weigh up the pros and cons of taking it.
So here is how my time with Mario Kart 8 went…
My first race in Mario Kart 8 did not go how I planned. I kept crashing, because the environments are really breathtaking and I felt like I was on a tour bus instead of in a racing kart shaped like a shoe. After the first lap I got my head in the game, destroyed Princess Peach with a red shell on the final stretch, zooming past her with a smirk and a first place in the bag. I guess Mario had to sleep on the couch that night.
After the Mushroom and the Shell cup in my display cabinet I decided to jump online for a few games. I got beaten with a humble stick and four consecutive last place finishes, but at least they were nice about it with pre-programmed phrases like, “Nice game!” or “I’m excited”. If I have to deduct marks from the game it would be that there is not voice chat or anyway to communicate with anyone from your friends like to arrange tournaments. You will have to co-ordinate such events through other means. I think Nintendo might not entirely trust us?
The local multiplayer is where the series has its roots and it is still as fun and crazy as ever. The devs specifically decided to have four player split screen mode on the TV instead of one of the players using the gamepad screen like other local multiplayer games on the Wii U, because they felt it adds to the social experience. I guess it is kind of satisfying to launch a blue shell and watch your buddy in first place cringe as it hits in a beautiful friendship ruining explosion.
Although mostly sticking firmly to the winning formula from it’s retro gaming roots, the one area where this game does embrace the modern world is the anti-gravity feature. True to Nintendo’s insistence with messing with Mario’s gravity in recent years (see Super Mario Galaxy 1 & 2, Super Mario Gravitation / Gravity Rush on the 3DS, and there’s more I’m sure), it is probably the most significant change the series has seen since Mario kart Double Dash.
The anti-gravity is a game changer but not as much to derive from the feeling that you’re playing a Mario Kart game. It has a perfect blend of old and new in my opinion; none of Mario Kart’s essence is lost with this new feature, even with the retro tracks being re-imagined with the anti-gravity feature which was quite a nice touch.
All in all the racing is smooth and balanced, the frame rate is at a rock solid 60 frames per second, the online is stable (and active), and the game is gorgeous. If I had to ask for anything more I would be greedy.