After picking up my Wii U, some friends were puzzled by my decision to get one for various reasons and to some degree, it was valid. Fast forward 1 month later, the release of the 8th installment of Mario kart. When IGN first showcased gameplay of this kart racer, I knew that Nintendo was onto something special, something that would not only carry on the great tradition of kart racing but would also put the Wii U on a global scale. After its first week launch, Mario Kart had sold 1.2 million copies in 4 days breaking the record for fastest selling Wii U game, created a whopping 666% increase in the Wii U sales in the UK, of which 82% of the consoles sold were Mario Kart 8 bundles. The question is, will Mario Kart 8 save the Wii U? Can it reinstate its intent as a major player against the rise of the next generation console? That’s plenty of weight on the shoulders of 1 game. I’m here to say without prejudice that Mario Kart 8 does not disappoint.
Running at full 60 FPS @ 1080p, this racer stands out probably as one of the most graphically impressive games I’ve seen in a while. The environments, the karts, the power ups, the characters look absolutely stunning in high definition. It was clear that the developers paid close attention to detail and yes try drifting or power sliding and you’ll see Mario’s moustache twitch because of the wind. Right off the bat, you’re introduced to 2 cups (4 tracks each) and you go on to unlock 6 more cups a total of 8 tracks. Some of which original, a couple of tracks remixed from the N64, 3DS, DS and the Wii. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a cheap copy paste of the tracks. In this installment of Mario Kart 8, we get the anti-gravity segments of the tracks which allow karts to defy gravity as you cruise along walls or even upside down which adds a new element to the gameplay and variety of tracks. Each of these tracks are unique, personally my favorite track would have to be shy guy falls as your race 90 degrees down waterfalls onto acceleration pads, it doesn’t matter how many times I do it, I still get an adrenalin rush every time I play that track.
The karts, bikes, ATV’s are modifiable with the selection of wheels and the glider. What I really appreciate about the game is that deep within, while it’s friendly on the outside, there’s something for the hardcore audience as well. Each Kart has its own stats and coupled with the weight class of your selected character, selection of wheels, it dictates how your kart handles on the track.
The racing mechanics itself are also not for the faint of heart. While people who are new to the series might find 50cc relatively easy, 100cc would be a good place to start for more experienced racers. I found myself constantly power sliding, jumping at the right times, defending precariously with my green shell in case someone fired a red homing one. For the most part the developers certainly added balance to the game by allowing a player to defend against the dreaded blue shell. Yes, for history sake the blue shell is typically fired and aimed at the racer in position 1 and there would be no way to defend against it. Now with the introduction to the “loud horn” power up, one could fire it off and ward off the blue shell. The good old power ups are still present and the variety still helps add balance in most races. While sometimes it would still be rather annoying to get the coin power up when you find yourself needing the horn or a green shell more often than not.
Each kart handles differently. Yes, a bike, an ATV, even the bikes have dirt and racer bikes which power slide/drift differently. Hence, for those who wish to discuss replay value, the game certainly encourages players to experiment and try to nail down a vehicle which really suits your style of play.
Speaking of Popular Culture, I’m sure some of you must have stumbled across what people are calling the Luigi death stare meme. Well, this came from an interesting observation that whenever Luigi hits an opponent with a power up, he’d pull alongside and give his “death stare”. Well apparently this delightful intent from the developers and artists has got the internet community’s attention. When I first saw it, it was absolutely hilarious especially watching replays in slow motion.
Hopping on and playing multiplayer locally or online is just as simple, interactive and competitive at the same time. Local split screen still runs at 60 FPS with no slowdowns whatsoever. Online gameplay has been fluid and fun especially when all members get to pick a track while a roulette runs in the background to decide which track is selected next.
In summary, whether you’re looking for a fun family kart racer, or a technical racer, Mario Kart 8 delivers resoundingly in just about every department. Don’t let the cute façade deceive you, this is a game that’s easy to pick up but hard to master. Each track feels unique and requires a different strategy and approach depending on which kart you’ve selected. Mario Kart 8 is the best Mario kart I’ve played in years and is a love note to all kart racing fans. If you have been considering buying a Wii U, wait no further because MK8 is here and it should put the Wii U on track and back onto the map especially with E3 coming up in the next few days. For more on Pop Tech and games, keep checking out POPCulture Online.
Ratings 4.5 out of 5 Stars
by Kenneth Choong
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