Reviews: Mario Kart 8
Nintendo makes me sad sometimes. Every time they release a game it is full of joy, color, and everything I’ve ever wanted in a game emotionally. I play their games and realize that that kind of mentality from a major player in the gaming industry is just dead. They are the Highlander. That isn’t to say their games are perfect, they have mistakes and antiquated ideas at times, but the essence of raw happiness always seems steeped in their design from front to back. Mario Kart 8 is another example of this. Last night Liz and I played it for an hour or two and the experience was delightful. We finished all the new maps through the multiplayer Grand Prix mode and began along the historical courses along the bottom row. I’m going to need to take stills from marketing materials since I have yet to hook up a Wii U to recording again since our move. So if any of these pictures look familiar that is why.
The visuals in Mario Kart 8 are absolutely stunning. This is one of the most gorgeous games I’ve ever played. It’s kind of crazy just how much you can do when your goal is to create something that is vibrant and fun rather than a dirty brown mess. The characters glisten, the cars sparkle, the water shimmers, and every little inch of this game just molests your eyes and tickles your brain. If you’ve thought any of the videos or stills were doctored you are in for a treat because this game really does look that good.
The levels are all varied and each one brings in new ideas and themes. Not new to the series as a whole necessarily but certainly to one another. The introduction of the hover mode (antigravity?) really does add something great to the game. Liz and I were bouncing off walls and blazing past our opponents from every angle and platform imaginable. It’s also neat that you actually go faster if you hit someone while in this mode, it adds for a bit of meta strategy where you make an enemy accelerate right off the edge of a level.
Everything about Mario Kart 8 feels faster. The weapons seem faster, the karts even at 50 CC seem faster, if you fall off things you recover almost instantly, and there are boosts on top of boosts on top of boosts. Tragically they still included rubber banding which means that with all this faster content you still can’t make a mistake against the AI. I usually get 1st place but its not without that inkling notion that if they get a blue shell on the last turn of the last lap I will always be in 2nd of 3rd because of the magnetized enemies following me. I’m told in the online mode this is removed entirely but I feel like this is something that, like mouse acceleration, just shouldn’t exist in a game.
And YET, I’m still having fun through every second of it. Win or lose I’m laughing, shouting, and moving about while I play. It brings out the child in me, something that games so rarely do anymore. I can’t help but be happy while playing it.
I haven’t unlocked all of the characters yet but it looks like there is a pretty good sized Roster. A couple dozen at least, but don’t quote me on that, however three of them are variations on Peach with an additional two being recolors of her (Daisy). This I thought was a bit disappointing because she’s one of the least interesting characters in the series, outside of Smash Brothers where she’s very awesome.
My main squeezes are Bowser and the Koopa Kids, I’m too curmudgeonly to call them anything else. But regardless of who you play you can choose any combination of any kart, with any wheels, and strap onto them any of a (somewhat small) variety of glider options. This leads to some funny scenes like Bowser on a tiny Motorbike with wheels the size of walnuts, his feet nearly scraping on the ground.
The music is just as good as the visuals. The audio in this game is fantastic and will keep you delighted through every moment. Nintendo has some incredibly talented sound designers and this games team is no exception to that. Amusingly the remainder of this review is actually being written a day after everything before it. I’ve since finished the entire series of levels and they really do all add up amazingly. The final race on Rainbow Road 64 ends the entire thing wonderfully. We’ve yet to unlock everything but we are making good progress.
So what is there really to say about Mario Kart 8 that I haven’t already said? A ton of things I’m sure. It’s a beautiful game, both in visuals and sound. The controls are fairly tight with the handling differences between bikes and quads reminding me a lot of Ridge Racer 4 (another one of my favorite racers of all time). There is something that was brought up by Liz during one of our final races last night that hadn’t really occurred to me. Part of it I think is that I’ve been playing video games pretty hard my entire life. If you aren’t someone who plays video games all that much this game is actually kind of unforgiving.
If she so much as hits a wall while in second place she’s overrun by a half dozen of the AI. It seems like they rubber band to the rear most human controlled player. This means for me that if I’m in first I can keep a commanding lead as long as she’s not right on my tail. But it also means that, for a game supposedly designed to cater to children (who Nintendo often seem to think suck, judging by their design choices at times), this one is surprisingly difficult. Especially considering the absolute desolation that can be caused by the blue shell combined with the AI just before you tacking you with a red shell.
In one particular instance she was hit by a Piranha Plant, then a red shell, then another red shell, and finally knocked off the level by a bump by Wario all in a row. With each hit being followed by that weapons user passing her. So she went from 2nd place to 6th or 7th in less than 3 seconds. This seems like a balancing issue on their part seeing as we were playing 50CC. If we are to presume that 50CC is the easiest mode in the game (a tough call seeing as there are no options to this game), you should be able to consistently win either 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place when you play it.
That doesn’t change my opinion that this is a good/great game. But I feel that it was a peculiar oversight given the quality of the game. On the flip side if you are looking for a good challenge this game pulls few punches.
Something else I found fascinating was the new additions to items. There are a few but the one in particular that stood out to me was the MK8 item. Your character is surrounded by a bunch of the in game items, possibly one of most of them, and you can fire them off like a madman. This can create a situation where you hurl a red shell, then go invulnerable, followed by launching of a bomb. Decimating everyone in your path and potentially taking the lead.
We played through the battle mode a bit and it wasn’t nearly as bad of a change as I thought it would be. I still miss the Arena mode levels but I feel like a full roster of AI with you against your buddy is actually quite fun and we never were having trouble finding people to fight with. Even if most of my shots hit my own team mates.
Overall there isn’t much more that can be said about a racing game without rebounding over your own thoughts more than I already have. If you like racing games you’ll probably like this game. If you like a challenge you’ll probably like this game. If you like being happy, you’ll probably like this game. It’s a great game, not perfect, but I think the world needs more games like this. A full fun package that doesn’t try to swindle you at every turn for “just a couple dollars, its a good deal we promise”.
I’ve gotta say I’ve been blessed lately. All the things I’ve been experiencing have been either good or great… Although there is at least one “ok” experience I’ve had lately that I want to write about soon.