Ever since the Wii U launched in 2012, many have failed to see a reason to buy it. With a price point of $299 (just $100 less than the PlayStation 4 and Kinect-less Xbox One), it’s hard for many to justify putting out that kind of money for a console that doesn’t have many games. I have owned my Wii U since day one, and there have been many times when I questioned why I bought it. When I got my hands on Mario Kart 8, I remembered why I bought a Wii U in the first place: Nintendo still makes awesome games.
Mario Kart 8 features many improvements from past titles. One of my favorite things about this game is the vehicle customization. You can press Start (+) to bring up vehicle stats, which you will find very useful as many karts/wheels/gliders are better suited for certain tracks. Mario Kart sure has come a long way since the Super Nintendo days.
The character roster is vast; bigger than any in Mario Kart history. When I unlocked Baby Rosalina, I squealed with delight (she’s just too cute!). It’s a breath of fresh air to unlock characters by beating certain levels instead of throwing money at the screen to unlock them. There are a total of 30 characters in the game, with 14 being unlockable as the player progresses through the Grand Prix.
The tracks are a great mix of new and classic remakes. Four Cups, Mushroom, Flower, Star, and Special, contain brand new tracks, and the last four Cups, Banana, Shell, Leaf, and Lightning, contain retro tracks remade in HD. Some of the retro tracks were somewhat redone, such as the Mario Kart 64 version of Rainbow Road, and that was kind of disappointing. For nostalgic purposes, I would rather have simple, HD remakes of classic levels without them being tampered with. However, I’m being nit-picky; all of the tracks are super fun to play and well-designed.
As a fan of past Battle Modes, I was very disappointed when I saw that there are no battle tracks; instead, you “battle” on the same tracks that you race on. It is pure laziness on the game designers’ part, and I’m sure it was left out just to get the game out quicker. Battle Mode used to be one of my favorite things to play with friends, and now we don’t go near it. There isn’t much “battling” to speak of; we spent most of our time griping about how hard it was to find each other and how plain stupid it was to battle on a race track. Would it really have been that hard to take the battle tracks from the GameCube and Wii Mario Kart titles and make them HD? The lack of battle tracks is my biggest gripe with the game as a whole.
The online in Mario Kart 8 was done surprisingly well. I used to really enjoy playing online on Mario Kart Wii, but the connection usually timed out and I rarely got to race. That is not the case with Mario Kart 8; I play online almost every day. I love racing with players from around the world, and I really enjoy the new Tournaments mode. Any player can create a Tournament and customize it to their liking. I created a weekly Poppycock Reviews tournament that runs every Friday through Sunday night. Let’s race together! (Tournament number: 9147-2158-3556)
There are a few notable changes from previous Mario Kart titles; some good, some indifferent. One thing I noticed right off the bat is that the red fake item boxes are MIA. I’m pretty sure no one misses them, anyway. Another thing that Mario Kart veterans will notice right off the bat is that falling off the track is not the catastrophe that it once was. Lakitu picks you up before you completely fall, letting you get back to racing much faster than before. Some may say this is cheap, but it is pretty nice to not end up in last place after falling off Rainbow Road 100 times. Also, the anti-gravity mode is neat, but it doesn’t really add much to the gameplay and could have been left out. The time spent on creating hovering karts could have been better spent on other things…like tracks for Battle Mode. Another new addition is coins. You can collect up to 10 coins per race that you can then use to unlock new vehicles, tires, and gliders.
Appearance: Visuals are absolutely beautiful.
Gameplay: Addictive, fast, and fun, as one would expect from any Mario Kart title. Many improvements have been made to make gameplay less frustrating.
Sound: The soundtrack is upbeat and awesome. I find myself humming the music hours after I’ve played.
Bottom Line: Mario Kart 8 is just one reason you need to own a Wii U console. It just may be the best in the series.
Overall Score: 9.0, Amazing
Release Date: May 30, 2014
Available On: Wii U