We just got our copy of Mario Kart 8 in the mail yesterday and I’ve already logged a ton of time. Keen joins in when he isn’t playing Wildstar (or Wild Star? I have no idea) and when he isn’t distracted by his personal life. I mean the nerve of some people, right? Mario Kart just came out! I’ve put more time into it than Keen has so I can’t really speak for him but I’m sure he will chime in down by the comments sooner or later. I’m just going to overview what I like, and don’t like, so far after playing.
Anti-Gravity Racing – The new anti-gravity gameplay is pretty sweet. When your kart crosses over special lines or during certain parts of the course the anti-grav will kick in. Your wheels turn sideways and start to glow blue and you find yourself riding a wall or completely upside down. For most of these areas you can’t really tell that you are upside down at all, or at least I can’t. Keen swears he can tell but I think he is full of crap. The times when it really does feel like your perspective is crazy are the side paths that let you optionally drive on the walls. Another neat aspect to the anti-grav is how it changes some of the driving mechanics a little bit. Bumping into other players and special bumpers will give you a speed boost.
New Items - Along with the classic stuff like bananas and shells is the addition of some cool new things. The Piranha Plant will chomp at nearby enemies and items and I think you might even be able to get a small speed boost out of it. The boomerang lets you throw out a huge projectile either forward or backward that returns to you (x3 I think). Then there’s the really cool horn/speaker thing that you can even use to defend yourself from shells, even blue, or just blast it at other racers. There’s probably a few more new things that I’m not remembering but you get the idea.
New Racers – In addition to most of the classic cast you can now race as Shy-Guy, Lakitu, Rosalina, Baby Rosalina, Metal Mario, Pink Gold Peach or something, and every Koopaling (Iggy, Ludwig, and a bunch of others than I can never remember the names of).
Fun Tracks – The levels are very well done in Mario Kart 8. I don’t think there is a single one that I don’t like. After 8 games they still manage to come up with some fun and interesting ideas. My only real complaint is that some of them aren’t longer. Along with 16 new courses you also get 16 retro courses that come from the previous games across tons of different platforms. They have been given a very pretty visual update and even feature some minor tweaks to make use of the new gamepaly mechanics like gliding and anti-grav.
Controller Support – Mario Kart 8 supports pretty much every controller configuration on the Wii U. Gamepad, wiimote, classic controller, Wii U Pro controller; it’s all available. You can even steer with the gyro controls if using the gamepad or wiimote. I think I have one of the Mario Kart Wii steering wheels around here someplace so I’ll have to check that out. The reason this is appreciated so much is that with the Wii U you are usually put into a situation where somebody gets to use the gamepad and player two gets screwed and has to use some crappy control scheme. A surprising number of games don’t support the classic controller and that’s just messed up.
The Visuals! SO PRETTY! O_O – Best looking Mario Kart ever. First Mario Kart in HD. Performance is also flawless. Not much else to say, really.
Split Screen – I can’t figure out how to change the split screen from vertical to horizontal. The option probably doesn’t even exist at all. I could learn to get over that, though. The real problem is the game lacks TV/Gamepad splitscreen, meaning one player plays on the TV and other other on the gamepad. I can’t for the life of me figure out why this option has NOT been included. It makes absolutely no sense. The latest Sonic racing game that was a LAUNCH TITLE even had this option. There’s really no excuse to not have it.
The Fake Item Box – It’s missing. I don’t know where it went but it doesn’t seem to be here. Maybe people didn’t like it or something but I found it useful.
Missing Racers – Adding people like Shy-guy and Metal Mario is pretty rad, sure, but there are a lot of characters missing that I would have loved to race as. I’m not 100% on this but I think Diddy Kong may have been in past titles. I would have really loved to see him along with Dixie and Kranky since they recently appeared in DK: Tropical Freeze. More missed opportunities include: Bowser Jr., Birdo, Boo, Drybones, Kamek, and a Goomba would have been just awesome. I mean, the Koopalings are cool and all but, well, they are kinda “meh.” They haven’t been nearly as visible in the various Mario games as some others who really deserve to be here or make their debut.
Battle Mode Is RUINED – This really is the biggest heartbreak when it comes to Mario Kart 8 since the battle mode has long been a favorite in our household. The battle mode where you drive around trying to knock balloons off of each other has been screwed up badly. There are no longer specific battle courses. Any hope for some cool new levels or even some retro block-fort is DASHED! Instead you get to drive around on a selection of the racing courses and fight it out. You can drive in any direction you want but it doesn’t matter at all. These levels were designed to be raced on, not battled on. It just isn’t fun or nearly the same. Plus the customization options are total poo. Who thought a 5 minute time cap was a good idea?
Most of the problems I have with the game can easily be fixed with some DLC, which hopefully would be free. I see no reason why Nintendo wouldn’t offer more racers, levels, and maybe even some classic battle stages. They may be a little new to the DLC scene but they have had it with far less interesting games so I see no reason not to have some for Mario Kart 8.
My minor (and a few major) complaints aside, Mario Kart 8 has been a blast so far. I’m enjoying it a lot more than some of the previous Mario Kart games and the prospect of DLC is appealing, were it to happen at all. I think Japan might be getting some kind of name brand car DLC but that’s really not what I’m interested in. But anyway, I need to get back to trying to 3 star some of these cups and beat this dirty cheating AI. (I kid… or do I?)