Mario Kart 8 (Wii U) Review
Posted by Adam Larck on 05.30.2014
The eighth entry in the Mario Kart franchise has been released for the Wii U! But can anti-gravity help freshen up the formula? 411's Adam Larck checks in with his full review!
Title: Mario Kart 8
Developer: Nintendo EAD Group No. 1
When you think of key Nintendo titles, several franchises come to mind: Mario, Link, Metroid and Kirby to name a few.
With Mario, though, plenty of spin-off titles can be named quickly, including one around since the Super NES days: Mario Kart.
Now, we have Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U, a system still struggling to find a major system seller. After putting plenty of time in with the title, it's safe to say that Nintendo may have found a game that will help system sales, at least for people with friends.
The latest title in the series features anti-gravity as its new mechanic, something that both new and some old courses take advantage of. All of the 16-new courses feature at least part of its track in anti-grav, while some of the 16 remade tracks do, and others stay true to their past versions.
The anti-gravity really doesn't change the way you race, but can mess with your perspective of the course. Some courses may race upside-down on itself, some may go straight vertical in the air and some will just turn the course around with curves. The anti-gravity feels a bit like the old F-Zero series and can open up some new shortcuts, such as hitting boosts and items on walls while others race below.
The new courses are all great. My personal favorites are the latest version of Rainbow Road and Electrodrome, which changes up the music as you drive and is extremely great to listen to while driving. However, all courses have a unique charm to them that will make them worth playing again and again.
Some other mechanics make a return from the previous title. The gliders get put to use again in various spots and karts will again get wet as you race underwater from time to time. Both of these things are short-lived in level, though, meaning races won't be hampered by them.
Scattered throughout the track are various jumps you can do and, by hopping right before a jump, doing a trick to give some extra boost. Tracks also feature coins that can help increase your speed to a maximum of 10. You lose coins by falling off the track or taking damage, so make sure to always pick them up as you go along. Coins also unlock new kart parts to use over time.
Kart parts are quite various, like in the Wii version. They range from new types of wheels and gliders to various karts to use, such as the regular karts, motorcycles, buggies lady bug karts, crab karts and more.
Also unlockable by winning cups are new characters, including the Koopa Kids, Rosalina and Miis.
Of course, it wouldn't be a new Mario Kart title without new items added to the boxes. The biggest addition has to be the Sonic Horn. The horn can mess with players, some environmental pieces and even items, including the blue shell. In fact, it seems as if it was designed specifically for the dreaded blue shell, with other uses as an afterthought. The best part is that first place racers can randomly get the item, making it key to hold on to in the lead.
Other new weapons include the Piranha Plant that will bite at anything around you and the Crazy 8, which puts eight items around you to randomly use to try and give yourself a good boost.
When it comes to racing, there are quite a few ways to control racers. The GamePad can of course be used, with either Remote Play on the screen or on the TV while the GamePad shows a map or your items. Other players can use either the Wii U Pro, Wii Remote + Classic Controller Pro, Wii Report or Wii Remote + Nunchuk. All controllers can either have motion controls or just using the buttons and D-Pad or sticks.
However, the multiplayer fun isn't only offline, though. Up to 12 players can race online (two on the same screen together if wanted) and custom rules can be set, like rarer items appearing more often. The online works great in the game and is one of Nintendo's best works at an online mode.
What doesn't click in the game, though, is battle mode. The mode doesn't feature arenas to fight in like past titles. Instead, eight regular tracks are used in the mode, meaning players that get a strong lead and never want to find other players can easily make a stalemate play out. Battle arenas really need to be added as extra content later on to make the mode worthwhile.
The final area players that love to gloat will enjoy is Mario Kart TV, which lets you save racing highlights, edit them and upload them online or on YouTube. It's something I'm not normally interested in unless I have an amazing highlight, but could see starting YouTubers finding great to use.
Graphically, Mario Kart 8 is easily the best looking Wii U title out there, and is amazing to look at in general. The tracks have plenty of small things to catch your eye, and glares and other effects will have you surprised that the system has this kind of power.
The soundtrack is also great, with each level having its own music that's charming and great to hear while zooming around. Character voices are the voices you've grown to know and love, but I normally ignored them while listening to the tunes.
The new courses are great.
The Sonic Horn is the perfect equalizer.
Online multiplayer really works nicely.
Battle mode is disappointing.
Adding a local player online can cause some framerate issues.
Mario Kart TV will be great for some but never used by most.
Mario Kart 8 is one of the top entries in the series. However, it may be missed by many just because of the Wii U's market saturation. Hopefully, Nintendo's gamble pays off and the game moves consoles, because the racing is great and well polished from beginning to end.
The graphics are the best the system has right now, and could easily compete with many titles out there.
The racing is polished and online mode fun, but someone dropped the ball with battle mode.
All the tracks are unique and great to listen to again and again.
With online mode working great, racers will find a reason to keep coming back.
Sure, the rubber band is in effect still, but the addition of the Sonic Horn helps give a good equalizer and makes races great.