Developer(s) – Nintendo EAD Group No 1
Publisher(s) – Nintendo
Director – Kosuke Yabuki
Producer – Hideki Konno
PEGI – 3
Boasting new tracks, anti-gravity mechanics, and of course online multiplayer, Mario Kart 8 has warranted a small boost in Wii U sales over the last two weeks; but for how good this game is, and how good past games for the system have been, I think the Wii U deserved more than a small boost in sales.
Graphics – 9/10
The majority of the new tracks, namely Sunshine Airport, Twisted Mansion, Thwomp Ruins, and Cloudtop Cruise among others, are exceptionally brilliant in design, and posthumously make up for the traditional inclusion of some of the more generic ones, such as Mario Kart Stadium and Mario Circuit. The level of detail put into every other track is staggering, making it even more possible than in previous games to get too caught up in the scenery to concentrate on the race. Furthermore, the retro stages are also visually breathtaking; most of which have been re-designed to the point of being seldom recognizable. For example, Grumble Volcano from Mario Kart Wii, a track I’d thought to be somewhat generic in the original version, has been given an extremely different feel. Now looking comparable to the land of Mordor, it’s as if Lord of the Rings has taken over for a part of the game, and it’s a massive improvement on the original version.
Gameplay – 9/10
As a veteran Mario Kart player, I already had a very good idea of what I would be getting with the latest installment. Deceptively unforgiving as normal, Mario Kart 8 present challenge on a particularly large scale; even on 50cc at times. Though I’ve yet to play online, I can already tell that I am in for something, particularly testing. In terms of gameplay, however, I did find a fault with the implementation of anti-gravity segments. I found that whilst the novelty is there, it doesn’t add as much to the table as what I’d anticipated, and doesn’t necessarily add to the challenge either. There are some tracks where it works a bit better than others, but for the most part, it seems a little redundant. But the worst thing about Mario Kart 8, I believe, is the inclusion of coins being part of the item roster. People may say that adds to the challenge, but in my opinion, that can add quite a bit of unnecessary frustration when players are in front and need something to defend themselves with. It may be in homage to the original game, but there’s a good reason why they were removed. However, despite these two faults, this game is still exceptionally fun to play.
Controls – 10/10
Tailored to play using a variety of different means, I can say that there are no problems with the game’s control scheme. I did have concerns that the controls would suffer because of the anti-gravity feature, but Nintendo has handled it flawlessly, and players can virtually skip from Mario Kart Wii to Mario Kart 8 without skipping a beat. There are two changes to playing the game with the Wii remote, but that doesn’t take any time at all to get used to.
Lifespan – N/A (10/10)
It will take about half an hour to play through each tournament, and there are the traditional four classes to complete each tournament on, so that should take about 16 hours overall. But after that, there’s the online play to immerse players, which will make for hours upon hours of entertainment. As a racing game, there is no fixed lifespan, simply making for a game that can be picked up and played without much worry of making conventional progress beyond the Grand Prix mode.
Storyline – N/A (10/10)
The Mario Kart franchise has never needed a story attached to it, and there was no reason why they would start now. Maybe in the future, a sort could be implemented to make an installment play out more like Diddy Kong Racing as opposed to staying in lieu of tradition in order to mix things up, but lack of story is nothing that Mario Kart 8 should lose marks for, in my opinion.
Originality – 5/10
A lack of uniqueness, on the other hand, is something I think that the game should lose marks on. On one hand, it’s wonderful how the developers have designed the latest tracks, and how they’ve painstakingly re-mastered old tracks for the retro tournaments. But on the other hand, I was sorely disappointed by how under-whelming the anti-gravity feature is; bearing in mind that it has been one of the game’s main selling points for the longest time. Also, I found that the character roster is a little bit generic compared to others in the series. I think the inclusion of Bowser’s minions may have been a mistake, as I can think of many more standout Mario characters than them, who could have been included instead.
Overall, however, I think Mario Kart 8 is a particularly impressive game with all the fun and challenge of a traditional game in the franchise and makes for one of the best gaming experiences of 2014. I would have advocated people buy the Wii U over the Xbox One before the release of this game, but I think this game warrants a lot more units to be sold.