Who doesn’t enjoy a game of Mario Kart? Is it possible to dislike it?
Here is me gushing about the series, and the Wii U version of Mario Kart 8, an early birthday gift from my youngest sibling.
I’ve played different versions over the years, with my main experiences being on the N64 and the excellent Double-Dash on Gamecube. This is where most of my track knowledge and experience comes from.
Nothing really changes in a dramatic way, other than perhaps how it looks. But that’s no bad thing, because let’s be honest, these games are all superb. Each, a triumph for their generation, and a joy for everyone to play. 4-player split-screen on the N64, battle mode, races, you name it. Co-op in double-dash, all cups, all CCs with my brother, awesome! I’ve invested hours of my life into this franchise, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.
Do we need another one?
Well, yeah, and no. It’s essentially the same experience as the previous iterations, albeit much prettier, and with new tracks. So, if you still have your Gamecube, or have Mario Kart 7 on your DS or Wii, then, maybe you don’t “need” it.
That’s not really the point with these games, is it? Like the Smash Bros. series, you know before you get it, that it’s going to be more joy and fun on your latest console. It’s practically a sure thing, and why wouldn’t you want the next in a long line of excellent games?
Sure, it boils down to the same thing, race, win, unlock, repeat. But the fun to be had doing it, is something a lot of games can’t get right, even once.
It’s Mario Kart, it has those super-tight controls, a really simple drift mechanic, random items to help you persevere throughout the races.
A nice selection of familiar characters, including Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Wario, Toad, all the usual suspects, plus a nice selection of others like Baby Mario and with the additional DLC, you can be Link and characters from Animal Crossing. With colour variants of Shy Guy and Yoshi, there is plenty to choose from.
The new circuits are excellent, even the oft-feared Rainbow Road. Everything feels so alive and pops with colour and detail. Shortcuts that I’ve caught in the corner of my eye, but I haven’t had enough track time to try them out yet.
The re-made circuits of previous games are faithful, yet modern. Playing some of the classic Gamecube circuits was a real blast from the past, I remembered where to turn, and how to get through, relatively unscathed. Yet, I then saw extra elements added to them, to bring them in-line with the new circuits. Wall-riding sections, under-water sections.
Gliding sections, underwater sections with seamless transitions between propellers (underwater), gliders (in the air) and your traditional engine when on the road. Combined with sections where your kart wheels automatically turn into a means to hover. It’s all so fluid, you could barely notice the transitions if you weren’t looking to see what’s going on.
The items are great, providing you with so many ways to get ahead. Whether it’s a shell to take out opponents in front of you or behind you, the classic banana peel to place carefully, hoping it’ll mess your opponent up. The devastating leader-shell, that can change the whole race, with very minimal effort. Hammering that golden toadstool to boost your way through grass, and sand and to fly past your competition.
Honestly, it’s just goddamned good fun. Easy to pick up, it’s bright and friendly. It’s just a complete joy to be a part of it. Even to watch, seeing your friends compete, feeling the tension, watching as every turn could be the decider as someone careens off the edge, losing their position.
What’s not good?
The only problem I had, was that there’s no option to change the split-screen from vertical, to horizontal.
It isn’t game-breaking, hell, after 15 minutes, it isn’t even an issue. But it did bug me to start.
Sure, purists will hate certain recreations of circuits from Mario Kart entries of the past, and I’m sure that the physics of a specific vehicle aren’t realistic enough for someone. Good for them.
Is it worth having?
Anyone familiar with the franchise knows the answer to this question. In fact, this is the most pointless write-up/review of all time. The game isn’t dramatically flawed or broken, so it’s an absolute must for a Wii U owner, because it’s more of the sublime Mario Kart series.
For me, this gift has been a package of good, clean fun, in exactly the same way as Double-Dash and Mario Kart 64. I’ll be doing all the cups, unlocking all the extras, and learning all the shortcuts. I’ll keep it for as long as I have the console, and it’ll come out when people are round, because that’s what Nintendo have always been good at doing. Letting you play games with your friends, all in one place.