Billy's View: Mario Kart 8
Being the eighth in any series is bound to be difficult, especially when it’s a series that has nostalgia stitched into its very being. So it was with slight trepidation that I purchased Mario Kart 8, by and large because I had vouchers to use and because I was getting a free game too due to Club Nintendo’s promotion for registering MK8 (ongoing until 31 July 2014).
That being said, I can honestly say that Mario Kart 8 does a fantastic job of living up to its predecessors, and in many ways exceeds them in its own right. The game utilises the hardware of the Wii U perfectly, creating some seriously stunning visuals that had me sat agape for several minutes, combined with the new anti-gravity feature. You are about to race on genius new tracks with some fantastic new twists that you won’t be forgetting any time soon.
As a Yoshi obsessive, it was only right that I took my favourite green dinosaur for a spin and earn him some gold trophies. Initial thoughts aside, one of the most immediately obvious return to the series were the collectable coins, following their conspicuous return in Mario Kart 7, an item providing both in game boosts, as well as kart customisations at various milestones.
I started by playing on 50cc and as with previous Mario Kart games, it was very approachable and an easy mode that would be perfectly suitable for younger children; however, nostalgia, confidence and an urge to test my mettle soon had me immediately changing up the difficulties to pursue a greater challenge: 150cc was my destination.
Sadly my memory was self-serving, having my believe my prowess on the track was far greater than it is, and I found myself in the drive of my life only to finish 3rd over the course of the Flower Cup. I am happy to announce that in Mario Kart 8, driving skill, and not just items, is far more important to achieve any success, and items that felt all too common (looking at you Blue shell) seem to have had their frequency reduced, with the new items that have been added complimenting various play styles and track positions. On 150cc, the game is well and truly on.
Sadly, Mario Kart 8 is not without its faults. But then, has what game ever has been?
Battle Mode, a favourite among children of the 90s who were graced with beautifully dedicated tracks like Block Fort and the precarious Skyscraper, has been left by the wayside. Without any dedicated battle arenas in MK8, Battle feels like an uninspired afterthought, with little to no natural breaks or choke points for the real insanity of Battle Mode to shine through.
The roster of playable characters stands at a cool thirty, although several are babies and the Koopalings, which makes the roster feel significantly smaller. Yet,chat can’t be considered a true complaint following E3’s announcement that Amiibo will also come to pre-existing games including MK8, and therefore we can only assume that skins of Samus, Link and various other Nintendo favourites will be playable in the future.
All I can say is, if you have a Wii U and you aren’t buying Mario Kart 8, you are missing out on a lot of fun, and an incredibly beautiful game, as well as a wonderful deal at the hands of Club Nintendo. Battle mode leaves a little to be desired, but as with all Mario Kart games, it proves both fun solo, with friends or online.
I recommend you buy this game.