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Xeodrifter diary #13

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GoNintendo 'End of Day' thought - Mario Kart 8 review



I'm thinking this is a review you've been waiting for! I hope you enjoy ours, as well as all the others that pop up around the net today. All these reviews will probably make the wait for May 30th that much harder! See you in a few, short hours.


SPECIAL NOTE - This review DOES NOT contain commentary on online play. A separate feature on Mario Kart 8's online content will be posted at a later date. This decision was made in order to test online features once the game is released worldwide.


There's been a list floating around on the internet for awhile now. It shows a bunch of announced initiatives and games that can 'save' the Wii U. Some of those games and ideas have come and gone, such as Super Mario 3D World and certain bundles. While that list only has a few options left, one that has been included since day 1 was Mario Kart 8. Mario Kart Wii was an absolutely insane seller on Wii and continues to pull in sales to this day. Many, including Nintendo, are hoping that Mario Kart 8 can put a dent in some of the Wii U stockpiles that retailers have.

To be completely honest, I don't know that Mario Kart 8 can shoulder that burden. That's only because I don't know that one game can entirely change the fortunes of a platform. I know Iwata believes it to be true and I'd like to think he knows a bit more about the situation than I. With that said, if there ever a game that could really turn the tide of Wii U sales, you can bet your ass that Mario Kart 8 deserves to be that title.


Mario Kart 8 give me a feeling from Mario Kart that I haven't felt in quite some time. I feel like the game is ridiculously tight and fine-tuned. Mario Kart Wii was a blast, but it definitely played fast and loose with a lot of mechanics. That had a lot to do with the platform the game landed on and the market it was reaching out to. Obviously the pitch worked, as Mario Kart Wii sold like gangbusters. That doesn't mean long-time fans loved the hell out of the game. Quite a few people felt the game dumbed things down a bit too much in all directions. If you believe that to be true, Mario Kart 8 is you new savior.

I am finding it near impossible to put into words just how good Mario Kart 8 feels. It could very well be the most well-designed entry in the series up to this point. Racing feels so responsive and engaging. Handling is tight and takes a lot of time to master, especially when you're mixing kart/bike/ATV parts. Finding that right mixture of parts and then learning how that vehicle handles is such a rewarding experience. Marry that with the actual physical controls and you'll get an experience that makes you feel positively giddy.

The most important part to drive home is that Mario Kart 8 never made me feel like I was racing a losing battle. We all have that feeling when we play Mario Kart...that feeling that the game is just gunning for you when you're in first. The feeling that you're going to be hit with everything but the kitchen sink when you're up ahead. The anger of seeing second place somehow whip ahead of you with a kart that just magically doubled its speed. For every race I participated in, I never felt that to be the case. It may have taken Nintendo too long to wrap their head around the rubberbanding issue, but I feel that Mario Kart 8 offers the best job of hiding that element.

Of course, long-time fans of Mario Kart know that the real racing action is to be had in the 150cc class. The earlier classes still function as you'd expect. You can pretty much smoke the competition in 50cc, while 100cc can provide a bit of rough riding from time to time. 150cc is absolutely the place to be if you want the best racing experience the game has to offer. It also seems like Mario Kart 8 handles 150cc better than most entries in the franchise.

I honestly felt like these 150cc races were edge-of-my-seat, white-knuckle experiences. I'm not even kidding about that! When I was trying to pull off perfect first-place finishes in each set of 4, I kicked back in my recliner, snuggled up to the edge of the seat and leaned in towards the TV. I had to deeply focus and stay on-top of my game to pull off those wins. That's not because Mario Kart 8's other racers play unfair. It's because they race hard and smart...they feel more like human players than computer controlled opponents.

I don't know that I've ever got this sense of satisfaction from Mario Kart when playing against the computer. Sure, I had the sweat drip and the cheers scream out when I was playing online or local multiplayer in other Mario Kart games. When I would play single player, I definitely had a blast and a half, but I never felt like I was racing against real people. I felt like I was trying to outsmart a computer and a set of odds. Mario Kart 8 comes closer to matching that real-life experience. It's almost like each character has their own racing style and personality. That might have to do with the different kart parts and their mixing/matching, but I'll be damned if it isn't handled better in this game than any other kart.

Are you still going to have those moments where it seems like everyone is out to get you? Of course you will, but they seem to be few and far between. I've gone a lap and gotten hit with 3 red turtle shells in a row. I've been hit with a blue shell just seconds away from the finish line. I went from first to seventh place with just one bad corner, but that's part of the fun. I never hit that point where I felt the game was out to get me and just being plain unfair. While it does happen from time to time, you also see the computer players getting the crap kicked out of them as well. At least this time you can hoard a Super Horn to finally destroy that dream-killing blue shell!

There's also a lot of good to be said for the new items, as they really feel like fresh and interesting additions. The Super Horn, as mentioned above, can save you from missing out on a first place victory. It seems surreal that we actually have an item that kills off the blue shell, but I'm oh-so happy it exists! There's also the Piranha Plant that chomps at coins and opponents as you pass by, also giving you a nice speed boost with each bite. Those two additions are great, but the boomerang flower is my favorite. Having a weapon that can be thrown a large distance, taking out multiple characters and then returning to you for two more throws? That baby can be key to clearing a path to your victory if used appropriately!

I definitely put all those bad boys to use when playing local multiplayer. There's no denying that a huge part of the Mario Kart fun comes from multiplayer, so you can bet we've had a ton of 4-player racing going on here. Two-player split screen is a real joy this time around, as the screen is split vertically and still maintains the single player's silky smooth 60fps. When you go 3 or 4 player, you'll see the framerate halved to 30fps. This is certainly noticeable, especially when going right from single into multiplayer. It sure would have been nice to see 60fps pulled off for the entire experience, but 30fps doesn't hurt the experience at all. After a few minutes in a race, you'll quickly forget the framerate difference and pay much more attention to how your friends are quickly passing you by.

The best part about all of this is the ability to rewatch the devastation you just caused your friends. Mario Kart 8 lets you check out the race you just had via Mario Kart TV, which is your personal highly reel. You can even utilize a slow-motion button to see your friend destroyed with that perfectly tossed green shell you fired off. I cannot tell you how many times my friends and I used slow-mo to check out our victories and shameful moments. Yes, you can still utilize all these features in single-player, but multiplayer provides the perfect platform to slow-mo your friends into a puddle of tears!

With all this multiplayer madness, I don't even know how Nintendo managed to keep Mario Kart 8 running at 60fps in 2-player. Mario Kart 8 is one of the prettiest games I've ever seen on any platform, including Microsoft and Sony's newest entries. You know that isn't a bunk statement, either. You've seen the footage and been wowed by just how bright and gorgeous it all is. The game looks just as good as that footage, if not better when you're peeping it directly on your own TV. Mario Kart 8 absolutely screams off the TV with visuals that seem too good to be true. Grass textures, neon signs, mud puddles, fluffy clouds and SO much more to take in. Sure, these bits of eye candy might get lost in the shuffle while you're gunning for first, but it definitely makes for one hell of a gorgeous blur.

We're also getting the first Mario Kart game to feature music recorded by a live band. Not all the tunes get this treatment, but it seems that there's a good split between live and computer composed songs. I've always found Mario Kart games to have outstanding music that sticks with you, but Mario Kart 8 takes it to the next level. Man, just thinking about those live-recorded tunes gives me goosebumps! It would be an absolute travesty if Nintendo didn't offer this game's soundtrack via Club Nintendo. Jazzy, whimsical, fun, toe-tapping and hummable compositions are a pleasure to the ears on every track you encounter.

If Mario Kart 8 sounds like the real deal, that's because it is. That is, in all areas except for one. For the life of me, I have no idea why Nintendo decided to utilize regular racing tracks for battle mode instead of creating arenas. I'm a huge fan of battle mode, but Mario Kart 8's use of regular tracks just didn't do it for me. Tracks are just too big and linear to perform well as battle arenas. I truly am disappointed to see that Nintendo took this direction, whatever the reasoning behind it was. To get the best out of this battle mode, I suggest you find one or two courses that are smaller, and then set up imaginary limits on that track. Have your friends stick to a certain area of a track in order to keep things more interesting. It's a half-assed fix, but it'll help you salvage the fun this mode can offer.

Outside of that, I can't really find any complaints to make! Mario Kart 8 feels like the culmination of everything that Nintendo has learned while building the franchise. There are years of know-how going on behind the scenes, which makes for one of the best and most engaging entries the series has seen. The racing AI is top-notch, the visuals are unbelievable, the handling is too good to be true and the music gives you a grin from ear to ear. If Mario Kart 8 doesn't convince you that you need a Wii U, I don't know what will. This game is a party in a box for years and years to come.

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25 total comments (View all)
No Avatar
15 May 2014 03:04

amazing review cant wait for this game so much, this pleases every part of my body
User avatar
15 May 2014 03:05

In the second paragraph, you said 'came' instead of game. Great review though! :-)
User avatar
15 May 2014 03:06

That wendy gif is perfect!
Also can't wait to play this >_<;!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
User avatar
15 May 2014 03:17

Pretty soon, at my capable hands, Princess Daisy will be outpacing the world.
No Avatar
15 May 2014 03:28

Honestly there are so many great WiiU games I wanna get, but Nintendo you need to drop the price here in Australia. For just $70 more I can buy a technologically superior system. $430 price tag is the real reason I've been holding out so long—either improve the system (offer more built in memory; an HDD wouldn't go astray as opposed to flash memory, which although great for storage, has a much shorter write-life than HDDs do; I'd also like to see a larger screen with at least 720p resolution).
Nintendo could turn this around if they started selling systems with two WiiPads, and make games which use the WiiPad tech!!
User avatar
15 May 2014 03:50

i honestly think nintendo just did not have enough time to add real battle arenas in battle mode. It just looks really boring and lazy. Still getting the game but its pretty disappointing since I enjoy battle mode. Seems to the number one fault highlighted in most of the reviews i read so far. anyways here to hoping that nintendo releases battle arena DLC
User avatar
15 May 2014 04:29

Sounds great, I preordered it earlier tonight.

Bummer about the battle mode, I love that mode. I know folks don't like DLC, but it would be cool if Nintendo heard about the disappointment with Battle mode and offered arenas as DLC (along with character packs, Dry Bones!!!).

Looking forward to this one, oh yeah.
User avatar
15 May 2014 06:14

Great review, but what a damn shame about Battle Mode. For me, Battle Mode was where it was at and it's the primary reason why I love Mario Kart. I hope there's DLC arena maps..
User avatar
15 May 2014 06:15

Well for me it's all the little things it didn't get right that are the problem; such as the Battle Mode courses, the lack of ability to use the GamePad fullscreen in multi-player, the lack of full voice-chat during play...

If Nintendo expects games like this to turn the tide for Wii U then it has to do more than appease the fanboys.

It has to capture the imaginations of the hardcore Sony and Microsoft fanboys too and actually get some of them to purchase a Wii U and by gimping stuff like that it's simply not going to happen imo.
User avatar
15 May 2014 06:16

Fantastic review, RMC! I can't wait, two weeks is an unfairly long time to wait for this game.


Nin2000 wrote:Honestly there are so many great WiiU games I wanna get, but Nintendo you need to drop the price here in Australia. For just $70 more I can buy a technologically superior system. $430 price tag is the real reason I've been holding out so long—either improve the system (offer more built in memory; an HDD wouldn't go astray as opposed to flash memory, which although great for storage, has a much shorter write-life than HDDs do; I'd also like to see a larger screen with at least 720p resolution).
Nintendo could turn this around if they started selling systems with two WiiPads, and make games which use the WiiPad tech!!


You do realize its out of Nintendo's hands. They recieve the identical amount of profit from each region.... The difference in price comes between all regions come from your own government and how they tax.. This could mean either import taxes/tariffs or sales taxes or VATs. It's completely unfair to blame Nintendo for the progressives your country voted into office.

Elections have consequences.
User avatar
15 May 2014 08:04

I loved the Battle Mode's arenas! Is there any chance Nintendo releases a DLC arenas pack? My favorite ones were the N64 ones... Hell, just do a remake of those tiny arenas and release them on the e-shop.
User avatar
15 May 2014 10:17

element187 wrote:Fantastic review, RMC! I can't wait, two weeks is an unfairly long time to wait for this game.


Nin2000 wrote:Honestly there are so many great WiiU games I wanna get, but Nintendo you need to drop the price here in Australia. For just $70 more I can buy a technologically superior system. $430 price tag is the real reason I've been holding out so long—either improve the system (offer more built in memory; an HDD wouldn't go astray as opposed to flash memory, which although great for storage, has a much shorter write-life than HDDs do; I'd also like to see a larger screen with at least 720p resolution).
Nintendo could turn this around if they started selling systems with two WiiPads, and make games which use the WiiPad tech!!


You do realize its out of Nintendo's hands. They recieve the identical amount of profit from each region.... The difference in price comes between all regions come from your own government and how they tax.. This could mean either import taxes/tariffs or sales taxes or VATs. It's completely unfair to blame Nintendo for the progressives your country voted into office.

Elections have consequences.


What I don't get about this post is not the price levels (which have always been higher in EU/OZ than in US/NA for some of the reasons stated above) -- but why the complaint about the price difference is being made because it exists only because of the new Kinect-less XB1 which was just introduced this week. The price difference was $120 for the PS4 and $170 for the XB1 prior to Tuesday.

(Prices taken from EB Games Australia website).
No Avatar
15 May 2014 10:56

Awesome review RMC! I really like the gifs!
No Avatar
15 May 2014 11:12

So Battle Mode is the only problem in your opinion? Perfect. I never used it. Meaning that this game will be glorious after all.
User avatar
15 May 2014 11:31

I'm really surprised to hear so many talk about battle mode... I love it, but I was ALWAYS the only one wanting to play it among my friends... I always questioned it's inclusion when I was young, thinking it was an useless mode if I was to be the only one to play (and the bots where dull to play against)
User avatar
15 May 2014 11:53

The reasoning behind using regular courses as battle arenas is probably just because of the sheer expense of making tracks now. Tracks are so large and detailed that it's probably REALLY hard to make them now. Still, I wish they would have made battle arenas.

I loved battle mode on the SNES, but it has only served as small distraction for me ever since. So luckily I can probably ignore it for this game.
User avatar
15 May 2014 12:58

Baby Rosalina, why Nintendo? Why...

Anyways, good to see that Mario Kart 8 turned out well, hopefully it can help Wii U sales somewhat.
User avatar
15 May 2014 12:59

The next 2 weeks are going to be torture. It's been a while since I've wanted a game this bad.
User avatar
15 May 2014 13:04

Phantastic wrote:i honestly think nintendo just did not have enough time to add real battle arenas in battle mode. It just looks really boring and lazy. Still getting the game but its pretty disappointing since I enjoy battle mode. Seems to the number one fault highlighted in most of the reviews i read so far. anyways here to hoping that nintendo releases battle arena DLC


Yeah, hopefully there is enough outcry on battle mode to get us DLC arenas. Nintendo hasn't got battle mode right since Double Dash. I don't get why it's so hard for them to simply replicate the battle modes everyone loves.
No Avatar
15 May 2014 13:26

Thanks for the review RMC! It gave me a good idea for what I'm in for when I get it! I can't wait to play it! :)
No Avatar
15 May 2014 14:07

Absolutely fantastic review RMC!! Thank you so much! I can't begin to even express how excited I am for this game, May 30th can't come soon enough!

Thanks for all you do, it makes GoNintendo totally awesome!
User avatar
15 May 2014 14:11

"party in a box" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJ68KDQqJRs :wink:

Excellent review RMC. I absolutely can't wait for this game. I am a little disappointed in the Battle Mode from what I have seen, but I'm sure I will get some fun out of it. I mainly do races anyway, as I'm sure most people do. Just 15 more excruciating days.
User avatar
16 May 2014 06:24

Mike_Intellivision wrote:
What I don't get about this post is not the price levels (which have always been higher in EU/OZ than in US/NA for some of the reasons stated above) -- but why the complaint about the price difference is being made because it exists only because of the new Kinect-less XB1 which was just introduced this week. The price difference was $120 for the PS4 and $170 for the XB1 prior to Tuesday.

(Prices taken from EB Games Australia website).


Did you convert the AUS dollar to USD first?
User avatar
16 May 2014 22:57

I can't wait to play this, it really looks so much fun! About the battle arena, I don't understand the hate for original tracks in battle mode, I used to do this all the time in Super Mario Kart SNES, we used to play battle mode on the original tracks, and touch! And we used to have so much fun, and I can't wait to do this again!
User avatar
17 May 2014 12:12

This is a fantastic review, RMC! Beautifully written, and the gifs were a wonderful inclusion. I cannot WAIT for this game!!! :D

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