Mario Kart 8 has arrived on the Nintendo Wii U and it is excellent. Nintendo's kart racing series, with its eight installment, has proved that Nintendo can create fresh ideas despite the age of a franchise. With beautiful visuals and a great soundtrack, consistent gameplay, excellent tracks, and a large range of characters, Mario Kart 8 is the best Mario Kart game in years. Simply put, Mario Kart is why you need a Wii U.
Mario Kart 8 is a beautiful game. Visually, the game defines beauty; my jaw hit the floor when I first saw the game. The game has a unique polish and if you thought the Wii U could not make a game that looked this pretty, you're wrong. Each track, kart, and character look very colorful and have their own distinct features. Mario Kart 8 also has little details which add to the experience - headlights when entering dark areas, the tires look smooth when turning a sharp corner, and of course, Mario's wonderful mustache flowing in slow motion. Accompanying the visuals is a wonderful soundtrack. Ranging from Jazz to Orchestral, slow to upbeat, the soundtrack makes the game relaxing and reminds you that you're playing Mario Kart.
The main focus of Mario Kart, like it has always been, is the gameplay. Racing at high rates of speed with tight controls feels better than ever. Using power ups, including the new ones, is essential to winning in Mario Kart. Mario Kart features four game modes: Grand Prix, Time Trials, Vs. Race, and Battle - Grand Prix and Battle being the two most popular race modes. Grand Prix with two or more players is optimal because you are competing for gold against your friends and against the computers. Battle Arena, though is severely disappointing. Each area is a smaller section of the whole track and loops around. Battle Arena is like a game of cat and mouse; if you miss the enemy, you have to continue driving until you meet them again, or you can turn around and try to catch the enemy. The arena is not very fun, despite the option of having team matches.
The tracks and characters in Mario Kart 8 are fantastic. There are 32 total tracks, 16 new and 16 old. The old tracks have been redesigned to include the new game mechanics and look great. The new tracks are fresh and addicting to play. Mount Wario is my favorite new track. There are 30 playable characters, featuring almost every character from the Super Mario series. Each character is unique and has different stats for each kart modification.
Mario Kart 8 boasts a number of new features to enhance the experience. The biggest addition Mario Kart 8 receives is the anti-gravity mechanic. Anti-gravity adds more than just racing upside down. Hitting an enemy initiates a boost, potentially propelling you into first place. The anti-gravity mechanic has its downfall, too. If you are hit while going off a jump, you will fall off the track.
The Mario Kart series has always introduced unique power-ups with each new installment, and Mario Kart 8 is no different. New to Mario Kart 8 is the Boomerang Flower which can hit drivers in front, the Piranha Plant which provides a short speed boost and can chomp on nearby items or racers, the Super Horn which is used to remedy the infamous blue shell by destroying it before it strikes the driver in first place, and the Crazy Eight which generates eight items for the player to use.
Mario Kart TV is the most entertaining feature new to Mario Kart 8. This feature allows players to view highlights of races they participated in. Along with viewing highlights and watching them in slow motion, players can share their highlights to Miiverse and upload their races to YouTube. This feature is a great addition for those who want to brag about their victory.
By no means is Mario Kart 8 a perfect game. There are a few major drawbacks that hurt the experience. The biggest drawback is the lack of voice chat. Only in private lobbies with friends can you use voice chat, but that is only before a race begins. There are simple message options in public races, but no voice chat options. While I can understand Nintendo chose this because of young children playing the game, it is frustrating to not have in-game voice chat while in a private lobby. A boring battle mode also takes away from the experience. After a few rounds with friends, I have no desire to play the battle mode. Lastly, I experienced a fair rate of being disconnected from lobbies and races. This issue could involve my Internet, but I have heard from a number of people that they have been disconnected a few times, too.
Mario Kart 8 is an exceptional racing game. Featuring beautiful visuals complimented by a great soundtrack, addicting gameplay, and a number of new unique features, Mario Kart 8 is a must buy for Wii U owners. Despite a boring battle arena, a lack of an online chat, and an annoying disconnection rate, Mario Kart 8 is the best Mario Kart game in years. Nintendo continues to prove that Mario Kart is the best racing game out today.
Pros: Beautiful visuals, addicting gameplay, great tracks and characters
Cons: Boring battle arena, lack of voice chat, disconnection rate