8 reasons why the next Mario Kart may be the best Mario Kart yet.
Did you hear? Mario Kart 8 is hitting store shelves in less than a month, and just about everyone is over the moon with excitement. Just about. Let us assume that you are indeed one of these individuals who look at Mario Kart 8 and exclaim, “Well, is it not simply just another Mario Kart?” No, it is not simply just another Mario Kart. Let me tell you why.
A New Coat of Paint
Visuals are not everything, but even so, it is hard to not notice how great Mario Kart 8 looks. Even when Nintendo first revealed the game at E3 last year, Mario Kart 8 was easily one of the best-looking titles on the show floor. For some reason, that Nintendo art style we have repeatedly seen in such titles as Super Mario 3D World and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD just looks so good in high definition. Even though the Wii U is not the most powerful machine on the market, Mario Kart 8 shows that it can still compete visually nonetheless.
What Goes Up Must Come Down
One of my biggest complaints about Mario Kart 7 on the 3DS was that it felt creatively restrained. Sure, the game introduced the underwater and glider sections seen in Mario Kart 8, but they felt underwhelming and underutilized. When impressions came in during E3 2013 about how the new antigravity sections felt almost the same way, I feared for the worst. Thankfully, the recent trailers to come out for Mario Kart 8 suggest otherwise.
While the antigravity feature in Mario Kart 8 may not feel entirely revolutionary, – especially when compared to Double Dash’s dual-character karts – there is one associated aspect that I feel many people have either overlooked or neglected to discuss. The ability for racers to hug walls and ceilings lends itself for some potentially superb course designs – and Nintendo has proven to us in the recent trailers that this is indeed the case. Take, for example, Shy Guy Falls, which has racers boost up and down two gigantic waterfalls every lap. Other tracks that heavily utilize this feature include Mario Circuit (the Mobius Strip course) and Mario Kart Stadium.
Even the retro courses have been retrofitted with antigravity sections, many of which are almost unrecognizable thanks to their new additions. N64 Toad’s Turnpike transformed what could arguably be one of Mario Kart 64’s most uninspired tracks into an antigravity playground. GBA Mario Circuit, which in Mario Kart Super Circuit was a completely flat level, now features a hydraulic-lifted antigravity portion – because why the hell not?
Even those tracks that were not reimagined with antigravity look shockingly different. Wii Moo Moo Meadows was taken from just the most recent console iteration of Mario Kart, and yet its new lighting effects create a soothing atmosphere that so clearly was not present in the Wii version. N64 Yoshi Valley seems to have been completely redone, with the multiple lanes now leading to completely different destinations, forcing players to relearn some old strategies.
Speaking of old strategies, Mario Kart 8 looks to shake things up for veteran Kart players thanks to some extra gameplay additions.
I have already discussed at length about Mario Kart 8’s new antigravity feature, but there is one more thing that about it that deserves some attention. Normally in Mario Kart, your best bet is to stay well away from other racers, or risk getting hit by a well-timed item shot. In Mario Kart 8, you are rewarded for taking risks; during the antigravity sections, bumping into other players will give both racers a temporary boost. Suddenly, your old instinct to avoid other racers has been turned upside down, and you must realign your habits to take advantage of this new feature. This aspect also allows for all new strategies in team play, especially if you are trying to catch up to first place.
New rules to item usage are also now in place in Mario Kart 8. Unlike in previous entries, racers are no longer allowed to store more than one item. This spells bad news for those who enjoy the comfort of shielding themselves with bananas and shells in first place. All triple items now revolve around you as well, meaning your chances of having a mushroom stolen is now even greater than before.
Choose Your Weapon
And speaking of items, Mario Kart 8 has a few! The new items in Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart Wii disgust me; most of them felt overpowered, gimmicky, or unfair. Mario Kart 7 managed to balance itself out a bit last time around, and thankfully Mario Kart 8 looks to push that idea further. Let me tell you what I feel about the four new items introduce in Mario Kart 8:
- Boomerang Flower – a refreshing take on an old concept, the boomerang flower may look like just another projectile item, but its ability to hit multiple players at once makes it the ultimate weapon for multiplayer matches and battles.
- Piranha Plant – again, it may look deceptively similar to other boost items in the game, but if you look closely, you will notice that the Piranha Plant does provide the continuous boost that, say, the golden mushroom does, making cutting across long stretches of grass an invalid option – unless someone else happens to be in your way.
- Super Horn – one of the more controversial items introduced in Mario Kart 8, the super horn is a rare item that has the ability to knock everything surrounding the user away, including blue shells! (And, by the way, I feel this item is better suited for the POW Block, but that is what happens when you screw up that the first time…)
- Crazy Eight – the last of the new items, the crazy eight is the spiritual successor to Mario Kart 7’s lucky seven, and it conjures an assortment of items revolving around the racer – just be careful of the Bob-omb!
What I hope these new additions mean – and I may be overgeneralizing this here – is that Nintendo is trying to rebalance Mario Kart to make it more strategic. Whether or not this philosophy carries over to everything else in the game is yet to be seen.
Smile, You Are On Camera
Aside from antigravity, another one of Mario Kart 8’s biggest additions is Mario Kart TV. MKTV is a replay system that allows you to edit your replays in many different ways, including length, focus, and perspective. When you are done editing, you can upload your replay onto Miiverse for all to see, or – and get this – you can upload your videos directly onto YouTube. Neat, right?
Besides how awesome it is to finally be able to share our favorite Mario Kart moments online, MKTV represents an important step forward for Nintendo in terms of social connectivity. MKTV ensures that Mario Kart 8 will remain relevant so long as people continue playing it, not to mention that it serves as practically free advertising for every video uploaded. It is great to see Nintendo embrace social networking services more and more, and it is only a matter of time before we get native streaming integration into our Nintendo games… right?
The Sound of Music
If you are plan on uploading your replay videos onto the internet, you have got to make sure it sounds good, right? Well, you are in luck. In yet another Mairo Kart first, Mario Kart 8 introduces a live-recorded, orchestrated soundtrack. Even the retro courses have had their soundtracks not just remade, but rearranged completely. So Mario Kart 8 is not only the best-looking Mario Kart game yet, but it is also the best sounding too!
The Little Things
One of my favorite things about Nintendo games is their extreme attention to detail. For example, did you notice:
- Mario’s mustache rustles in the wind?
- The racers stare each other down as they pass one another?
- Magma Bowser’s punches literally send shockwaves through the track?
- There are Fire Bros. and Hammer Bros. cheering in the background of Bowser’s Castle?
- The Bowser statues point the direction in which the players should be racing?
- DS Wario Stadium is littered with fake Nintendo ads?
- Baby Daisy’s eyes actually follow the blue shell as it swirls above her?
- The Toads in Mario Kart Stadium are riding on what looks like Bowser’s clown ship?
- The Unagi in Dolphin Shoals is reminiscent of the Unagi in Super Mario 64?
- The in-game ad for “1-Up Fuel” depicts a poison mushroom on fire?
- The space station in Rainbow Road is called REXA (Rainbow Exploration Agency)?
- The different keys on 3DS Music Park actually make different sounds now?
- The train in N64 Rainbow Road routinely tosses out coins onto the track?
- One portion in Rainbow Road’s track is shaped as a figure eight?
There are so many other examples that can be found in the numerous gameplay demos posted online, but I will save myself the effort and tell you to scourge for them yourselves. I think you might be surprised and delighted by how much thought went into each and every single one of these tracks. All of these things, and potentially much more, are why I believe Mario Kart 8 may be the best Mario Kart yet, and we are just getting things started.
Are you excited for Mario Kart 8? Why or why not? Discuss in the comments below!