by Galen Alaks | September 10, 2014 8:43 am
Mario Kart 7, the game preceding Mario Kart 8, featured many new innovations, such as the ability to use gliders to fly across courses, the ability to dive and drive underwater, and the ability to customize vehicles by picking different kart bodies, wheels, and gliders. Mario Kart 8, however, took this to the next step.
Now, when racers drive over blue pads on the track, their wheels flip horizontally and the racers can now race along the walls, the ceiling, or anywhere else they see fit with the new antigravity feature! Race up and down waterfalls, jump across buildings sideways, and race along music-changing electrical roads.
The underwater and glider features are also used to the best of their extent, allowing dives into soda, twisting sideways glides out of a haunted mansion, and a choice between the two in some sky high, Thwomp-filled ruins.
As in past Mario kart games, there are a total of 16 new courses and 16 retro courses from past Mario Kart games spanning over eight cups. The retro courses, unlike past Mario Kart games, have gotten revamped appearances and all feature at least one of the three features from this game, such as an oasis in Dry Dry Desert, a glider heading over the lava in Grumble Volcano, and a race up the walls in the ruins of DK Jungle.
Mario Kart 8 features some of the most exciting and original courses around. You can drive up and down waterfalls in Shy Guy Falls, race on a one-lap course down a snowy mountain through forests and dams in Mount Wario, go on a ride through a winding town while avoiding cable cars in Toad’s Harbor, and fly through the arid ruins of a coastal town in Bone-Dry Dunes.
Among the best retro courses are N64 Yoshi Valley, which now has a mine and a much more visually pleasing environment, SNES Donut Plains 3, which now features multiple paths that one can take through the water or across land, N64 Toad’s Turnpike, which lets racers race up and along the walls of the course to avoid traffic and has trucks with surfboards and ramps on them, allowing for tricks and glides respectively, and my personal favorite, Wii Moo Moo Meadows, which now takes place at sunrise and incorporates the glider.
The courses are accompanied by exceptional music, most of which is orchestrated for the first time in the Mario Kart series. This offers a brand new sound for the retro courses and the best new music in the Mario Kart series.
Now racers can pick not only from kart bodies but also from bike bodies and all-new ATV bodies! Despite the great selection of karts, gliders, and wheels, however, vehicles don’t seem to change in stats as much as they did in Mario Kart Wii, though the different looks are certainly aesthetically pleasing. On another downside with kart customizations, despite the new and great-controlling ATVs, there are only three to choose from in the entire game, which lacks variety for the new vehicles.
The game also features the most characters in all Mario Kart games, with a grand total of 30. The selection is a bit limited due to the similar overload in Mario Kart Wii of baby characters like Baby Mario and Baby Peach, but it still manages to include seven characters who make their first playable appearance in any game, Bowser’s henchmen, the Koopalings! The Koopalings span over all three character weight classes and are fun to play as for a much different experience.
Some changes to the standard gameplay make for a much more player-friendly gameplay, such as the fact that Lakitu drags racers out of ditches much faster than in recent games and even lets the racer keep their item. A player, however, cannot hold more than one item at a time like they could have in past Mario Kart games, which at first becomes annoying but soon makes it easier to catch your opponents.
The new items to the game are mediocre. While the Boomerang Flower, allowing the racer to cut down racers with three throws of a boomerang is extremely useful for catching multiple racers, the Piranha Plant item, which creates a Piranha Plant that eats other racers and items, is fun to use and effective around many racers but often comes up when the road is cleared and is then somewhat useless. The Sound Horn, which creates a soundwave around the player’s vehicle that totals racers’ vehicles and can even destroy those super destructive Blue Shells, can be useful when behind other racers but often comes up in first place when there are no racers around. Getting a Sound Horn and getting attacked by a Blue Shell at the same time is also pretty rare. It is pretty satisfying to down a whole slew of racers with one attack, though.
The battle mode, while often insulted for its lack of brand new battle courses, is actually very fun. It allows for a brand new battle experience and is something that shouldn’t be missed, especially in multiplayer mode.
The difficulty in the game is much better than in previous games. Even in 50cc mode, it’s hard to get so far ahead that no other racers are around. Even when it seems like one is really far ahead, one red shell can easily send them down to fifth. This difficulty increases replayability and encourages using defense, offense, and steering to the best of their effect.
However, even a whole summer after its release, Mario Kart 8 still has some surprises in store. Now available, special Mercedes-Benz vehicles can be downloaded for free and, in November of this year and May of the next, two downloadable sets of characters, vehicles, and courses will be available. The characters included are Tanooki Mario, Cat Peach, Dry Bowser, the undead version of Bowser also playable in Mario Kart Wii, and crossover characters Villager and Isabelle from Animal Crossing and Link from the Legend of Zelda. There will also be a total of sixteen new courses, with some retro courses like Wii’s Wario’s Gold Mine and new courses based on other racing games like Excitebike. Buying or preordering both packs will make eight multicolored Yoshis and Shy Guys instantly available. More on these later!
In conclusion, Mario Kart 8 may very well be the best edition in the Mario Kart series yet. Its use of previous ideas to the best of their effects and its new features merge greatly to create an extremely unique game.
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