Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

July 2, 2014 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

In April 2008 I purchased Mario Kart Wii as a birthday present for who is now my eldest step son. I was 35 at the time and the whole Mario Kart thing was pretty foreign to me, so I had no idea what I was getting into when I bought the game. I’ve never been too much into video games and have really been good at a handful of them in my life.  I’d excelled at NHL ’94 on SNES and I’d played various versions of Tiger Woods Golf on the PS3, but it really wasn’t until I started playing Mario Kart that I’d really been excited about a game.  And yes, this is coming from someone who is now over 40 years old. I’d played Mario Kart Wii countless times, racing online, trying desperately to achieve that coveted three star rating and unlocking anything and every combination to get my kart or bike a best as it could be.  Granted I was tardy for the party when it came to Mario Kart, as it’s been a staple of nearly every Nintendo platform since the mid 90’s.  Since I never got a 3DS, I missed Mario Kart 7 all together, so it’s been a 6 year wait for me to get my hands on Mario Kart 8.  Yes, I even went to the extreme of purchasing an entire Wii U console just so I could play this game. Is that dedication or insanity (or both).  Nevertheless, the wait is over.  3-2-1…let’s go!

For those that aren’t familiar with the game, it’s essentially just a big race. There are 32 characters to choose from (many of them you unlock along the way as you continue to race) and you can choose from a kart or a bike. There are 8 cups, each with 4 courses in them of varying difficulty.  Some of the courses are new to this game and others are recycled from previous installments of the series (though they’re now updated to take advantage of the Wii U’s capabilities). Most of the same items you pick up along the way are still there, though there are a few new ones that keep things interesting.  Yes, you can still throw turtle shells (both red and green) and use and air bomb to take out the leader, but hey – it’s all in good fun.  Collecting coins along the way makes things interesting too as you can unlock new options for your bike or kart.  Since I skipped Mario Kart 7, there’s a new option that has found its way to Mario Kart 8 with a glider. Ramp across a river or a molten volcano and your glider pops up and whisks you safely to the latter part of the course.

Simply put, Mario Kart 8 is one of the games that I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time. It really never gets old, it’s extremely popular and each race is a different ball of wax. The characters are fun and playful, the options are seemingly endless and the online play has been improved since the previous version. Yes, as good as you think you are, you’ll probably get schooled by some 10 year old who’s sending a text message with his free hand. I’ve had the game for a month now and still haven’t unlocked everything, but then again I don’t play it for hours on end. It’s a game that I’ll have on hand for quite some time and I’m getting used to the Wii U which you can play the game on as well.  Coming from someone who’s not really into video games, I have to say that this delivers on all levels. It gets our highest recommendation.

Video: How’s it look?

Mario Kart 8 comes to the gaming world as Nintendo’s first HD gaming platform, and suffice it to say that the 1.78:1 HD image simply sparkles with detail and definition. Having played its predecessor so many times, it’s like a new world when playing this version. The courses seem to have a 3D effect, the expressions on the characters’ faces are hilarious and everything in between looks good as well. To get an idea of how much detail actually went into this game, do a “Race Highlights” and use the slow motion effect – you can see the little nuances from the fire coming out of the exhaust pipe to the characters doing flips on their bikes while in the air. I’ve never really seen a game look so good.

Audio: How’s it sound?

I’ve become so used to Blu-ray’s and their DTS and Dolby TrueHD soundtracks that it was a bit of a change to listen to the LPCM sound mix that comes with the game. This is a step up from the previous surround mixes found on the previous versions, but the more I play the game, the more impressed I am. Again, like the video, it’s the little nuances that really stand out like an explosion here and there, the screeching of the wheels or even the little things – like the piano keys that play as you zoom over them on the “Music Park” level. It’s a nice, solid mix that’s sure to please.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Video games aren’t really known for their extras, but as I mentioned I did purchase this as a box unit. Having said that, this version did come with a special Mario Wii U controller and I picked up a matching Peach one at Best Buy.  While there are no extras on the game itself, I figured I’d make mention of this.

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