Courtesy of Nintendo
Do you have fond memories of playing Nintendo’s iconic arcade racing franchise, Mario Kart, from your childhood? Well, if you do, then you’re going to want to check out the latest trailer for Mario Kart 8. If you don’t have memories of frantic four player battles with friends and family, hurling turtle shells and banana peels at each other, then maybe you didn’t have a childhood after all?
Nintendo’s latest version of the best-in-class Mario Kart franchise will finally debut on the Wii U May 30. Without changing the foundation of what has made the series so much fun and a staple in living rooms, Nintendo has added several new features that re-invent how you approach a race in Mario Kart.
Veterans of the series probably know about how picking up coins during races increases your kart’s top speed as well as how you can now drive under-water and glide through the air; however the biggest new mechanic by far is anti-gravity.
Each race track is loaded with sections that force players to think differently, transforming their kart into an anti-gravity enabled hovercraft that can stick to the sides of walls or even the ceiling. Other than changing your perspective during races, this twist alters attack strategies.
While using anti-gravity, players can gain a boost in speed by ramming into other players. This of course turns every anti-gravity section into absolute chaos as everyone will be trying to hit one another in an attempt to get a leg up. This could backfire and get you knocked off the race track altogether. It’s a unique risk and reward system that is sure to become addicting and cause a lot of expletives to be yelled.
In addition to the anti-gravity mechanic, several new characters and items have been added to the game. The Piranha Plant item extends a giant Petey Piranha from the player’s kart, eating nearby items and opponents and turning them into speed boosts. The boomerang item lets you throw a boomerang ahead or behind you three times and comes back, causing anyone caught in its path to lose control of their vehicle.
One minor, but important change to items in Mario Kart 8 is that you can no longer hold an item behind you. In past games you could acquire a banana peel, hold the fire button and that banana peel would stay behind your kart until you let go of the button.
This would allow players to grab a second item, effectively letting you carry two items at once. Nintendo has taken this out so that players can only use one item at a time, adding a new level of depth to how you defend and attack your opponents.
There are several new characters to choose from in Mario Kart 8 with notable additions like the seven Koopalings from Super Mario World, Metal Mario or Latiku.
Visually Mario Kart 8 is absolutely stunning. Images of the game don’t do it justice. I’ve had the chance to play the game at a press event with Nintendo, and I can tell you that the game looks like a Pixar movie when viewed in motion.
There are a ton of little details on screen at all times, and the art direction is superb. Despite being a graphically intense game and running at 720p, Mario Kart 8 never drops below 60 frames per second, even when playing the two player local split-screen mode. While the Wii U may not be nearly as powerful piece of technology as Sony’s PS4 or Microsoft’s Xbox One, Mario Kart 8 shows that the Wii U can punch above its weight with the right team of designers.
If there is anything from Nintendo’s latest Mario Kart 8 trailer that disappoints fans, it’s the absence of any compelling use of the Wii U Game Pad. Nintendo has been battling the reputation that the Wii U’s controller, the Game Pad, is just an accessory to the original Wii console. Countless people still don’t understand that the Wii U is a new, next-generation console and not an add-on accessory for the Wii.
The system’s marketing has been atrocious and played a huge role in confusing consumers. You’d think they’d have some sort of compelling, unique use of the Game Pad for a marquee first party title like Mario Kart 8.
Yet all the Wii U Game Pad does is give players a large touch screen horn to honk (which accomplishes nothing) and enables off-TV play on the controller’s 854×480 pixel screen. Those are nice features, but this is such an important game that you’d think the company could come up with some use of the Game Pad that justified the controller’s existence and used its unique traits to the fullest.
Finally, one of the cooler new features is Mario Kart TV. After each race the game records your best moments, whether it’s hitting a rival with a red shell, passing an opponent for first place or pulling off a particularly difficult stunt. This allows players to hold onto their best performances to show off your racing skills.
Mario Kart 8 will also feature several 12-player online competitive modes as well as two player local multiplayer modes when it releases on the Wii U May 30th.