Mario kart has been an institution of Nintendo systems for 25 years, becoming as synonymous as the plucky plummers solo adventures, and in terms of sales, more than holding its own against more realistic and modern racing games on PlayStation and XBOX. It could be argued that no other franchise perfectly encapsulates Nintendo’s ability to create fun yet deep and accessible games for such a broad audience. The arrival of super smash brothers on the N64 and most recently 2015’s Splatoon, indicates that new talent as well as veteran designers are setting up great teams to create fun multiplayer experiences across key genres for the big N. From its inception on the Super Nintendo in 1992, the mix of graphical fidelity with unrivaled playability, replayability and pure entertainment has kept MK in the hands and hearts of both home and portable console owners. While it’s fun factor, especially locally, has always been exemplary, Mario karts innovation has slightly plateaued in recent incarnations. In place of the N64’s ability to support four players out of the box, Retro courses have been lovingly and faithfully been updated since the phenomenally successful Wii version. while the motion controls were certainly accessible to younger audiences, and the most recent introduction of anti gravity certainly added an extra dimension to courses, the customization and unlockables kept more seasoned racers busy. Despite the Wii u’s paltry global sales numbers, Mario kart 8 maintained its accolade as the best selling (non pack in) game on its respective console, and with bundles being released later, an overall attach rate of 60% for the lowest selling home console in the company’s history is a testament to the games popularity. Despite various elements to try and keep things fresh, such as 3D or new character set ups or weapons, Mario kart has always excelled in its purest form- racing- always having interesting, varied and fun courses. Whether it be the thrillingly simple and chaotic Baby Park from the game cube, or the multiple routes, thrillingly narrow and hazardous Yoshis valley from the N64, novices enjoy the colorful landscapes and characters while veterans strive to perfect that one last apex, shortcut or even a mirror mode (Toads turnpike being the epitome of gleeful frustration). Of course, Nintendo’s history of consoles horse power relative to PlayStation or XBOX has struggled since the GameCube, but the Wii U’s Mario Kart 8 not only maintained a solid 60fps at a respectable 720p, but also truly showed what a Mario Kart (or even a Nintendo) game could look like. Technical achievements notwithstanding, MK8 is a stunning game- as well as frame rate and resolution- animations, lighting, textures and effects make this probably the best looking game Nintendo has ever made. Unfortunately, there’s always a caveat with Nintendo. Sacrifices had to be made, omissions noticed and features missing. With the release of Mario Kart 8 deluxe on the Nintendo switch, it once again highlights a parallel between the game and it’s new system. Not to detract from the fact that this upcoming release is the original game with the two DLC packs and a few other extras, Mario kart 8 deluxe initially deserves more than to be dismissed as ‘just another port’. This is a tentpole title released on new hardware with plenty of new features, from the novel to the indispensable.
Clearly taking a leaf out of the (must be imminent switch version of) smash brothers, the initial statistics make a strong case. 42 characters, 48 tracks across 12 cups split between new and retro fitted courses. Whether adapted to take advantage of MK8’s anti gravity hook, or a glorious ‘from the ground up’ face lift, everything from the cobbles or Tarmac to glistening waterfalls, creepy castles or a sun drenched desert looks beautiful and holds upcoming games like Mario odyssey in good stead. These tracks show what a Nintendo game can be from a technical standpoint, and whether on a big TV, now in 1080p or in portable mode, it’s stunning. The orchestral and eclectic soundtrack once again show off the exceptional production values starting with a burst of brass and bass, never being anything less than a thoroughly enjoyable audio as well as visual experience. The core racing of MK 8 has been tweaked here and there, and a few driver assists for novice or younger players aid steering and acceleration. Curiously defaulted and a bit of navigation to change, it shows that Nintendo are encouraging racers of all skill levels to either start or return to their karting. While the menus and lobbies are functional, if minimalist, the main inclusion of a proper battle mode is the main reason for fans to rejoice. The maps are colorful, varied and take from SNES, game cube and DS era, with 5 all new arenas including the Splatoon themed urchin underpass. But, still no block fort… Standard ballon and bomb battles are joined by a capture the flag style ‘shine thief’ and a returning coin collecting fare. Most intriguing of these modes is ‘renegade roundup’, plays out like a game of ‘cops and robbers’- with the ‘authorities’ capturing the ‘renegades’ and throwing them
In jail. Renegades can free team mates by driving over release switches. It’s frantic stuff. For all the tracks, characters, modes and collectibles, the decision on whether to purchase Mario Kart 8 depends somewhat on circumstance. Yes, for the most part, this will be the game Wii U owners spent almost 80 dollars on (including the DLC) almost 3 years ago, and while local multi player was accommodated by a few cross generational peripherals on the Wii U, the Nintendo switch 4 player local experience could become a lot more pricey. A pair of joy cons cost around $80, with the (of course optional) addition of third party joy con grips intended to make the controller more comfortable. A cute little steering wheel bracket, or even purists wanting to have a pro controller each would escalate the price dramatically. However, taking all the optional extras into account shouldn’t detract from one of the main selling points of the system, which comes with two controllers as standard. While they might not be ideal for anyone with even average adult sized hands, it can’t be understated how accessible the game and system are from the get go, and it paves the way for the future success of Nintendo’s multi player games. For one reason or another, not only is MK8D what the Wii u version should have been, it’s the best game in the franchise and one of the most complete and fun racing games ever made. However, with reports of launch switches experiencing weak wifi signal, the online infrastructure and strategy of Nintendo, Mario Kart 8 deluxe will no doubt be under extreme scrutiny and pressure. Despite Wii U owners maybe feeling burnt and reluctant to double dip, this is the definitive version of a superb game, optional expense and unproven online reliability notwithstanding.
Own a Wii U? YOMI
No Wii U? PWN
+the definitive version of an already great game
+the most technically accomplished game Nintendo has ever made.
+ packed with content
+takes advantage of the new hardware
– Wii U owners may feel burnt
-the need for peripherals could get pricey
-unproven online stability, and some hardware reports of launch hardware issues
-still no block fort