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Mario Kart 8

Having grown up playing Mario Kart since its release on the SNES in 1992 and watching the series expand to finally having hi-definition graphics, there is also anti-gravity, ATVs, up to four local players in Grand Prix races, downloadable content, new items, slow motion replay and the ability to upload game-play onto YouTube and share screenshots and video clips through the Miiverse community.

Mario Kart runs the thin line between casual and hardcore. For casual fun go into Grand Prix mode and select 50cc, working your way up to 150cc and the ever challenging Mirror mode.

There is a large amount of choices with customisation from different vehicles, tires and gliders. The new items include the Piranha Plant, which attacks nearby players and obstacles, the Boomerang Flower, which can be thrown to attack racers, the Crazy Eight also originally from Mario Kart 7 on the Nintendo 3DS, which gives the player eight items, and my personal favourite; the Super Horn, which can strategically attack other racers within a certain radius and defend against items, most prominently; the Blue Shell.

A good amount is offered in the current first DLC release:

  • Characters: Link, Tanooki Mario, and Cat Peach
  • Egg Cup tracks: Yoshi Circuit, Excitebike Arena, Dragon Driftway, and Mute City
  • Triforce Cup tracks: Wario’s Gold Mine, Rainbow Road, Ice Ice Outpost, and Hyrule Circuit
  • Vehicles: Master Cycle, Blue Falcon, B Dasher, and Tanooki Kart
  • Vehicle parts: Hylian Kite glider and Triforce tires

As much as I enjoyed the cat costumes in Super Mario 3D World, I felt the extra game character slot for Cat Peach’s character was wasted as you’re technically racing as Princess Peach, not running up and down walls as Cat Peach. I felt her pink cat car should of at least had furry running legs; think like the Cat Bus in My Neighbour Totoro!

Link, on the other hand, was my personal, and I believe the majority of everyone’s favourite addition to the character rosta. He fits in well with the rest of the characters and environment and as a player who personally prefers heavy characters, the speed bodes well with the Triforce tires and Jet Bike combo.

Hyrule Circuit completes the Triforce Cup and it proves better than expected. While racing through Hyrule field, you can collect Rupees, not coins. Instead of Piranha Plants there is Deku Babas, and instead of Swoopers, there are Keese. Even the sound for the item pick-up fits The Legend of Zelda series. If you thought the attention to detail isn’t impeccable enough, the track continues into Hyrule Castle where racers can complete a mini puzzle to boost speed over the Master Sword.

And then there’s my other personal favourite with F-Zero’s Mute City. You literally don’t have to be an F-Zero fan to enjoy this fast-paced anti-gravity track, but this personally excited me as a unfortunate long forgotten series was brought back with at least one playable race track. It’s a shame though that the music for Mute City is not on the Super Smash Bros soundtrack and obviously even more so that they have not released a new instalment to the series for the Wii U when it holds so much potential. The taste of having F-Zero on hi-definition was enough for me wanting more, but alas that’s another story.

The rest of the DLC remains consistent to the game but is not as great as the above tracks and Link remains the best addition in my opinion.

In also a surprising turn of events, Nintendo teamed up with Mercedes-Benz which saw a live-action version of Mario in a Mercedes advert. And to top it all, on the 27th August 2014, three free add-ons were made available; the Mercedes-Benz GLA, plus the 1930s Silver Arrow and the 1950s 300 SL Roadster.

A favourite pass time of mine is noticing the extra details such as conveniently placed easter eggs, secrets and short cuts in games. In Mario Kart 8 there are quite a few worth looking out for:

  • In Cloudtop Cruise, there is a beanstalk you fly down onto with your glider, that embarks as a giant question block. The block technically looks like the Mario blocks from the side scrolling platform games.
  • In previous Mario Kart games, you usually see only Lakitu on top of the spotlight, and nothing else. However, some stages have different race startup animations. For example, Bowser’s Castle stage starts with the gates opening up as the lights blink. In Twisted Mansion, the door creaks open for you.
  • Mario Kart TV features continuously all throughout the tracks as faux advertising. As the game’s exclusive broadcaster, you can even see their trucks throughout the track to give live coverage. The cameramen will move to follow you, as you will notice if you stop racing to approach them. As a nice touch, even their trucks have the Lakitu cloud logo on their front bumpers.
  • In Royal Raceway, you can see the Toads flying in the hot air balloons as you fly past them. If you keep a good eye out, you can even catch them burning fuel for the balloons to fly up.
  • Yoshi Valley has become a Wild Yoshi Sanctuary. This is shown not only in the logos throughout the stage, but in all the various Yoshis and eggs you can find in the game. But that’s not all: the berries in the trees are the same ones Yoshi loves to eat up, way back in the side-scrolling Mario / Yoshi games.
  • In Toad’s Turnpike, you race at night in Toad City. There is a sign showing what is apparently a highway advisory radio station. The frequency is set to 64 MHz, referencing that this course started in Mario Kart 64.
  • Lastly, in Sunshine Airport, as you’re dropping down to the airport in mid-air at the far top right, there is an island in the distance with rocks shaped like Koopa Troopas. Their shells have even been filled in with grass to finish the look. Possibly a reference to the Koopa Troopa statues in Koopa Troopa beach track in Mario Kart 64 and Mario Kart 7.

And if you’re ever bored of Mario Kart, please feel free to re-wind your race in slow-motion and look out for Luigi’s infamous “death stare”, which shows Luigi’s daunting stare upon passing him in a race which grew to popularity from a YouTube video which has now over time turned into a meme. I guess Year of Luigi was not enough for this Mario bro!

Overall, Mario Kart 8 has officially remained a staple choice of game for my circle of friends for gaming nights and Online tournaments. The hi-definition is breath taking, the easter eggs and secrets hilarious and nostalgic, the DLC paves the way towards Nintendo finally embracing modern gaming. Just add in the factor for winning strategically instead of always by poor luck from items, enable editing of videos to include slow motion (because boy does that look intense!), avoid lag and add more future DLC that isn’t the same recycled characters, and I believe we’re on the road to one heck of a ride!