Finally Nintendo has a system seller! Sure it’s not Smash Bros. (which will undoubtedly double the number of Wii U’s out there) but it’s still worth owning and jamming on with some buds.
This edition of Mario Kart offers vastly improved visuals (dat slo-mo replay, so pretty) an anti-gravity ‘gimmick’ and a large cast of characters. While the basic gameplay remains rather unchanged, the new items and the anti-gravity do add a bit more strategy in how you play. For instance, if you’re in anti-grav you can bump into opponents and gain a slight speed boost (they also benefit from the boost). Taking corners quickly while floating can quickly become a matter of angle of attack versus the best power slide through.
With 32 courses there isn’t a lack of variety present either. The 16 new courses are all gorgeous and a treat to look at, as well as interesting and fun to play. Personal favorites are: Mount Wario, Electrodrome, Cloudtop Cruise, Mario Kart Stadium, and the New Rainbow Road.
The kart customization from Mario Kart 7 has been brought back and fleshed out a little more. You have three basic body types: Karts (duh), Bikes, and ATV’s. Each offers a slightly different style of racing and can be modified via tires and gliders.
There is also a load of unlockables. Characters, Courses, Karts, and other Kart accessories are all obtained through copious amounts of play. Gather coins during your races to unlock various things incrementally. The amount of replay is astonishing. You are also able to unlock all the things while playing multiplayer. Be it online or on da couch, you still gain coins and you still unlock more stuff.
Online play gets a massive boost with this release as well. Matchmaking is simple, just get into the game and choose to race online. You are then paired with other players relatively close to you in terms of score (actual skill isn’t a true indicator of score) then you race. Each race nets you more coins which let you unlock more stuff. In the few races I have done online I didn’t experience any lag or issues. Although during a few matches at peak times I did have a few connection issues. Nothing I’m worried about yet. If it persists in the coming months, there may be a problem Nintendo has to address.
Playing online with friends can be cumbersome, but works well. You are able to set up a group for just your friends and play from there. The catch is that you have to coordinate this play before it happens through real life means. Sending texts or messages over Facebook is a good way to get it going, then once everyone’s in you can customise the matches. Would you like to run the courses in reverse? You can. Want all of the most powerful items to show up more frequently? You can do that as well. Your options are vast, so get online and abuse your friends with shells.
The only real downside to the whole package is the battle mode. Forgoing the traditional battle arena maps you now race with three balloons and can go any which way you like to take down your opponents. Something that was greatly played from my days on the N64 has been simplified to a point of forgetability.
All that being said if you own a Wii U and haven’t purchased this yet you most certainly should. I haven’t had as much fun playing a game with a room full of friends as I have this past weekend in a long, long time. I felt like I was 13 again and that’s something special. Nintendo may not ‘win’ this console war, but if they continue to release solid first party titles like this they will maintain their hold on the die-hard and the faithful.