The Mario Kart franchise for Nintento has been getting progressively better throughout its releases, and Mario kart 8 is being heralded as the pinnacle of the series’ excellence. In the past, improvements from game to game would never really change the core gameplay very much, however this incarnation makes many minor improvements which many report has massively improved the game for the better. This is good news for Nintendo, facing dramatically failing sales figures for the Wii U system, as Mario Kart 8 is showing the potential to drive them out of the basement and back into contention with the other major systems. Sales of the system quadrupled week-over-week after the release of this title, and May sales show an 85 percent increase over those in April. While predictions that the Wii U sales will outpace the Playstation 4 and XBox One consoles, it is not out of the question. The much-anticipated game has nearly single-handedly rescued the numbers for the gaming giant, with some experts claiming that it is not a fluke, but the beginning of a trend for Nintendo.
According to most reviews, Mario Kart 8 has delivered as expected. Objectively speaking, the graphics and designs are beautiful, and the detail is beyond previous incarnations. Almost across the board, reviewers agree that the gameplay is better than it has ever been before. The anti-gravity adds to the gameplay by allowing players to gain a speed boost when they collide into other racers, making it a little easier to get into the lead. One of the most-lauded features to the game is the decreased wait time for item boxes to reload. It’s a small detail but it allows for far fewer times where a racer in front takes the box a player is aiming for. Another small, but significant, detail is when a racer falls off the edge of a track, they no longer have to wait for the blackout screen. They are, instead, immediately lifted back into the race. It makes it so that a small mistake will no longer cost the race.
After each race, players can watch a highlight reel of the best moments from the contest. This allows players to appreciate the small details added into the characters. For example, when a racer or a shell comes up behind the player, it is possible to see their character looking behind. When one of the items hits, the character will jump up and cheer. Everything about the game is very detailed, and that attention to detail may be a driving factor to the significant increase in the Wii U sales.
With the good, there is always the bad. The most often reported problem with the game is the lack of characters. Pre-release, the game was hyped to have a large roster full of many characters. The actual game contains a roster mostly full of baby versions of already existing characters and Koopa Kids. While the roster is not as full as expected, those mentioning the shortcoming largely agree that it in no way takes away from the game in terms of quality or entertainment. One other feature which was reported as a hindrance to gameplay was the role of the gamepad in multi-player. When looking at the gamepad during multi-player, instead of exclusively seeing the screen of the player using the gamepad, you see the same split screen that is displayed on the TV. This adds nothing to the experience, and is considered by most as a nuisance. Additionally, the fact that the messages in multi-player are set up so that all messages must go through the miiverse makes it difficult to coordinate online play. Despite those few problems, even detractors agree that the game is beautiful down to the tiniest details and the gameplay is better than it has ever been.
If Nintendo is going to keep their sales of the Wii U out of the basement, Mario Kart 8 cannot be the only driving force. With a successful presentation at E3 2014, and the slow release of details about an upcoming version of a Legend of Zelda game, it may well be that improving upon past successes will be a winning formula for the company.
By Reuben Malone