Impressions: Mario Kart 8

We get to test drive one of the most anticipated titles of the year!

By Angela Marrujo. Posted 05/23/2014 13:00 1 Comment     ShareThis

Last Saturday, GameStop held its Mario Kart 8 weekend at select stores across the nation, allowing players to come in and try the game before its May 30 release. Rather than stand behind the counter and let our customers have all the fun, I got some time with the game as well, and if there was only one word I could use to describe the entire experience, it would have to be impressive.

Unfortunately (but expectedly), we were provided with a demo version of the game, which had a limited number of tracks– one from a different cup, respectively– and what I’m assuming to be the roster of characters available from the beginning, which is quite sizable. The Koopa Kids, Metal Mario, Pink Gold Peach, and Baby Rosalina were all playable selections among the traditional picks, but when I saw Shy Guy I stopped considering any other player and chose Sunshine Airport as my first Mario Kart 8 track.

Visually, this game is outstanding. Lighting, textures, and sound are all of the highest quality; as I raced through the airport, dodging crates of luggage and landing on the wings of planes and driving right through them, the glare of the sun exuded a sense of heat so realistic it truly felt like I was outside in a sunny, warm environment. As I launched off of a ramp and floated down to a runway below me, a huge airliner was taking off above me, and that was when I had my biggest “wow” moment: hearing the roar and rumble of the jet as it was coming at me was just so impressive and so well done, not to mention creative, that I found myself returning to Sunshine Airport repeatedly just to experience that one moment again and again. Nintendo successfully created a sense of Mario and the gang disrupting the everyday hustle and bustle of an airport, with all of its activities and business continuing on while they zoom through planes being loaded for takeoff and the lobby filled with onlooking travelers.

The Electrodome had me laughing out loud as I raced through it, seeing Shy Guys, Koopa Troopas, and Piranha Plants busting moves on the dance floor of a club and nodding to the beat of the music as you move through a techno inspired track with lots of neon and glitter. Toad Harbor had us racers zooming down steep streets, past water shining in the sun, and around cable cars filled with Toads that was very reminiscent of driving through San Francisco (and got me excited for the revamped Toad’s Turnpike from Mario Kart 64), while the Mobius strip that is Mario Circuit takes you on a drive past stacks of Goombas wandering in your way, past Peach’s Castle, and on an anti-grav journey that sends you driving upside down and sideways.

In terms of items, I didn’t get too much exposure to the new additions introduced in Mario Kart 8 (which may have been a result of being in first more often than not– not that I’m gloating!), though I did get to try out the Blue Shell destroying horn. While I never got to use it on an incoming blue shell, I did destroy a red shell coming my way, and it was extremely effective. My co-worker ended up getting the series of 8 offensive items when he fell way behind, which is the exact same concept as getting the Lucky 7 in Mario Kart 7. Driving is extremely responsive and tight, and drifting feels great; I used the Wii U GamePad, the Nunchuk and Wii Remote, and the Wii Remote in the wheel, and every control scheme handled well.

Between the new tracks and features, the stunning visuals and sound, and the large roster of racers, Mario Kart 8 is looking to be not only one of the best games of the year, but one of the best games on Wii U. May 30 can’t come fast enough.

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