Posted by: seanmalstrom | June 19, 2014

Email: Mario Kart 8 Review

Hello Master Malstrom,
You mentioned you have not received any MK8 reviews, so I thought I’d write something up briefly. Then, I turned longwinded. Hope it isn’t too much of a chore to read. It sat half-composed in my email folder for a while, but I’ve had time to finish it up now, a few days after the fact.
-Driving feels pretty good. Lots of handling options with different kart parts. Found one that naturally makes sense to me with little effort, though I still swap around randomly for my amusement and do pretty well.
-Character variety could be better. The number of babies seems to have become excessive, and the number of koopalings grates because many of them don’t really express unique personalities.

-Item chaos hovers at an ok level. Generous mushrooms let you have fun with shortcuts- it is still rare enough to feel like getting away with “breaking the rules” but isn’t so rare it feels like a miracle. Shells and bananas feel like nicely balanced. Stars feel weaker than in the past. bombs seem useful but I suck at wielding them effectively. Coins are infuriating to get, especially when in a low position. I haven’t decided  whether they’re an acceptable balancing tool or just a nuisance yet. Crazy 8s (a circle of one of each item around your kart) are more fun as ideas than in practice. The items can be stolen by people running into you. I typically just spam it all as fast as possible so I don’t lose the star and mushroom. Piranha plant chomps at passing racers and items, but requires a good sense of timing to deploy. It’s satisfying if you destroy a large  number of other racers with one. The boomerang gives you 3 tosses, and it is very fun when you can line up a hit that strikes multiple people.

-Satisfying tracks. Large amount of game-universe cohesion between many (though not all) courses. Mount wario feels like an adventure- a one-way downhill track through an icy mountaintop, a cave, the face of a hydroelectric dam, a forest, and a ski slope.

Toad harbor feels like the kind of place I wish we’d see in a 3d mario game- a race through the winding streets of a coastal town.
sunshine airport is efficient and satisfying.
Cloudtop cruise takes you through the clouds, across a gunship, and up a beanstalk. The final shortcut in it, leaping across a pair of beanstalk leaves, really pisses me off because I miss it so much.
I could write similar micro-writeups  for each course but I am already talking your ear off, so screw it. If you actually read this email and want a more meticulous breakdown, let me know and I’ll do it later. I do enjoy writing and discussing games, after all, or I wouldn’t have been following your blog since the Birdman Fallacy days.
-Online is awesome. It generally feels more competitive than single player has thus far. Mistakes are more emotionally punishing because players of similar skill levels can pass you in  rapid succession, but that goes both ways, so you can gain ranks back just as easily. It provides a refreshing, infinitely replayable alternative to grand prix when there are no players available locally to hang out with.-I wish voice chat were more prominent. It only exists in friends’ lobbies. At the very least, during races with friends would be nice, or ideally a party chat feature. Local multiplayer is obviously preferred whenever possible, but there are friends who I enjoy an occasional game with who live far away.
-Single-player content seems sparse on paper. It’s more or less just grand prix. I haven’t actually grown bored of it yet, but MKDS style mission mode or other creative challenges would be awesome. I’m satisfied with the single player as it exists.
-Dropping in and out of game sessions locally should be far easier. Single and multi-player are separate top-level menu options.
-Tracks as battle courses make matches too slow to be fun. I will not be playing much more of this unless proper arenas come out.

-My biggest surprise with this game as someone who didn’t play mk7: Gliders and underwater segments don’t feel like annoying fluff. I thought gliders would be too automated and drawn-out to be satisfying, but they go by quickly and between how you launch off a jump and how you can steer in the air, I felt in total control. I feel like the underwater segments are mainly a cosmetic change. If any handling change happens, my brain is compensating for it subconsciously.

-Zero g is pretty nice. It changes the results of collisions- instead of bouncing harshly, both parties boost a little, regardless of weight class. It can be a pretty strategic way to gain a split-second or force somebody off an edge (there have been some GLORIOUS murders committed on rainbow road this way). There are also some bumpers in the middle of the road on some tracks that you can hit for a speed boost. Otherwise it’s just a cosmetic fix, and is used for steeply-banked turns as much as for splitting you upside down.

-I am wholeheartedly satisfied with the product I paid $60 dollars for and would buy track or arena dlc. I guess this is the ultimate judgment, right? “Did I like this? Would I buy more? Would I recommend others buy this? Would I bust it out to entertain friends?”
One final note on battle mode: I was actually really surprised to hear you express fondness for it. My original reaction when I heard NeoGAF posters lamenting it so intensely was one of confusion. These people were clearly missing the point of MK. Throughout my life, battle mode was an afterthought. I played it once or twice on the n64 with my brother before returning to races, and once or twice with friends on the ds before doing the same. My family as a whole never even considered switching over. As for single player, grand prix was generally more than enough. After seeing so many opinions, I guess it’s probably just my family and social circles that are odd here.
I’ve got a selection of random wii games that I haven’t really played yet. If I think any of my thoughts on them are relevant to your interests, I might send in a couple more reviews. Then again, maybe I should start my own blog. It’d be better to start creating actual articles  on “Nintendo keeps fucking up and it breaks my goddamn heart that they are morons sometimes” than making longwinded NeoGAF posts….
Thanks for keeping an entertaining site. Good luck with the E3 aftermath emails.
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Battle Mode has always been a staple of Mario Kart. Usually, I play single player for the races and the multiplayer for the battle mode.
This is brilliant arcade gameplay. I’ve tried SMK’s battle mode with my nephews, and they were enthralled by it. Nintendo doesn’t like battle mode because it doesn’t suit itself well to online multiplayer. But who cares about that?

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