Thursday, July 21, 2016

Mario Kart 8 (Wii U, 2014)

Finally I look at the latest game in this series. It's the most fun thing on the Wii U. Just a total blast. Shigeru Miyamoto has really outdone himself this time.

It's worth noting that Mario and Toadstool are going in the opposite direction from everyone else in the box art. Presumably Lakitu took this shot while yelling at them to follow the rules. PLAY IT LOUD!
And now...

"Mariooo! Kart! EIIIIIGHT!"

This game introduces a couple of new CC's: Mirror is 150CC with reversed courses (not as interesting as it sounds) while 200CC is a new super-difficulty for the pros. I'll go with 100CC for this run, in the interest of getting shots.

The character select is more robust than ever, with Link and various Animal Crossing characters. However, I'll be playing as The Black Yoshi in an effort to quell modern racial tensions in America.

But seriously, Yoshi has a bunch of different colors in this game, and changing to a non-default one also changes his name.

Oh, also...THE KOOPALINGS ARE NOW PLAYABLE. Fans of the old games rejoice!

The amount of cups is higher than ever here. You've got the traditional Mushroom through Special, with the four under them functioning as retro cups that have courses from the other games (remastered, of course). The four on the right are DLC cups. They have some retro courses too but the majority are new additions. They have courses from F-Zero, among other Nintendo franchises.

 While this game is most fun with other people, I'll be going solo for this post. I usually play it with my girlfriend, seen here.

The very first course is in what appears to be NASCAR's version of Wrestlemania.

All of the usual gameplay returns here, with powersliding being the order of the day. For a long time I didn't know how to utilize the slide button in these games, but I think I've already gone into that.

Gliders are a new addition here and take effect when you sail over pits or long jumps. Midair steering is a lot of fun since you're sorta at the mercy of your momentum but still able to adjust course a bit.

The Black Yoshi surges into a 1st place win in the second stage, Water Park. The box weapon he's got there is essentially the Shunt from Blur. It knocks out anyone in the immediate vicinity for a moment.

Sweet Sweet Canyon is the next level. This one is...made out of food. I've noticed that when you're hovering in 1st or 2nd place you get tons of bananas and green shells, two of the worse weapons. In order to get better stuff you need to be behind a bit. It's a big downside to holding a lead, because bananas and green shells aren't that fun.

There's something very compelling about levels made out of dessert. Looks like I've got a red shell homing in on me, so let's hope it can't home in midair.

Black Yoshi: "Your boy Y to the Oshi is all about that drop-top. Drop it like it's hawwwwwt!"

The final stage of Mushroom Cup: The mysterious Thwomp Ruins. I wish this were a level in one of the 3D Mario platform games because it's mysterious and picturesque. Doesn't really fit any archetype for any levels in the existing 3D Mario games, either.

Got the gold medal in the Mushroom Cup. A WINNER IS YOU!

With the Mushroom Cup quickly put away, it's time to ramp up the difficulty a little bit with Flower Cup. Mario Circuit is more like your traditional starting level for a Kart game, with the royal castle and whatnot.

Know who really profits from all these Kart games? Lakitu. That little flying bastard must be rich at this point from all the coins he poaches off of the racers while they're trying to do their jobs. He's like some kind of tax collector.

It's funny, this game has more beach/harbor levels than Double Dash, which is the one that coincided with Super Mario Sunshine in release order. Hopefully Toad Harbor doesn't take long, because at night the waterlogged corpses of virgins are left by the tide.


Black Yoshi: "Now I've got the red shells! Stay strapped! BRRRAP! BRRRAP!"

"Black Yoshi on the loose! I repeat! Black Yoshi on the loose!"

Not sure if this is Sam Beckett quantum leaping into Yoshi or just a really intense powerslide.

Twisted Mansion is an interesting take on the Ghost Houses of Mario lore. The path is literally twisted at times.

The final Flower Cup stage has a sweet rainbow. I can't say enough about how good the graphics are in this game. Compare these visuals to the shots in my earlier posts and it's evident how much they're improved, even over Mario Kart Wii.

Black Yoshi continues his Lashley-like reign of dominance over the championship. However, looming in tied-for-third (or as we know it, a "Lieberman win") is the eldritch menace known as Toad. And neither Wendy nor Donkey Kong have made their proper blood tithes.

Planes take off dangerously low at the airport. I was hoping for a big jump where you land on one of the planes and fly off to the island from Lost. Spoiler Alert: It's the purgatory where Toad stores souls.

Having gotten through Sunshine Airport, the Mario Sunshine aesthetic continues with a beach level. This one is super-pretty, but I could turn into a broken record talking about how nice this game looks.

This giant whirlpool of doom reminds me of the Maelstrom in World of Warcraft. No word on if it leads to the alternate plane of water. Either way, I'm going to try not to fall in.

Electrodome is a level that I'm a BIG fan of. Played this with friends for a bit and it turned out that I was the only one who likes it, though. It's a technologically-advanced, music-themed level full of sound and light.

Here I managed to snag the rarest power in the game: The All. Much like All from Zoolander 2, it is all things.

::holds earpiece:: No one saw Zoolander 2? Really?

In any case, this powerup is SWEET because it gives you one of virtually every item. I don't think you get a Bullet Bill (surges you forward on autopilot and bumps you up a few standings) because that AND a star at once would be too much. Another new weapon is the Bob-Omb, which is a big unwieldy explosive. Throwing one ahead of yourself results in it blowing up in your face a good portion of the time.

For real though, big fan of the Electrodrome. It's like being inside of a Guitar Hero level at times. I like the way the visuals actively pulse along with the music.

It has been well-documented that I love snow levels. Probably my favorite level type. This game has a couple of very scenic ones.

I wonder if the Final Fantasy VII remake is going to have a revamped snowboarding minigame. It has to, right? That's going to be awesome.

Gliding down a ski slope at high-speed towards a town is a lot of fun. The finish line on the final lap has you land right in that half-arena at the end there.

Whoa, they turned up the Wii Glow(tm) to 11 for the beanstalk level, Cloudtop Cruise. This one has you driving along a twisting beanstalk in the sky. I feel like Miyamoto has always had a thing for this kind of setting; Super Mario RPG had a very cool area like this. It's also worth noting that the beanstalk emerges from a giant block (which you can see here). Nice reference to the beanstalk-in-a-box from old-school Mario games.

We're on the Special Cup as of this stage. Finally, we arrive at the pinnacle challenge of the cup series. I'm by no means done with the game, though.

Bone Dry Dunes. There are a lot of dirty jokes that could be made with that name, but this is a PG blog.

Bowser's Castle has a definite "final area" feeling to it, complete with badass music. It'll have to take second-to-last in this game, though. Rainbow Road trumps all other Kart stages.

Not only does the track twist and turn, there's also a giant sentient Bowser statue trying to destroy it. Yikes.

The final area is the latest iteration of Rainbow Road. This isn't your grandpa's Rainbow Road! It's full of high-tech machinery. I preferred the old Rainbow Roads that were made out of magic. Also preferred the old Rainbow Road tunes, but this one is pretty appropriate too.

The crowning track of the game. We've got a great view of the planet from up here. Fantastic track, fantastic game.

That concludes my look at Mario Kart 8, now that I've finished the Main Quest. Fantastic game, and I'll raise my goblet to that. See you next time., I jest. There's still a lot more to cover, so let's get to it.

Time to start on the retro levels. First up is Shell Cup, which is about equal to Mushroom Cup in difficulty (super-easy). We start out with a beautiful farm...which isn't long for this world with Toad in the lead. FIGHT ON, YOSHI!

Easiest difficulty tier or not, this isn't going well. Fourth place??

I like these remixes of DS levels. The DS entry in the Kart series had some of the simpler tracks in the entire series, usually consisting of ovals and not a lot of depth. They also tended to have very short laps. I like how these remakes turn those stages into something much more worthwhile.

Side Note: I wish Nintendo would console-ize more DS games. Things like Zelda: Phantom Hourglass and the sequel would be awesome on Wii U with enhanced graphics and an option for more normal controls (they originally controlled with the stylus, which is awkward and not particularly beneficial). They could do this pretty easily, I'd think, and would basically be giving the Wii U two semi-new Zelda games to fill the void until the next big one. Ah well.

The Black Yoshi is now equipped with fireballs and ready for battle. Unfortunately, water kinda nullifies fireballs as you'd expect.

Now our hero braves the highways of what appears to be the real world. You can tell this is 2014 and not modern times because taxis still exist. Watch out for cops, Yoshi!

Whoa, this is one of my favorite stages in Kart-dom. Beautiful level here. Also, I love the music in this level. If you asked me to pick a favorite level theme in Mario Kart 8, this would be the answer.

This is a Gamecube import, yet despite being pretty far along in Nintendo's lifespan it still needed plenty of enhancement to look good. Here's the original version:

Ehhhh. I liked the 'Cube version of the stage regardless but it really shines in the Mario Kart 8 version.

These multicolored blocks look familiar...that's right, this is the Donut Plains track of Super NES fame. Let's take a look back and see if the original looks the way we remember it...

Ohhh yeahhhh. Silky smooooooth.

Here's Royal Raceway from Mario Kart 64. Most of the people I know grew up with that game (I didn't play it until much later) so these N64 remakes must be a blast from the past.

Don't make me use this thing! DON'T MAKE ME USE THIS!!

After finishing DK Jungle (and the Shell Cup) it's onward to the Leaf Cup. Wario Stadium is another DS import. It first appeared on the N64 (where it was one of, if not the longest track in that game). This version is a fairly short track, like most of the DS tracks.

It's a good thing all this netting is in place or our hero would be running down the audience like dogs. Like dogs!

You'd think these ice levels would have slippery surfaces, but luckily they aren't really any different from the usual tracks. Sherbet Land here is a GameCube import and wasn't one of the well-liked tracks in that game as I recall.

"Pop bottles, homie!"

Here's another level I REALLY like. The 3DS Kart is a fun game with some inventive levels. Definitely a massive step up from the DS entry. Much like Electrodrome, this level revolves around music.

Not only am I powersliding around a giant piano... the piano actually makes sounds as I slide across the keys. Seriously, this game is at one with my heart.

But wait! Things take a sharp turn for the worse. It's Yoshi Valley, my least-favorite track from Mario Kart 64. Not a fan of the maze-like theme of this level at all. It's the only one of its kind, at least, so despite the slightly tedious nature of the level I can roll with it.

In the words of Mark Twain, "I suppose I ought to like it, because I don't get to whitewash a fence every day".

Lightning Cup begins. This is the Special Cup of the retro cups, but it's still significantly easier...I think.

Tick-Tock Clock is a level that I was no fan of in Super Mario 64, one of maybe 2 or 3 stages that weren't fun. Luckily this track doesn't feature any of the myriad problems with that level.

Piranha Plant Slide is an odd level from the 3DS Kart. Looks very pretty during this vertical long-jump, but most of the level... basically just a water pipe. Not the most interesting Kart track ever. Seeing another portable track remastered on here just continues to remind me of how much I'd like to see those portable Zeldas get console remakes.

Grumble Volcano is a Wii import, and looks fantastic. Let's see how it originally looked:

Not too much of a step down. The Wii can produce surprisingly good visuals for not being HD. I've always heard that the Wii wasn't really any more powerful than the GameCube, but judging from the Kart games on either system... well, the Wii visuals definitely win handily in a comparison.

Wii U looks fantastic, though. I think if the system had come along 2 or 3 years sooner it would have done well. Instead Nintendo was giving us something we already had access to for years (HD gaming) and were about to get the next step up for with the imminent launch of PS4 and XB1. Who'd need to adopt a technology level that already existed, again, when the next one was so close? Aside from Nintendo devotees, not many people, which led to the terrible sales the system has garnered.

In any case...looking forward to them catching up again with NX.

Mario Kart NX post: Coming soon!

For those keeping score, this game has THREE Rainbow Roads: The new Mario Kart 8 version in the Special Cup, the N64 version at the end of the retro cups (seen here), and the Super NES version tucked away in the DLC cups somewhere.

This is definitely the N64 track, complete with safety guardrails and giant character holograms. Great stage here and a perfect way to cap off the retro cups. With that, I've beaten the game again. I finished the main quest, now I've finished all the side quests.

But wait! There's still more?

Yeah, still have the four DLC cups. They arrived in sets of two, essentially two expansions. While the four retro cups followed the same general difficulty of the four main cups, I'm not sure what the difficulty curve is for the DLC cups. As far as I can tell they're mid-range, as none seemed as difficult as the Lightning or Special Cups. If any of the DLC cups is the "final boss" cup of this group, it's probably the Triforce Cup. It seemed a bit tougher than the others.

We start with another retro track, Yoshi Circuit from Double Dash.

Excitebike Arena is a very cool idea. It's a track patterned after an old 8-bit NES game, and it's a lot of fun. It isn't immediately noticeable, but the track actually changes every time you play it, with obstacles and ramps in different places. As far as I know, it's the only stage like that.

Most of it consists of jumps, and it's a fairly simple track overall. Let's look at the game it's based on:

Yeah, I can definitely see the similarities. Mario Kart 8's respect for history and other Nintendo properties is something I can get into.

Another brand new track follows. This one has a very Japanese feel to it, with paper lanterns and beautiful visuals.

Interesting music here, sounds like an import from Tekken.

Speaking of other games... Next up is Mute City, an F-Zero import. It won't be the last F-Zero level, either. Not that I'm complaining, because said levels are a sweet cameo. It's like stepping into a different game entirely for a few minutes.

With Egg Cup hatched, I jump ahead a bit to take on Crossing Cup. It starts with Baby Park from Double Dash. That game was ALL about the baby versions of characters. It's like the guy who created Babalities for Mortal Kombat II was suddenly given his own branch at Nintendo.

This cup gives us not one, but two retro levels. Cheese Land is a Game Boy Advance track, something you don't see too much of in this game. It is, as the name implies...very cheesy.

Here's a shot of the GBA original. They definitely had to remake this one from the ground up.

Whoa, a giant Chain Chomp. Out of force of habit I want to go run in circles around his post to get a Power Star.

Wild Woods is a completely new track, and it's exactly what it sounds like. So far this is the most impressive DLC track visually.

The final track of the Crossing Cup is, unsurprisingly, Animal Crossing themed. I don't know anything about that game, but I can tell they did a really good job with this track. Seems like it's full of references to the source material.

Bell Cup begins with Neo Bowser City, the rainy metropolis from the 3DS game. For me this was the most memorable track from that game. It looks so different from your typical Kart tracks. Good to see it here, but at this point Mario Kart 8 has SO MANY great tracks that even the best ones can get lost in the shuffle.

Ribbon Road is essentially a Toy Story level. It transpires in someone's room, with a miniaturized track. Cool idea. Let's see how it looked in the original GBA version:

Ehhhh. Man, I'm really starting to think that modern graphics are even better than we give them credit for.

I didn't like this level at first because it struck me as another baby-themed level, but it's actually one of the best. Super-creative and fun, this one. It's like Kart's answer to Ant-Man.

Super Bell Subway is an entirely new track. It's the transit hub of the Mushroom Kingdom, something we haven't seen before. The racetrack itself is a bit bland, but it's really notable because of some Easter eggs hidden within:

First of all, a map of the Mushroom least, I think that's what this is.

Also, a very realistic subway map filled with location names. Most of these are tracks from the game and there isn't any real rhyme or reason to it, so this is hardly a canon map of the kingdom. Still interesting though.

The culmination of Bell Cup, Big Blue is another F-Zero track. It's vibrant and fast-paced, with a great soundtrack straight from the source material.

Finally, we arrive at the Triforce Cup. Again, we get two retro tracks and two entirely new ones. Wario's Gold Mine is another Wii import, and doesn't look TOO much different from the original. I'm starting to think that maybe these games should only have "retro tracks" from older games, at least as far as console installments go. Having retro tracks from the console Kart right before this one seems like a bit much. Maybe have them only go up to the GameCube game, with the Wii tracks on the board for the next Kart game. As things are, we're going to be having tracks from THIS game as retro tracks in the next one.

I still remember the old Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 commercials with the announcer going "Greed is Good!"

The Super NES Rainbow Road shows up oddly early in this cup. I grew up with this version of Rainbow Road, so I'm loving this. They even remixed the music. This brings back a lot of memories. I remember renting the game as a kid, and since the game had been beaten before everything was unlocked. I went to Time Trials and loaded up the last level in the game (this one) and proceeded to repeatedly fall off the level since I didn't know how to play well yet. I think I crossed the finish line around eight minutes later, but it was all good because DAT MUSIC.

The third and final ice level in the game is a brand new one: Ice Ice Outpost. Besides being the weirdest fusion of Secret of the Ooze and The Thing, this stage is fairly unmemorable. The graphics are weirdly realistic for this one, which makes me wonder if it had different designers than most of the other tracks.

There's an interesting dual-track design here where you can choose a path; neither seems to be any better than the other. This divides the pack a bit before everyone re-converges, and is a good opportunity to pull ahead.

Finally, we arrive at the final battle of Mario Kart 8, complete with very familiar music. This track winds through Hyrule Castle and the surrounding town. I'd say this is the Twilight Princess version since it looks the closest visually, but it's different enough that I can't say for sure that this is ANY existing version of Hyrule from a Zelda game.

Instead of coins, you collect RUPEES in this stage. There's also a giant Master Sword in the middle of the castle. As far as I can tell it doesn't figure into the stage at all. Would have been really cool if you could grab that sword and use it as a weapon (a multi-use melee-range attack) a few times. There aren't any stage-unique weapons in the Kart series, though. Wouldn't be surprised to see something like that in the next one.

I turned in one of my worst performances on this level, finishing at an abysmal 6th. It's a pretty difficult track.

However, I still emerge as the winner due to getting 1st on the earlier tracks. Victory is achieved!

It'd be very difficult to rank my favorite stages in this game, but off the top of my head I'd go with Dry Dry Desert as #1, Rainbow Road SNES as #2, and Hyrule Circuit as #3. As far as entirely new (not retro or DLC) tracks for this game go, Dolphin Shoals and Electrodrome come to mind.

That concludes my look at Mario Kart 8. But wait! I'm still not done. I recorded my playthrough, so you can check out any of the tracks to see how The Black Yoshi and I did. No commentary, just visuals and music.




That concludes our look at Mario Kart 8... for real. The new largest Kart post ever, at least until the next game.


  1. Koopalings in, Bowser Jr. out. What a glorious day.

    I can never get over how gorgeous this game is.

    Leaping while driving is a bad idea. For a lot of reasons, really.

    As someone who fell off of Mario Kart after Double Dash, all of the DS, 3DS, and Wii stages were new to me. Aside from a preference for seeing stuff from SNES and N64, they can do whatever they want with the retro cups as far as I'm concerned since there are still the same amount of new cups.

    I haven't seen the retro cups yet so this was especially a treat. What a game.

  2. the map with the local information on top is a map of mushroom city and the lines are the monerail or train going all across mushroom city and the mushroom knigdom.