In addition to “driving” a life-sized Mario Kart kart at this year’s WonderCon, I was able to get some brief hands-on time with Nintendo’s upcoming Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U. This will be the beloved franchise’s entry to the Wii U and is likely to battle Super Smash Bros. as Nintendo’s top release of 2014. So, what can you expect from the May 30th release?
I was able to race through some decently varied maps, including Nitro courses Mario Circuit and Twisted Mansion as part of the Flower Cup set of tracks. The most immediately noticeable element was the beauty of the game. Of course, you aren’t going to be seeing the same type of horsepower behind the graphics as you would on a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, but Mario Kart 8 definitely steps up the Wii U’s game.
The races were enjoyable to zip through, but considering I was racing against the computer rather than live players, they weren’t noticeably difficult to conquer. So that didn’t allow me to take full advantage of the series’ new anti-gravity feature. Still, tracks became more dynamic as I was able to drive up and around walls and ceilings, but anti-gravity also allows for a speed boost when getting bumped by other players. Because I wasn’t ever really around other drivers, I can’t relay how that feels in the gameplay. That was the one new feature available, but unfortunately buggies, the new kart, were not available.
Beyond that, gameplay was comfortable with the Wii U gamepad. I ended up preferring to play with motion controls enabled. Not that there was any disadvantage to playing with traditional controls, but I personally found the motion controls to be more comfortable. Perhaps that has to do with the size of the gamepad.
Despite the lack of online connectivity at WonderCon, Mario Kart 8 will be the first Wii U title to ship with online multiplayer support. You’ll be able to play with your friends with at least 27 selectable characters, including Koopalings, who make their way into the series for the first time. Boomerang Flowers and Potted Piranha Plants will also be new item options for you.
Mario Kart 8 looks to continue it’s solid quality run and be one of the must-have games for the Wii U. At the very least, it should end up advancing the Wii U’s offerings by increasing graphical offerings and finally introducing online gameplay. Look for Mario Kart 8 on store shelves come May 30th, 2014.