Posts Tagged ‘Wii’

Mario Kart 8: The Good, The Bad, and The Verdict

 

MK8boxSo, I have written three reviews for Mario Kart 8, but I haven’t been able to really get my thoughts properly out on the page. I’m really torn about the game and how I feel about it. So, I’m going to write two short reviews. One negative, and one positive. Here we go.

 

 

Why I Don’t Like Mario Kart 8

 

Mario Kart Wii was the last time I saw my favorite Nintendo characters drive around in go karts on my TV. Mario Kart 7 was a fantastic diversion, but I have been hungry for more. Sadly, in some ways, Mario Kart 8 takes steps backward in terms of where Mario Kart 7 and even Mario Kart Wii stands.

 

My biggest issues center around the roster of characters and the kart/bike options. While the roster of characters is larger than in the Wii version, there is less depth. There are only 8 sets of characters, and they all share the same stats. So it may appear that Toad and Shy Guy are different characters, but on the track they are exactly the same. This goes the same for kart types, wheels, and gliders. Like in Mario Kart 7 any character can select any kart, and there are a ton to choose from. That said, many share stats, just like characters, and (also like characters) they are not organized together. For example, there are 4 versions of the standard tire but some have one or two options between them when selecting kart options. This really makes it difficult to decipher what’s going on. It’s almost like Nintendo is trying to hide the fact that they got lazy. I mean, Mario Kart Wii had small differences between all of its characters, shouldn’t we expect the same or more for this game? If they were trying to make things more simple in light of being able to choose wheels and gliders for your kart now, they sure did complicate things by not organizing them properly.

 

Also, Metal Mario and Metal Peach (I know she has some longer stupid name) are pretty boring additions. Isn’t Metal Mario just Mario with a power-up? That’s like adding Cat Suit Mario, or Frog Suit Mario- either of which would have been more fun. Also, with a whole chunk of the roster being dedicated to Koopa Kids, how could they blow good roster spots on metal characters and a new baby character in the form of Baby Rosalina? Who the hell cares about adding Baby Rosalina? Why not add Cranky Kong or Dixie or something? They were in the last DK Country, so it kind of makes sense, and we’re down to one primate on the roster.

MK babies

I hate babies.

In Mario Kart 7 we were given the Lucky 7 item, and in Mario Kart 8 we have the Crazy 8. It’s quite obnoxious, feeling more like they ran out of ideas than anything else. It gives me the same sensation I imagine I’d get if I were driving down the street in a hail storm and all my windows decided to roll down on their own. Which window do I roll up first? Where is the button? Never mind, I’ve fallen off a cliff.

crazy 8

You mean to tell me that now I can shoot 2 shells, drop a banana, throw a bomb, rocket myself forward, fire a blooper, get 2 coins, AND activate a super star? FINALLY!

They also got rid of two of my favorite items (the hot-potato style cloud and the giant mushroom, both from the Wii version) but still opted to keep the worst item in the history of the series. I shouldn’t have to say it’s name in my blog, but the blooper has got to be one of the worst, most infuriating things ever thought up in and actually put into a video game.

 

One of my favorite things that Mario Kart 7 introduced was point A to point B races, where there were no laps, just one long race. There are only two in this game. One is a new course and one is the N64 version of Rainbow Road, which seems a little strange to me. That Rainbow Road course is still just a lap, albeit a long one. These were loads of fun in Mario Kart 7, and it looks like developers knew it, but only keeping 2 in there must be pretty confusing for players who missed that installment, and disappointing to gamers like me.

 

Oh, I forgot to mention that battle mode has basically been destroyed. Ever hear the expression “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? Well, Nintendo evidently hadn’t. Now, instead of battle arenas, you’ve got your choice of tracks from the game to choose from. So, you can drive around the track, shooting at people….like you would in a race. Or I guess you could just hide from other racers, but that wouldn’t really matter because NO ONE IS PLAYING IT ONLINE.

 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get back to the train Nintendo refuses not to run on it’s fans by way of it’s super-cheap 150cc AI.

death stare

You think this is a game?!

Why I Love Mario Kart 8

 

Mario Kart 8 has got to be one of, if not the most beautiful game I’ve ever seen available on a Nintendo console. And while Nintendo takes a lot of heat for repurposing the same old franchises over and over (Mario games in particular), it’s games like this that add new dynamics and new layers to familiar favorites which keep fans like me happy.

 

While I’m not hot about all the new items, the new item system works extremely well (with the exception of in 150cc when other karts always seem to have the item they need to keep you from finishing that last lap in first). The items seem more balanced this time around and while you can get creamed when in a pack, once you break free you will not have to live in constant terror of a blue shell coming to get you. They’re far more rare this time around and the super horn item can actually save you from losing your 1st place spot.

super horn

Super horn, I don’t know where you came from, and I don’t care.

Like I said before, the game is stunning, and Nintendo knows it. They actually took most of the HUD off of the screen and put it on the gamepad. Sure, it’s difficult to look down and get all the vital info, but everything is so beautiful that it really doesn’t bother me much. I wish there was some kind of option to put some info up on the TV screen, but I like the setup overall. You can even save replays and post them straight to Youtube. You cannot actually edit the videos, but it’s still a nice feature.

 

Here is me, winning by a nose.

The real big stuff pluses come through by way of the tracks, though. First of all, being able to ride on walls and other surfaces make the game way more interesting. Finding alternate routes and seeing which you can make it through the quickest is a lot of fun and makes tracks more rewarding to retread. Also, something needs to be said for the creativity and craft that went into these new tracks. There’s a whole level where you start in the clouds, find your way onto a vine, only to end up on one of Bowser’s flying warships. Visually, it’s the most amazing level I’ve seen in any Mario game in a long time.

 

Even the retro stages have been given a really slick upgrade. The N64 version of Rainbow Road looks phenomenal and even features updated versions of the train and fireworks that made that level so special before. One level that really impressed me was the flat and very straight forward Mario Circuit from the GBA Mario Kart. To give it a taste of anti-gravity, one whole long U turn has been raised about 60 degrees up in the air. As the race starts you actually get to see it getting lifted up off of the ground, and that’s pretty cool.

 

The Verdict:

I’ve got to give Mario Kart 8 a solid B-. It’s the best looking, most fun B- I’ve ever played, and there is a lot that they could fix with DLC in the future (I’m not holding my breath, but they could add some battle arenas, maybe add some depth to the roster of characters, throw in some A-to-B style races, etc). Mario Kart 8, on it’s own, if I had never played the Wii version or 7, would have been an A game for sure, but when you look what Wii and 7 had that Mario Kart 8 doesn’t, you cannot deny that Nintendo took their foot off of the gas with this one (PUN INTENDED).

 

Donkey Kong Country Returns

A must have for Wii owners of all ages.

A must have for Wii owners of all ages.

Donkey Kong Country Retruns.  I wish they would have called it something else…Like “Donkey Kong Country: Anything Other Than Returns.”  It was gone for a while, and now it’s back.  I get that.  It’s returned.  Ok.  But man…so cliche.  But it’s Nintendo, and since it’s not a Zelda game, the title is going to be, at the very least, lackluster.  At least they didn’t make some kind of banana pun.

Now that I got that out of the way, Donkey Kong Country Returns is the best game I’ve played on the Wii yet.  It might be the best platformer I’ve ever played, along with Super Mario World and Mario 3.  And of all the recent Nintendo re-imaginings and re-releasings, it shines as bright as the sun.  The game pulls no punches in its extreme styling and imaginative level design.  It holds on to all the things we fell in love with the first time we played a game as Donkey Kong and Diddy, including the rhino and a plethora of hidden areas.   It contains countless hidden items and offers great replay ability.  The game is very near flawless.

I played a lot of the game with my girlfriend.  The multiplayer is a marvel in the platforming genre, in which it is common for a second player to feel like more of a burden or a distraction.  NEW Super Mario Bro.’s suffers from this problem, as a second player gets in the way and is constantly vying for the best power-ups and trying to run ahead or is constantly slowing you down.  In DKCR, one player controls Diddy and the other Donkey Kong.  Each has his own abilities, such as DK’s ground pound and Diddy’s ability to use a jet pack and gun, and so each character  is very useful.  If a player in multiplayer is going to slow, they are transported to the faster character.  There is no slowing down.

The level design is what really puts DKCR in my list of top three platformers of all time.  Some levels take place during dusk, making everything in the level a silhouetted black.  Another level is shrouded in smog.  The mine cart levels return, as do new challenges, such as a rocket barrel you must navigate through obstacles R-Type style, and barrels that shoot the player into a new path hidden in the background landscape of the primary stage.   Yet another level has the player being attacked by an octopus from the background of the level.  By far, the most impressive level is one in which everything (from moving platforms to hammers that can crush the player), moves in beat to the level’s music.  It is level design like that, which can remain interesting and fresh even on your tenth try, that keeps gamers from giving up on the hard levels and pushes them to enjoy the next stage.

In terms of beautiful level design and meaningful interactions with those levels, DKCR delivers and delivers big.

In terms of beautiful level design and meaningful interactions with those levels, DKCR delivers and delivers big.

The boss battles can be a bit over the top in difficulty.  There are some things that seem to be random, like enemy attacks, that feel like they really should be determined by a pattern.  Some of them, like the crab boss, seem unfair because of this.  Still, it is entertaining and offers up a bit of variety in difficulty and game flow.

On the surface, the game can at times seem a bit campy and too cartoonish. Hardcore gamers should not be fooled. The true core of this game is groundbreaking and inspired.

The games gets an A+.  I loved every minute, and after finishing, there is still a lot more to do.  I can’t wait to 100% the game and really get the full effect.  If you own a Wii, this is a must have.  It is simply a beautiful and exciting game.