Mario Kart 8 Revs Up in New Nintendo Direct
Wii U bundle, free games, new items, new racers, and more.
Once again, Nintendo came out of nowhere to surprise everyone with a new Nintendo Direct, as seen above. Much like the two most recent editions, this one also focuses on a specific upcoming title: Mario Kart 8. Furthermore, they do so with the same sense of fun and wackiness that we’ve come to expect from their updates.
“Everyone loves Mario Kart,” said Nintendo of Canada’s vice-president and general manager, Ron Bertram, in a press release. “It’s a franchise that brings people together for fun at a family gathering, a frenzied race against friends or just an afternoon break at the office. The numerous new features of Mario Kart 8 make this the most ambitious version yet, and one that will have players of all skill levels racing for the checkered flag.”
From the press release, here are some of the highlights of the video, accompanied by my own thoughts/observations. Of course, you’ll still want to watch the whole video through for yourself, if only because the game is gorgeous.
Mario Kart 8 Wii U Bundle: People who don’t yet own a Wii U system will find it easy to get in on the action. On May 30, Nintendo is releasing the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Set bundle that includes a Wii U Deluxe Set system, a Mario Kart 8 game, a red Mario Wii Wheel accessory and a red Mario Wii Remote Plus controller, all at a suggested retail price of just $349.99.
About a week ago, news broke that Europe was getting a variety of bundle options for Mario Kart 8, and we were wondering if we would see any of them here. Well, we’re seeing an option, at least, and it’s a nice one, but it pales by comparison to what our fellows across the pond are seeing.
As snazzy as the red Wii Remote Plus and Wii Wheel are, they’re also getting the official player’s guide from Prima, a cool GamePad protector, and even a hat. Better still, they can choose between “Team Mario” and “Team Luigi” versions.
They also have software bundles, including the game, a Bullet Bill t-shirt, a Mario keychain, and a Blue Shell figurine. I imagine the casual consumer will never know otherwise, but for fans who keep a close eye on Nintendo in a digital age where things like this are no longer a secret from country to country, it does sting a bit.
Get a Free Digital Game: People who buy Mario Kart 8 and register the game with Club Nintendo before July 31 will receive a free Nintendo eShop download code for an additional Wii U game. Players can grow their Wii U digital game collections by choosing from one of these well-received Wii U games: New Super Mario Bros. U, Pikmin 3, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD or Wii Party U. That’s a two-for-one deal featuring some of the all-time great Wii U games. This offer also applies to people who get the game in the Mario Kart 8 bundle or digitally in the Nintendo eShop.
Another cool deal for consumers, no matter how they get Mario Kart 8. And these are some great games, too; you can find my reviews for New Super Mario Bros. U and Pikmin 3 here and here, respectively. As for The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD and Wii Party U, I’ve not managed to review them yet, but both have been quite enjoyable from what I have played (I’m honestly enjoying Wind Waker HD more than I did the original).
But, once again, it pales compared to what Europe is getting: Ten games to choose from, versus our four. In addition to what will be available to us, they also have a choice of Nintendo Land, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (Wii U version), Game & Wario, The Wonderful 101, Sonic Lost World (Wii U version), and Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. “It’s worth noting that most of that list sits among the very best of Wii U’s lineup,” says Official Nintendo Magazine.
I might be able to understand why Nintendo hold back on the physical side of things when it comes to bundles, given the logistics of physical goods (production, packaging, shipping, etc.), but the Wii U doesn’t exactly have much ground on its competition at the moment, so why hold back on the digital side?
Online Multiplayer: Up to 12 players can race together online in four different multiplayer modes, as long as everyone has a broadband Internet connection. Like to trash-talk your friends while you’re preparing for a race? You’re in luck! Mario Kart 8 lets players chat with one another in the lobby area using the Wii U GamePad microphone or text phrases as they wait for their friends to join. Players also can create public or private tournaments for which they specify the day of the week, the time and the rules. Per tradition, players will be able to race against ghost data from friends or even the top 10 worldwide racers. They can try to beat them or just pick up a few tips and tricks from studying the best. If you beat the development team’s ghosts, you’ll get cool stamps for use in Miiverse posts.
Multiplayer is what makes the Mario Kart world go ’round, and online options (along with local) make it even better. With the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection soon to be kaput (rendering Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart Wii‘s online modes null and void), the timing is good to nudge people towards the next generation.
Perhaps the most impressive part, though, is voice chat. Too bad it’s only for the lobby area, though, but still– it’s more than some expected from Nintendo, even with the equipment for it built right into the GamePad.
Mario Kart TV: As previously announced, players can watch their highlight racing reels, rewind them, play them in slow motion or upload them to Miiverse. They can watch the world’s most popular highlight reels and comment on them. But players with Google accounts can also upload their reels directly to their YouTube channels.
This is pretty big. Microsoft and Sony have already boasted similar features for their respective platforms, and while it would be nice if this were implemented at the Wii U’s console level, it’s still great to have an option to upload your videos straight to YouTube. My only concern is how well it deals with those of us who haven’t bought into Google’s “one username for everything” ideal.
New Items: Items are what make Mario Kart games so balanced. No matter how skilled racers are, they’re just a blue Spiny Shell away from disaster. A well-timed item can also turn defeat into victory in an instant. The new Super Horn blows away all other items – literally. Sounding the Super Horn issues forth a sonic shock wave that blasts away everything in the vicinity, including other drivers, Red Shells and even blue Spiny Shells. It’s a potent asset, especially for drivers trying to maintain their lead. Mario Kart 8 also introduces the Crazy Eight, a swirl of eight different items that lucky players can use one by one.
One issue people took with Mario Kart Wii is how unbalanced item distribution seemed. When there were only eight racers in previous games, the bottom part of the rankings generally got items to help them catch up and do nasty things to the other racers– lightning bolts, blue Spiny Shells, etc. With Mario Kart Wii, they added four more competitors to the races, but it seemed like the item draws were still the same… but with a much bigger bottom part of the rankings. Hopefully they’ve balanced that out a bit here.
The Super Horn sounds like a really positive addition, though. For too long, racers in the lead were left with little to defend their positions, and were nigh-helpless against the blue Shells. And yes, I’ve heard the trick where a precisely-timed Super Mushroom speed boost can help you to dodge, but that’s rarely useful when a) You usually don’t get Super Mushrooms when in first place, and b) there are so many things (such as lightning bolts) that can take that Super Mushroom away from you if you don’t hurry up and use it.
Now, if we can just learn that the computer is less likely to gang up on you with lightning bolts, POW blocks, and blue Shells every time you’re about to unlock something, we’ll really be cooking.
New Racers: Two new playable female characters make their debut appearances in Mario Kart 8. New heavyweight driver Pink Gold Peach glows with a golden light and makes a nice counterpart to Metal Mario. Baby Rosalina shows up for a play date with other Baby characters. As in past Mario Kart games, players can again choose to play as their Mii characters, which rounds out the field of racers to an even 30.
Ugh, this was the worst part of the entire thing for me. I’m fine with the Mii, don’t get me wrong; I love using mine in games such as this, and I was both disappointed to be unable to unlock it in Mario Kart Wii and filled with joy to do so in Mario Kart 7 (where it was also the only character I was able to unlock).
It should be no secret by now that I’m a big fan of Mario— the games, the world, the characters, and there is absolutely no shortage of characters that I would have loved to see included in this game. Several have already been included previously, such as Funky Kong, Dry Bones, Birdo, Diddy Kong, King Boo, Wiggler, Bowser Jr., even Koopa Paratroopa, to say nothing of my favorite from Mario Kart DS, R.O.B. (who admittedly didn’t originate in Mario, but has precedence. And I don’t miss him for his stats– I just love R.O.B.), and seeing so many absences this time is nothing short of disappointing.
Sure, we have some new inclusions like the Koopalings now, who are most welcome, but it’s always crushing to see one of your favorites kicked off the roster for no apparent good reason (just ask Super Smash Bros. fans). After all, a good chunk of the fun in games such as this is picking out a favorite character from another game and getting to race as them.
Metal Mario is a weird inclusion to begin with, since Mario is already there. At the same time, there is a precedent for this, seeing as Metal Mario has been treated as something of a rival character in numerous games. But did we really need a Peach equivalent? As a separate character, no less?
Metal seems more like it should be a power-up, or even a type of game mode, rather than a series of characters. Why not give everyone a Metal mode? (Wario even has one from Super Mario 64 DS.)
Then there are the babies. Baby Mario and Baby Luigi were just tolerable, especially seeing as they did adventure with their adult counterparts in Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time. By that same token, one could understand Baby Peach. But why Baby Daisy? And now Baby Rosalina? Neither of them ever existed in any media as babies prior to appearing in Mario Kart games, and I’ve never seen anyone asking for more babies. At the very least, Baby Bowser would make more sense, having been in Partners in Time and every single Yoshi game.
On the same note as before, why not just have a Baby mode, then? Make everyone a baby there! I just don’t see why they need to keep making more as “new” characters and squeezing more interesting options out of the picture. And just think: People have been begging Nintendo to include characters from other franchises, yet they refuse to budge. But more babies? “You got it!”
Sigh. On the bright side, at least Waluigi is back (Wah! Waluigi’s number one!), and I can still hope R.O.B. will return in Super Smash Bros.. For now, my fingers are crossed that a) Maybe Nintendo will give Mario Kart 8 some downloadable content (I would so, so very gladly pay for classic courses like Kalamari Desert and for other characters to return), and b) “Mario Kart 9” doesn’t bloat the baby roster even more.
Okay, I realize that I’ve sounded pretty jaded throughout this entire piece. While some things about Mario Kart 8 have disappointed me, I’m still really looking forward to it. The graphics are gorgeous, the music sounds top-notch (seriously, play the video at the top here for some of that), and the anti-gravity mechanic looks like fun. Despite my grievances, I still expect to have a blast playing this.