Alright, let's face it. The Wii U hasn't had many hits. We had Super Mario 3D World, which was fun, but 3D Land was kinda the same thing. We had Wind Waker HD, and that wasn't even a new game. Nintendo needed to save this console. It can't go the way of the Virtual Boy, the N64 Disc Drive, and the Mario Wrist-Mounted Fun Blaster. They needed a smash hit. And they hoped Mario Kart 8 was that hit.
Now, I like Mario Kart as much as the next dude. No other game series lets me watch Wario's fat ass jiggle on top of a rainbow. Nintendo's been hyping up the "anti-gravity" feature, too. Now, the Italian high-speed drive through the idyllic Mushroom Kingdom countryside is no longer bound by the puny laws of physics. By driving over special blue pads, your kart's wheels turn groundwards, revealing futuristic hover technology, allowing races a new dimension. At least, that's how it's advertised. But my question is, does it really matter that much to be a major selling point?
Anti-gravity simply allows the Nintendo race designers a bit more freedom when laying out their tracks. However, it's still a track, so the freedom of anti-gravity is limited to the set path. There is literally only one difference between racing normally and with anti-grav, which is that any other anti-grav technology on the track, be it built into the course or other racers, will give you a boost. The addition is confusing, how come only certain sections of track have these bonuses? And I find myself smashing into dudes in a much higher weight class than me, trying to get a boost, only to remember I'm once again bound by gravity.
But that's not what matters.
Because the game and racing itself is solid. Though the new gravity addition adds little, we're still working with a Mario Kart game here. The racing feels great, the drifting feels great, and now with HD graphics the stages look better than ever. The music fits in with the new jazzy approach that recent Mario games seem to like, and I'm not complaining. New remixes of classic themes are always welcome, especially Rainbow Road and Waluigi pinball. Though some stages look very similar, (all those damn beaches), the unique ones look incredible and varied. Mount Wario gets a special mention, as not only did the dam section look fantastic, it proves to me that all the racers are incredibly rich industrialists who could care less about the common man.
Speaking of looking good, the game's transition to HD really shines in through the little details. Thanks to the GamePad, I could really get a close look at something like the wheels getting covered with sand as I drifted. It's little touches like that that make me really appreciate a game. Despite having not one, but TWO HD Rainbow Roads, both look equally beautiful in their own right, and have a different atmosphere for both being about rainbows. The reflections look top notch, so when driving as Pink Metal Peach I could really appreciate that fantastic character.
I'm being sarcastic, I'm kinda disappointed by the line-up this time around. Though there are a huge amount of racers, (30!) 23% of them are dedicated to the Koopalings. Though the exclusion of characters like Dry Bones and King Boo makes sense, I would've liked to see someone more relevant these days, like Bowser Jr. I was also never really a fan of the baby characters, and Baby Rosalina is a logical, but not altogether welcome addition. That makes five baby characters. Five! That brings the total amount of characters I didn't need up to 40%. Add in the Metal characters and that's about 46% that I could give less of a shit about. Put in Toadsworth! Put in the Sprixies! Bring back R.O.B.! Hell, fucking put in Lubba. That'd be good for a laugh.
Which is really why we're here, isn't it? It doesn't matter in the end about the anti-grav, or the characters, (though playing as Waluigi helps), it's about fucking over your friends for fun. Though I wasn't able to play battle mode with friends, I did co-op online with my cousin. When it works, it's fun as hell. When it doesn't, I hope you like looking at Lakitu. Mostly, though, we just raced each other to see who was the better go-kart racer, and it was pure rivalry. Fantastic. Just the way we like playing.