Nintendo brought a lot of games to E3 2013. Even if they didn’t, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a new Mario Kart, seeing as how it’s one of their most popular games. I took to the demo on display to see how the game was shaping up compared to the rest of the series.
My first impression of the game was, “Wow, this looks almost like a CG Mario Kart.” To cut to the chase, the graphics look very, very nice. Looking closely, I could see a few rough edges to the characters, but that’s a minor gripe. The world of Mario Kart has never looked so good. There was daytime lighting, shadows, vibrant colors, and the screen was filled with various objects such as San Francisco-like cable cars.
The main differentiating hook that drives this game is the fact that the vehicles’ wheels can turn sideways and then somehow allow players to ride up the sides of walls–why the karts can ride upside down probably isn’t on the top of the mind of players. It’s a really cool effect, especially at those moments when you can clearly see the proper ground above you. There was a time when I was upside down and didn’t realize it, perhaps because I was so focused on the gameplay; which leads me to wonder just how long the effect of this gimmick will last. Nevertheless, the game was functional and fun. The track design is just as good as its ever been, with a good dose of creativity sprinkled about to make areas such as castles go beyond their conventional shapes. I saw plenty of options regarding alternative routes too.
Being a longtime fan of the Mario Kart series, I made a point to figure out what was going on with the weapon system in Mario Kart 8. Though the blue shell wasn’t in the E3 demo, apparently Nintendo is going to include it, but aren’t yet sure of how it will function in the game. The person demoing the game was writing down impressions, so I made sure to give him my opinion on the game: I want players to be able to choose between a “pro mode” and a “casual/normal mode”. The pro mode will not include the cheaper items such as blue shells and triple red shells. Though Mario Kart 7 allowed players to choose one item that they would like to play with in a custom race, I made it known that I wanted a more Smash Bros.-like approach, allowing for any number of the available items to be chosen for races. I’m hoping that Nintendo implements something so that more people can enjoy the series the way that they like to.
Other than that, I did notice that the game was a bit slower than what I’m used to (it felt like 50cc). Since the Mario Kart series always has different speeds (50-150cc), I don’t think there’s too much cause for alarm. Tricks are back again, and they can be performed by flicking the controller upwards or by simply pressing the jump button. A new minor edition is a horn displayed on the Wii U controller which can be pressed to honk your kart’s horn. It’s simple, sure, but I found it amusing enough.
Unfortunately, red shells still follow the race track. Red shells used to hit walls while trying to hit players. I don’t remember in which Mario Kart it changed, but in the later Mario Kart games the red shells will go around any and all corners in order to seek out their target. I personally don’t like that, and I hope that Nintendo tweaks it before release.
Mario Kart 8, based on the E3 demo, feels like the Mario Kart that we all know and love. It looks great, and the ability to ride up on walls allows for a little bit more freedom in how to play (using it to dodge competition comes to mind). If it’s anything like the experience that I’ve had on Wii and 3DS, I think that we’re all in for a good time despite our gripes with the weapon system.
What does everyone else think of triple red shells, blue shells, corner-maneuvering red shells and the like? What about a casual and pro mode for online play? Let us know in the comments below!