E3 2013 – Mario Kart 8 has corner-maneuvering red shells (oh no!)

mario kart 8 wii u e3 2013

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.

mario kart 8 wii u e3 2013 pic 2

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!

Ryan Southard

Ryan Southard is a video game enthusiast, dissecting games down to their tiniest details. Whether it’s new or it’s old, as long as it’s awesome, he’ll play it. Follow him on Twitter at @Ryan_Southard

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  • Kaihaku

    I agree that Mario Kart needs Smash Brothers style item control.

    I find the blue shell to be annoying but essential. It’s part of the Mario Kart formula and is a much more organic “rubber band” mechanic than giving AI karts boosters. That said, it would be nice if it could be turned off.

    As for corner maneuvering red shells, I enjoy them provided that they can still be dodged – that is, they can still follow karts reliably but their maneuverability isn’t as tight as a kart so they can still be guided into walls or other obstacles. One thing I really don’t want is for red shells to hit karts while they’re flying, I find that really unintuitive and it still bugs me every single it happens in Mario Kart 7. Actually, I don’t want red shells to be able to run up walls either.

    • Agt_Pendergast

      I hate the blue shells. You only get them if your in last place, and they only go after the lead racer. They are of no benefit to the person using it, and punishes the player actually doing well.

    • NKartfan

      Blue shells aren’t and never have been part of any formula. They were simply added to what was once a very balanced game to help out the ‘casual’ gamer… ie, the people who can’t play the game and have no hope of placing without the blue shell. That is cheap, far from fair and really breaks the game for people who just want a pure Mario Kart racing experience.

      That having been said, the idea of different modes or turning that sorry weapon on and off is spot on. It should be available for party/family play where skill levels may be all over the place… it just shouldn’t be forced on gamers.

      • Kaihaku

        Okay. I understand where you’re coming from. We’re talking about different games. I’m talking about one of only two video games that my non-gamer wife enjoys playing with me. The one that I am ridiculously better at than the people who play with me on a regular basis. In that game, the blue shell is a way for them to feel like they’re still part of the race even though I’m almost lapping them.

        You’re talking about a game that I don’t play all that often; one that’s against other players who are just as good if not better than me. In that game the blue shell is really obnoxious.

        Does that help?

        • Agt_Pendergast

          I heard the recent sega all star kart racer had an item that set up a series of obstacles ahead of the lead racers. I like that option more, where it slows you down, but it doesn’t automatically screw you up. Anyway, it would be nice to have some kind of option to turn them off. Maybe at the higher speed races or something, at the very least.

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