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Today, Mario Kart 8 has been updated with a wealth of new info as we head towards the last leg of waiting for it’s May release. As we all know since the unveil at last year’s E3, Mario Kart 8 seems to cater to the F-Zero crowd by enabling an antigravity feature, but today we learn some of the benefits from racing in normally-impossible angles, and that’s the new Spin Turbo feature. While racing in an antigrav-state, you can get boosts by knocking into other racers.
We also hear today that Metal Mario, Lakitu and Shy Guy will be returning as playable characters, which brings the roster to 27 and counting. Last time we heard info on Mario Kart 8, we saw the Koopalings become playable for the first time.
Now only are there new racers, but new items as well. The Piranha Plant, which was used in Namco’s Mario Kart Arcade GP games for the arcade, comes to the console for the first time. More enhanced than the arcade counterpart, it chomps at other characters, gobbles up items in the vicinity, and can even give players a small boost of speed if it lunges forward. Another new item is the Boomerang Flower from Super Mario 3D World, which allows you to throw three boomerangs and hit as many things during its trip back and forth. IGN has pointed out two more items that Nintendo has yet to announce, an “8” item that will probably work along the lines of the Lucky 7 in Mario Kart 7 and an unknown item that sort of looks like the car horn from Arcade GP. Expect a lot of item balancing too, like how triple mushrooms will now circle around you that will now allow competitors to use them by bumping into you. Oh and by the way, the infamous blue shell doesn’t fly in MK8, it stays on the ground a la Mario Kart 64. Hurray.
There are thirty-two tracks in the game, with half of them new and half remixed from previous Mario Kart titles. Some of the remixed courses that were shown off were Mario Kart 64’s Rainbow Road, Royal Raceway, Moo Moo Meadows, Toad’s Turnpike, Donut Plains, Dry Dry Desert, DK Jungle, Mario Circuit and Cheep Cheep Beach, and they aren’t just simply ripped and given a new paint job. Toad’s Turnpike for example now has drivable walls and trucks with ramps on them, which activates the glider.
Visually, Mario Kart 8 looks absolutely beautiful and can really show off what the Wii U can do tech-wise, and much can be said about the wonderful design choices on the karts and stages too. Many of the kart designs seem to be inspired by items within the Mario universe, like engine blocks being literal Mario-esque question blocks. Also there’s a genius blend of tech and art with excellent lighting and shadows, very high poly counts and varying degrees of crisp texturing, from the high-quality reflections of the chrome on karts/Metal Mario to the eye-popping blue lights to the gorgeous high-resolutions on everything. The game runs at a locked 60 frames-per-second (with 1-2 players, 3-4 drops it to 30fps) and is rendered in 720p, which is the only downside. Audio-wise, expect the soundtrack to be familiar to previous Mario Karts, though Nintendo announced today that some tracks would feature music recorded by live performers.
Like with Mario Kart Wii before it, Mario Kart 8 will support almost every controller the system can use: Wii U GamePad, Pro Controller, Wii Remote solo (and with a plastic wheel), and Wii Remote/Nunchuk (No Wii Classic Controller though). The game can also be played in off-TV mode on the GamePad with just a tap of the screen, which also sports the map and a horn button. Sadly unlike Sonic & Sega All-Star Racing Transformed for Wii U, which supported five players (4 on TV and, the one on GamePad), Mario Kart 8 will only support four. Though up to twelve players can play online on the Nintendo Network.
In addition to online races, Mario Kart 8 supports Miiverse in a pretty new way. Mario Kart TV allows you to upload the best moments of a race (dictated by the Lakitu Bros. who also “provided” the camera work in Mario 64) to Miiverse for others to watch. There will be leaderboards much like previous games, but it’s unknown if Nintendo is supporting DLC with the game, and we probably won’t know until some gets announced, like with Pikmin 3. Also unknown is if the community feature from MK7 to return, since that was a nice way to team up by your region much like a clan match and work together to up your region’s ranks.
Already announced in every other major market, the Limited Edition of Mario Kart 8, which comes with a Blue Shell, has finally been announced in the US. If the quantities are like last year’s Wind Waker LE, pre-order fast. The game will hit both the eShop and retail on May 30th. Granted I usually play a Mario Kart once and stuff it on the shelf, but I have to admit that I’m honesty excited about this one, something I never said about MK7 or MK Wii before it.