Talking tech since 2003

We haven’t played a new console Mario Kart since 2008’s Mario Kart Wii, so I (and many others) have been looking forward to a new game. Thankfully, the wait is over; Mario Kart 8, launches today in both North America and Europe, and promises Kart fans some new and interesting tweaks to the tried-and-true gameplay the series is known for.

free-wii-u-gameOne of the biggest additions to the franchise? High definition graphics. Mario Kart 8 will be the first game in the series that plays in high-def, and according to early reviews and observations from those with advance copies, the game handles the transition very well.

I’ve also been hearing a lot of good things about the core gameplay in MK8, including the single player “campaign” (pretty much just racing in Cups) and the ever-popular multiplayer mode. There are some differences in the new game that might take some getting used to; for instance, not being able to drag an item behind you while picking up a new one, or the presence of the new “zero gravity” areas on the tracks. Something I’m really looking forward to? The new “super horn” item that, for the first time, gives racers a way to negate the dreaded blue shell. You can check out how it works below.

I am a little bummed that Nintendo has effectively gimped Battle Mode, which was one of the more popular game modes going all the way back to Mario 64 (which, in my opinion, really nailed it). Instead of playing in arenas, players now race around a modified track while trying to take each other out — which makes it very similar to regular Kart. But I’m going to withhold judgment until I give it a try for myself, and I’ll also cross my fingers that Nintendo adds some more traditional Battle Mode arenas via DLC.

Mario Kart 8 is available right now on Nintendo’s Wii U eShop, as well as at retailers. And don’t forget: if you register the game with Club Nintendo, you’re eligible to download one of the following games for free: New Super Mario Bros. UPikmin 3The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, or Wii Party U.

Once you’ve played a little Kart, let us know what you think!

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