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Mario Kart 8' races to the Wii U

'Mario Kart 8' is everything you'd expect out of a sequel: a base good game with features layered on top of it to make it fresh. Honestly, if you expected anything less than quality out of Nintendo's perennial mascot racer, I'd just have to have you pass in your gamer card right now. But are there enough differences from previous entries in the 'Mario Kart' series to warrant a purchase? Here's my nitty-gritty.

First and foremost, I need to gush: this game is absolutely gorgeous. The colors pop, sing, and, sometimes literally, dance. The character models are bright and surprisingly detailed (check out Donkey Kong and Bowser, in particular they look amazing). The sense of scale on each course is incredible, but sadly, you're usually too focused on the match in front of you to pay it a whole lot of attention. 'Mario Kart 8' is only rivaled graphically by 'Super Mario 3D World' for best-looking game on the console. Everything runs at a buttery, buttery 60 frames per second, which unfortunately drops into the 30s when you have more than two players playing split-screen.

There's an excellent variety of characters to pick from this time around, even if a few of them seem to just be padding out the roster (the Gold clones come to mind). The inherent driving abilities of each character return, along with a new system of using swappable parts to customize your ride. Adjusting your kart to your liking gives you much better control over your play style and allows you to make up for some of your selected Karter's misgivings by bolstering their weak stats.

Courses are a mix of brand-new and remixed classics, and all of them are extremely solid. There's a grand total of eight different cups each with four courses to explore for the tiniest advantage to exploit and destroy your opponents. Items return and remain an essential part of the experience, but the balance seems a bit off. The luck of the draw is highly skewed toward those in 4th place and lower. Anyone that dares to be in the top three runs the extremely likely risk of getting pummeled by the bounty of the lower places' item grabs. While the balance isn't perfect, it's still fairly competitive, albeit incredibly unfair at times.

The reason I mention competitiveness is because online play makes a return. The lobby system consists of every player's Mii congregating in a lobby where a new course is selected by a vote and a random pick of said votes. The only issue with this system is that every few times you attempt to join a game, you're stuck spectating until the race is over, but there's no way to tell what lap the players are currently on. Without a timeframe to work with, it's usually easier to just back out and try to get an open lobby, but this system could stand for some improvement. Tournaments are available to create, complete with rankings and the ability to choose what items are being used, what CC the karts are running, and a few other tweaks here and there to make it a much more personalized experience. Online play was overall a good experience, even though the Regional setting will set you up with people thousands of miles away (apparently, California and Brazil are both regional to Maine), my suboptimal connection still netted me tons of near-lagless matches. There were a few dropped connections here and there, but I'd blame that more on the launch window crush than anything.

The legacy of the games that preceded it shines through in 'Mario Kart 8', and while it's not quite a system seller, it adds to the steadily growing pile of reasons you should own a Wii U.Aaron Waite is a lot like Adam Sessler, except younger, less grumpy, and way worse with words.

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