Saturday, October 18, 2014

How to make Mario Kart 9 Significantly Better than 8

Mario Kart 8 has some of the best racing in any game ever. This fact cannot be disputed. The items are finally balanced; even the blue shell is OK. The new courses are extremely fun, the remixed returning tracks are inspired and fresh again with the new mechanics. The anti-gravity is great. Bumping each other for boosts is really awesome. I love the glider and the underwater propeller. I love the racing. The tricks. Wow. Such fun.

All that above is undeniable. Best racing in a Mario Kart, hands down. The thing that Mario Kart 8 lacks in is features and game modes. While the core gameplay is the best it’s ever been, the extras were bare bones. It’s like all of the resources for Mario Kart went into the races, and then everything else was rushed to get the game out faster. Obviously, Wii U needed the game immediately, so I can understand why this happened, but it’s still worth talking about. Why? Because I love Nintendo more than any other gaming company. I want them to succeed, not fall behind. If I’m honest, though, Nintendo is falling behind when it comes to basic features that should be in every game. I’m not hating on Nintendo here, just trying to add another voice to let them know how critical it is that they get their games up to the same level as other companies.

First, I want to talk menus.

They are very simplistic, and not in a good way. The menu systems that Nintendo implements in its games feel archaic, dry. They are: go straight to the races. However, modern companies that accept that online is how gamers want to be should give its customers more than that. A menu system should make the community of people who love that game feel like it’s a living and breathing world.

Take Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag’s menu system:

This is probably the cleanest, most gamer-friendly menu system I’ve ever seen. Look at all of the info you get on one screen! It says how far I am through single player. It has a demo for a different game. It shows my multiplayer rank. It shows DLC and extra content. It has the constant buyer’s rewards club, and options. Along the bottom is scrolling text about new content and the news about what’s going on in the community.

The Black Flag menu screen is JUST AS straight to the races as MK8’s, but it gives the player so much more because it has dynamic, changing information. It makes me feel like I’m in a living, breathing community of gamers. It excites me for what’s to come. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished greatness in single player and have worked hard to get where I am at in multi. And it’s beautiful. The HD textures are memorizing. The separate boxes keep me from feeling overwhelmed by the data, they break up my line of sight and thinking. The Abstergo-theme draws me into the game’s story from the moment this first screen pops up. 

MK8’s home screen is bland, like a plastic toy chest. It makes me feel like I’m alone in the world. Like I haven’t done anything all that remarkable. It’s the box art with directions into the races.

I want to see Mario Kart 9 establish community functionality that other game companies consider basic by now. MK9 needs to be online from the menu screen. It needs to show me the latest MK news. It needs to show me my rank, display my accomplishments. It needs to make me feel like I’m not the only Mario Kart player in the world.

Finally, a happy note about menus. While I was going to complain that the “View Highlights” button was the automatic next button press after completing a grand pre race, Nintendo has since patched it and corrected it to be the “Next Race” button instead. Thank you, Nintendo. I noticed, and I appreciate that you patched the game.

Next, we’re going to talk online.

First thing’s first, Wii Connect 24 is gone, and I hadn’t realized this fact until I searched for an option to share a ghost with a friend. Let me just say this now:

Sharing ghost data between friends should be automatic, and the lack of Wii Connect 24 is no excuse to skip this feature. A game like MK8 should have online servers so that different players can automatically have their friends’ ghosts downloaded. It should happen without me even having to click anything. Ghost data from my friends should be on my game as soon as I log into it.

I have an online group of gamer friends, but I cannot share ghosts with them. WTF?

The lack of voice chat during races is unacceptable.

There are parental controls on every Wii U system, why can’t that be the place where voice chat is disabled during races for underage/young gamers? Why can’t I chat with strangers? It’s ridiculous. I have seen cuss words and penis drawings pop into my New Super Mario U game through Miiverse, but somehow that is OK and voicechat isn’t. It’s just so WEIRD that I have to use Skype/Google+/Facebook to chat with my friends while we have an online tournament.

Online races need WAY BETTER customization.

I wanted to do a tournament with all Waluigi and all Piranha Plants, but I couldn’t. Why? How hard would that feature be to implement? You did all bob-ombs, but somehow you say not all of specific weapons.

Also, I did a tournament with ALL-SHELLS and yet COINS were still an item. That was really annoying. If I pick a specific item, I don’t want coins.

Also, coins should not be an item. There’s nothing more annoying than getting coins. I realize that this was for Nintendo’s idea of balance, which is really just penalizing players for having talent, but it’s just not fun. We don’t need artificial balance like that. Players with talent shouldn’t be punished for having talent.

While I mention it, the worst item in the game is the Bob-omb. It’s just as likely to hurt the user as help him. Get rid of it, I say.

The blue/spiny shell is better, but I’d still be happier without it!

Getting a score for your online wins is not enough to make me want to play more.

I want unlockable aesthetic customizations for beating people online. If I win 20 races online, I should get cool sunglasses for my koopa kid (I play as Ludwig) to show off for my next online race. Why not unlockable dress colors for Daisy or shell colors for Koopa Troopa? Why aren’t there rewards for beating people in random online matches? Smash Bros has coins/trophies, so Mario Kart should throw me a reward other than a larger score number.

Speaking of customizations….

Picking wheels, kart, and glider is not enough. I want the ability to create my own logo again, like in Mario Kart DS. I want to paint my car whatever color I want. Why not allow me to add aesthetic details like wings and different horns and front bumpers to my car? Why can’t characters be customized/recolored? Mario should have costumes/recolors (heck, I’d pay for them as DLC)!

Missing features

Where is Mission Mode from MK DS? That was the coolest mode, and I spent a million hours trying to get three stars on every challenge/boss fight. Mario Kart Wii had them, but we weren’t allowed to play them except when Nintendo unlocked new ones every few months (which blocked off the old ones).

Speaking of Boss Fights, I want to have those again. They were awesome in DS, and they would be an awesome mode in a new game.

Balloon Battle is broken

Nintendo, why is it so hard to make balloon battle fun? It’s easy as this: 4 players. Big Donut. Block Fort. Skyscraper. When you die, you become a revenge bomb. When you are blown up as a bomb, you’re gone for good. Done. If there are twelve players in a party, then divide them up into groups of 4. 4 is the perfect amount of players for a battle, no more than that is desired. Also, using regular race tracks for Battle is NOT FUN and should never be repeated. MK8’s Battle Mode is awful.

Shine Runners and Coin, etc, just abandon those modes. Nobody wants to play them, anyway.

As for the upcoming DLC…

I have to say that I’m impressed. I wasn’t expecting new tracks, but we’re getting TONS of new tracks, and the price point is truly excellent. I think more than anything, I wanted more race tracks, and that’s what we’re getting. As for the DLC characters, I am very, very happy with Link, Isabelle, Dry Bowser, and Villager. Tanuki Mario and Cat Peach are throwaways (seriously, we already have Baby Mario, Normal Mario, Metal Mario, Baby Peach, Normal Peach, and Metal Peach), but the rest are wins. It’s kind of weird to think that Mario and Peach alone will be 8 of the playable roster after the DLC.

Now, I know that there’s also amiibo DLC coming in the future… I’m not sure how that is going to work.

If amiibo adds more playable characters, then I want to see Petey Piranha, King Boo, Diddy Kong, Nabbit, Dry Bones, Birdo, Wiggler, Honey Queen, and King Bob-omb join the races.

I would also love to see Kirby DLC with Kirby, Metaknight, and King Dedede as playables with Warpstar Karts and more tracks. When I first saw the Rosalina and Luma trailer for Super Smash Bros, I thought it was a Kirby in Mario Kart trailer.


Nintendo, you need achievements/trophies. You need a unified accomplishments system on the Wii U. I seriously have a preference for buying multi-platform games on Playstation because that’s where my trophies are. Mario Kart would be BETTER and more fun with achievements. Need I say more?

OXYBORB.COM Official Review Score for Mario Kart 8: 8.0/10 

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