It's been a little over a month since Mario Kart 8's release, and although it's probably my favorite Mario Kart title since Double Dash!! on the Gamecube, there were still a couple of hurdles that held it back and kept me from giving it a perfect score. Namely, while MK8 is a great game, parts of it still feel very bare-bones. Being hyped up for Nintendo's most robust console yet, there's still plenty of room for more courses and characters, and the online, while sufficient, needs that one last push into modern day territory.
Luckily, since we're in the days of retroactive bug fixes, and an industry more and more rooted in the idea of DLC, I think there's plenty of time for Nintendo to make sure Mario Kart 8 stays awesome.
I definitely have to hand it to Nintendo. They're a company willing to persevere against the grain and actually give us a full & complete game with our initial $40-$60 purchase. Any downloadable content they've put out has been purely supplemental, and not necessary to continue to fully enjoy a title. That being said, I do think it's time for Nintendo to completely embrace the concept of downloadable content. I know DLC is a bad word nowadays, but if any company can do it right, it's definitely Nintendo.
We're already getting free Mercedes-Benz DLC, which is cool and all, but I want more. More courses, more characters, and hell, I'll even pay for more karts, bikes, and wheels. Just give us more, Nintendo! One of my biggest complaints with MK8 was that it felt it was over too soon. I played for five hours straight on launch day, and 3-starred 50cc and 100cc, and took out half of 150cc. Just keep it coming, because this game has the potential to burn out quickly. I know you can make it worth our while Nintendo, even if it's just a classic battle mode (uh, yes please!!). We're standing here with our wallets open, just waiting for you to take the money from our over-eager hands.
Above is a supposedly leaked screenshot of forthcoming downloadable characters, which has all but been confirmed as fake by NintendoLife. See the five extra characters? Well... It's nice to dream.
2. Improve the Online
Hands down, the biggest disappointment in Mario Kart 8 is that online is barely only a step up from Mario Kart Wii's online experience. It's no secret that Nintendo is a little shy about online console gaming, and don't get me wrong — being able to race with a competent online structure and community is great, but it still feels... lacking.
- Why can I only chat in private lobbies? Why can't I chat in public lobbies like I can in any other online video game in existence? Oh, is it to preserve the "family-friendly" nature of the game? Well then give parents the option of disabling chat for their kids. Or add in a "No Chat" lobby. Most games have chat now, and most parents don't care anyway. It's an absolute pain in the ass having a friend join a race I'm in and we have to text to communicate. At least give the Wii U a private party system so we can chat and not bother other racers. It's a lot to ask for, but it's not an unrealistic thing to expect, especially with games like Smash Bros. and Splatoon on the horizon.
- Another big misstep that could easily be corrected is not being able to change racers & vehicles between matches. If I'm not doing so hot with Waluigi in his Prancer, I have to back out to the main online menu and start all over again. It's annoying and, quite frankly, stupid. And it's especially obnoxious if you're a in a private lobby with friends, because changing your racer can sometimes mean rebuilding the lobby. If it's not a tournament and we're just racing one random course after another, I should be able to change characters and parts easily.
3. Tweak & Fix Online Play (Balance It)
Unless you're only racing with friends, Mario Kart 8 online is kind of broken. I know that if I'm in first place for a majority of a race, I'm pretty much guaranteed to not get first at the end. That's how it is 90% of the time. I'll get blue-shelled, or someone will hit me with a red shell, which leads to my slow recovery, which results in another red shell barrage, a random green shell nailing me, and the person in tenth attacking me with a Piranha Plant. By now, I'm crossing the finish line in eleventh place and I'm questioning my entire existence.
Online just needs better item balance. Hey Nintendo! You added the Super Horn to defend against the blue shell? Let's make sure that I actually get the horn when I'm in first then! I usually get the horn when I'm in second or third place, and even if I manage to sneak into first, it's still pretty much useless. In my many online races, I've probably scored the Super Horn in first and used it successfully (against a blue shell, that is) maybe twice, in stark contrast to how effective it actually is when playing locally.
Additionally, someone in second place does not need three red shells to thrash me with three times in a row. And if I'm in fifth, I really don't need a coin or a banana. I'd like something, you know... useful! I know part of the Mario Kart charm is that delightfully insane unpredictability, but I'd like to think the extreme amount of time I sink into the game could amount to me winning occasionally (I'm being a little over-dramatic here, but you get my point). And since it's too late to talk about how unbalanced the character classes are (hint: the heavy characters are OP — and why is Rosalina in the heavy class, but Peach and Daisy are mediums??), balancing items is easiest way to fix things.
Then there's also the whole issue of fire-hopping, but that's nothing a simple patch couldn't (and should) correct.
Generally my reaction when playing online.
By now, I'm sure it sounds like I spend more time angry at the game than I do having fun with it. I definitely have a few gripes with Mario Kart 8, but that doesn't mean I don't love it, because I do. It's an absolutely fantastic game, and I can't believe how many hours I've sunk into it with friends, many of which haven't played a video game since Mario Kart 64. Nintendo has done it again with 8, proving that games can still be fun for everyone, regardless if you've never played a video game before, or it's been 15 years since you last held a controller. I would just like to see that kind of enthusiasm extended for another year or two.