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Mario laps the competition [Winnipeg Free Press (Canada)]
[June 27, 2014]

Mario laps the competition [Winnipeg Free Press (Canada)]

(Winnipeg Free Press (Canada) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Eighth edition of Kart racing franchise still leads the field with instinctive play At their lowest low, Sega -- once Nintendo's equal -- gave in to the Americanization of game design and allowed for the creation and release of a game called Shadow the Hedgehog. Any greatness the Sonic series had attained became a memory as the attitude-filled Shadow rode his motorcycle onto the scene with a laser-sighted handgun in his furry paws. That was how Sega actually thought they had to update Sonic to fit in among modern games: reintroduce him as a troubled lone wolf who fires military-grade weapons from the back of a Harley-Davidson.

Believe it or not, it didn't work.

Nintendo will never make that mistake. No matter how times may change, how games may evolve, whether they're on top of a console war or struggling at the bottom, you can always count on Nintendo to do what they do best without any fear of fitting in among modern trends. You will never see Mario on the cover of a game tipping his sunglasses at the camera, a reflection of the Miami skyline in the lenses and a recently fired magnum with smoke rising from its barrel in his hands.

The confidence Nintendo has in its design principles is apparent right in Mario Kart 8's title -- there's no subtitle here. No shame in this being the eighth instalment of a 20-year-old series. This is the point of a franchise where we would usually be seeing a gritty reboot with the characters redesigned to be hideously anthropomorphic and licensed cars replacing the karts, but Nintendo once again remains Nintendo.

If you've played any Mario Kart from the past two decades -- whether it was the original on Super Nintendo, its Nintendo 64 followup or its incarnations on the Nintendo DS and 3DS -- you will feel at home as soon as you pick your controller up for Mario Kart 8. That's the secret of what makes a great Nintendo game: no matter which console you play it on or what controller is thrust in your hands, you immediately know what to do. Any initial hesitation you may have at using the Wii U's hulking gamepad to steer your kart is vanished the second you dash off from the starting line and your fingers know what they must to do to win.

You dodge green shells with ease, know the perfect time to launch a red shell and can execute a perfect power slide boost on a turn you've never gone around before. It's not hard to make a mindless game, but Nintendo has found a way to make games that require no thinking at all because their rules and controls have been ingrained into our brains since the first time we picked up one of their controllers.

The joys of Mario Kart 8 are instinctual. It kick-starts whatever portion of your brain stores your Nintendo memories and instantly feels like something you've played your entire life. Maybe then it'd be best to not to see No. 8 in the title as a number, but rather as the symbol for infinity. It always has been and always will be exactly what you want it to be.

Mel Stefaniuk is a freelance writer whose love of both video games and writing have been intertwined since growing up with the text adventures of the '80s. He can be found on Twitter as @DisgracedCop.

GAME REVIEW Mario Kart 8 System: Wii U Rating: E HHHHH (Five stars) (c) 2014 F.P. Canadian Newspapers Limited Partnership

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