Gaming

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review: The quintessential Switch game

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The Nintendo Switch has had a breakneck first two months. The console hybrid is Nintendo’s fastest-selling system ever; launch-aligned, it’s even overtaken the sensation that was the Wii. Driven by a robust selection of quality titles, the Switch has topped charts worldwide and is continually sold out. But Zelda and Snipperclips aren’t the reasons to buy a Switch right now. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is. Here’s why.

It’s a sensory showpiece

Even on the Wii U, vanilla Mario Kart 8 is one of the most gorgeous games of the generation, despite only rendering at 720p. At 1080p docked, Deluxe cements this further. The game does phenomenal things with lighting that I’ve never seen anywhere else, even on the PS4 and PC. Nintendo’s iconic characters have a soft, almost toy-like look (especially when drenched in sun) that looks even better in motion. Thanks to expert art direction, it’s easy to be fooled that Wario’s flatulent flab — as it jiggles up the cobbles of Toad Harbor — is made of real clay.

When you take the Switch out of the dock, Deluxe becomes even more impressive. Apart from the 720p resolution, the portable game is completely identical to the docked version. Races pop on the Switch’s brilliant IPS display. And considering that the last mobile Mario Kart was the once-impressive Mario Kart 7 on the never-impressive 240p screen of the 3DS, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe represents an exponential graphical leap over the series’ last handheld iteration, as shown by Digital Foundry below:

Completing the synesthetic spectacle is HD rumble — coins “jingle” in your real-life hand as you collect them in game. You can also feel the difference between the three levels of drift boost from the barely-there blue to the new, game-changing pink; the tactility allows you to keep your eyes on the road instead of your kart. The judder of train tracks under your wheels, as well as the different textures when you go offroad, give you another form of feedback that lets you know that you need to get good.

It’s the definitive version of an all-time great

Mario Kart 8 was the best in the series, and Deluxe improves it further. It’s running at a true 60fps this time — the Wii U original had a weird issue that resulted in an effective 59fps framerate. Thankfully, that glitch has been resolved, as has the fire-hopping exploit that made leaderboards and online matches a total shamble.

All the DLC content is included here, which results in a total of 42 racers, 48 tracks, and an overwhelming number of kart parts. Deluxe also corrects the only deficit in the otherwise impeccable Wii U version by amending the original’s deplorable Battle Mode (which had racers fighting on tracks made for racing, making for bouts wherein combatants rarely saw each other). Deluxe has eight arenas specifically designed for Battle Mode, as well as five play modes that include the classic Bob-omb Blast and the all-new Renegade Roundup, where one team of “cops” has to catch and jail the other team of “robbers” — but a free robber can rescue their teammates at any time. It’s a frantic party game, and is almost worth the price of entry.

Parties are no fun if people can’t join in, and Deluxe shines with its wealth of accessibility options for inexperienced players, easily toggled from the pause menu. The old standby of tilt controls returns, and an optional set of joy-con wheels completes the conceit. The new auto accelerate is useful and fair; in Mario Kart, you never let up on the gas anyway. But the most welcome addition is smart steering, which implements an invisible hand to keep racers from falling off the track. If you’ve ever played any kart racer with small children or non-gamers, their frustration with bottomless pits will be familiar. This setting alleviates that problem, and allows everyone to play.

(Nearly) everybody has it

The game has proven immensely popular barely a week from release. In America, Deluxe is selling faster than Mario Kart Wii, and that went on to sell a ridiculous 37 million copies worldwide. Apparently, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe also has an attach rate of 45 percent, which means that almost one out of every two Switch owners has this game. You won’t have trouble finding someone online to race against, or a real-life Switch buddy to go head-to-head with. But even if your friends don’t have a copy, it’s okay, because…

It’s the poster child for local multiplayer

Remember the promise of the Switch in its debut showing? The Switch is the only modern system that comes with two controllers out of the box. Couple that with the screen, and you can play whenever and with whomever you want. Take one joy-con for yourself, and share one with a friend (or even a total stranger) and you have instant local multiplayer. If you have more controllers, up to four people can play on a single Switch in splitscreen. Bring the joy-con straps, though — bare joy-con are horrendously uncomfortable, what with Mario Kart’s reliance on the shoulder buttons. An IGN producer compared using the naked shoulder buttons as trying to drift with your phone’s volume rocker, and there’s no more apt way to describe the discomfort.

The Switch’s — and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s— ability to be played anytime, anywhere, and by anyone makes the system inherently viral. The Switch is an ad for itself, and the simple act of playing together has convinced at least three people in my own social circle to get one for themselves.

It (re)introduces you to Nintendo

In the grand scheme of things, no one bought a Wii U, and to the non-hardcore, Nintendo disappeared from consoles for almost an entire generation. To the general public, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a high-definition debut of sorts for Nintendo’s stable of characters, including Mario himself, as we wait for their respective games to arrive on the Switch.

The celebration is a riot. Apart from the Nintendo mascot and seemingly his entire extended family, the Villagers and Isabelle from Animal Crossing compete on Möbius tracks inspired by Excitebike, F-Zero, and Wii Sports Resort. Exclusive to Deluxe, Inkling Girl and Boy from Splatoon and the upcoming Splatoon 2 appear, and mark the first time that people of color (who aren’t Miis) are playable in any Mario Kart game. Rounding out the roster, looking the most out of place in this world of red shells, high technology, and anti-gravity, is Link. And if you want more of him, you know which Switch game to play next.

SEE ALSO: Persona 5 review: Can style override substance?

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Gaming

Kobe is the cover of NBA 2K21 Mamba Forever Edition

For both current and next gen

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Give us a quick second as we wipe the tears off our faces. The third and final cover athlete for NBA 2K21 is Kobe Bryant. Instead of being called the Legend Edition, it will be aptly named Mamba Forever Edition.

The Mamba Forever Edition will be available in both current gen and next gen consoles. On the current gen cover, Kobe is shown wearing the No. 8 jersey displaying the peak of his athleticism. On the next gen cover, he’s seen wearing the No. 24 jersey in a scene during his final game where he scored 60 points.

2K says the covers are a celebration of the late athlete’s lifetime achievement and basketball excellence. He passed away in a tragic accident earlier in 2020 with his daughter Gigi Bryant and seven others.

Kobe was the cover athlete for NBA 2K10, the Legend Edition of NBA 2K17.

Damian Lillard and Zion Williamson were revealed as the covers for the current gen and next-gen standard editions respectively.

NBA 2K21 will feature MyTEAM Cross-Progression and a Shared VC Wallet within the same console family (PS4 to PS5, Xbox One to Xbox Series X).

MyTEAM Cross-Progression enables all MyTEAM Points, Tokens, cards and progress to be shared on both current and next-generation versions of NBA 2K21 in the same console family. Similarly, the Shared VC Wallet means any earned or purchased VC is accessible across both current and next-generation versions of NBA 2K21 in the same console family.

Pricing and availability

NBA 2K21 will be available on current-generation platforms on September 4, 2020 and is available for pre-order today. NBA 2K21 will be available for PhP 3,190 on current-generation platforms.

It will also be available on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X as a launch title this holiday. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X version of NBA 2K21 will be available for PhP 3,690.

The NBA 2K21 Mamba Forever Edition will be available for PhP 5,390 for both current and next-generation platforms.

It includes dual-access where purchasing Mamba Forever Edition on either current or next-generation platforms provides a copy of the standard edition game on the other generation at no additional cost, within the same console family.

A full breakdown of pre-order details is available at NBA 2K’s website.

NBA 2K will release additional announcements and news about NBA 2K21 including the soundtrack reveal, first looks at gameplay and features for both current and next-generation versions of NBA 2K21, 2K Day celebration and much more.

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Pokémon launched Pikachu-themed wedding rings, but there’s something nasty about them

How big is your love?

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As of late, The Pokémon Company has increased its reach to a lot of other industries outside of gaming, including lifestyle apps and wireless earbuds. Now, the ubiquitous brand has expanded to the most precious catch of them all: wedding rings.

Partnered with Japanese jewelry company Ginza Tanaka, The Pokémon Company has officially launched Pikachu-themed engagement rings and wedding bands. The list of products includes simple platinum and gold wedding bands that come in a PokéBall-style box. Couples can also get their rings engraved with their own personal customizations. (However, the company rightly suggests a variation of “I choose you, [insert name here].”)

Meanwhile, the engagement rings are a bit more ostentatious. One design is a simple silhouette of Pikachu’s face, but the face’s center holds a diamond. Another design has two Pikachu tails holding the diamond in place. Like the wedding bands, they can come in either gold or platinum.

Cute as they are, there’s something awfully weird about them, as The Verge points out. In particular, the ears of the Pikachu rings look particularly nasty. Call us skeptical, but we don’t think Pikachu had *those* for ears. And yes, while they are part of the marriage process, we don’t know if you’d want them wrapped around your finger forever.

However, if you’re not bothered by them and think they’re perfectly innocent and fluffy Pikachu ears, they retail for JPY 346,500 (approximately US$ 3,225). Meanwhile, the wedding bands range between JPY 115,550 (approximately US$ 1,076) to JPY 121,000 (approximately US$ 1,126). The collection also has a keepsake photo frame selling for JPY 13,200 (approximately US$ 123).

SEE ALSO: Pokémon Unite is the very first Pokémon MOBA game

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Gaming

Best TVs for the PS5 and Xbox Series X

Be ready for the Next Gen consoles

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With Sony PlayStation finally unveiling what the PS5 looks like, the conversation around the Next Gen consoles has once again gained momentum. For sure, you’re going to buy either the PS5 or the Xbox Series X, but what TV should you get along with it?

One of the key specifications of the next gen consoles is improved graphics quality with support for up to 8K graphics, and 4K graphics at 120Hz refresh rate. It stands to reason that you’ll need a TV that can take advantage of these features.

One key specification to look for in your next-gen console TV companion is HDMI 2.1. HDMI 2.1 enables a host of features that are beneficial for gamers. These include, but are not limited to the following:

  • 4K at 120Hz (vs to [email protected] with HDMI 2.0)
  • Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) — enables FreeSync and G-SYNC like the ones on gaming monitors for reduced screen tearing.
  • Up to 10K Resolution
  • 48 Gbps Bandwidth (vs to 18 Gbps with HDMI 2.0)
  • Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) or ‘Game Mode’

Naturally, every TV that’s listed here has that particular specification. These TVs also have a ‘Game Mode’ that’s supposed to optimize your entire gaming experience.

We haven’t used any of these TVs ourselves, but based on collected opinions from other websites as well friends and colleagues who have tried some of these TVs, these are what we ended up with.

Best Overall — LG B9 OLED Ultra HD 4K TV

While researching this topic, the LG B9 is the specific TV that kept coming up. You have two size options — 55” and 65” and a host of AI features thanks to its A7 processor (Picture, Brightness, Sound, Sound Tuning).

Based on experience (we have an 65” LG TV in the GadgetMatch HQ), WebOS is pretty fluid to use, and LG has taken extra care to make sure cable management is properly handled.

At US$ 1599/ PhP 79,999 it’s actually a pretty sweet deal considering all the high-end features you’re getting.

Best 8K — QLED 8K Q950TS (2020)

If you’re looking towards the future, have some serious cash to burn, and a considerably wide enough space, consider getting this future-ready 8K QLED TV by Samsung.

We’ve talked lengthily about Samsung’s 2019 8K QLED TV. So this is essentially that but with a few improvements, chief of which is the Infinity Screen. This is a bezel-less beauty and one that looks absolutely premium.

This 85” massive TV that should look good as your primary home entertainment hub retails for US$ 12,999.99. Samsung does have other 8K QLED TV options for much less than that which we’ll list later on.

Everything else 

LG

Name Size/s Price
LG GX 65 inch 4K Smart OLED TV 65” TBA
LG CX 4K Smart OLED TV 77”, 65”, 55” TBA
LG NanoCell 8K 75NANO98PNA 75” TBA
LG C9 OLED55C9PPA 55”, 65” US$ 2,499 (Special deal US$ 1,499 at time of writing)

PhP 142,990 (Special deal PhP 99,990 at time of writing)

LG OLED 4K OLED65E9PPA 65” US$ 2,199
LG NanoCell 65SM9000PPA 65” TBA

SAMSUNG

Name Size/s Price
Samsung QLED 8K Q800T 65” N/A
Samsung QLED 8K Q900R 82”, 98” Starts at PhP 4,990,000
Samsung QLED 8K Q900TS 65”, 75”, 85” Starts at US$ 5,499.99

SONY

Name Size/s Price
Sony Z9G 8K 85”, 98” Starts at US$ 7,999.99
Sony Z8H 4K 75”, 85” Starts at US$ 5,999.99
Sony X900H 4K 55”, 65”, 75”, 85” Starts at US$ 999.99

VIZIO also recently had their 2020 Summer Showcase which listed a bunch of TVs with support for HDMI 2.1. In the Philippines, we were told that XTREME’s S-Series of TVs are all equipped with that feature.

It’s worthwhile to note that whatever UHD TV with HDMI input you have should work fine with the next generation consoles. The ones listed here are just the TVs especially equipped to take advantage of all that next gen goodness.

We’ve reached out to other brands to confirm which of their TVs have HDMI 2.1 so look for this list to be updated once we get their confirmation.

H/T: Premium Builds/ Tom’s Guide/ IGN/ Rtings

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