Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
I don't know if this is the best entry in the long running Mario Kart franchise, but I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this is one masterfully made game. I've been racing across the tracks of Mario Kart 8 for nearly two months now and I cannot stress enough of my amazement of this game. Mario Kart 7 on the 3DS was an incredible game, and was one of the early titles that made that insane $250 price tag a little easier to swallow for those that adopted the 3DS early. I wondered how Nintendo would manage to top themselves after such an outstanding effort. I'm inclined to say that they've done it with Mario Kart 8.
One thing that makes Mario Kart 8 a more enjoyable experience than previous titles is item management, mainly, that blasted Blue Shell. Regrettably, it still exists in the game, but the odds of it being handed out to the stragglers has greatly been reduced. Its actually quite rare that a Blue Shell will cost you a race, so you'll no longer feel like the game is punishing you for your success. The Super Horn, a new item introduced in Mario Kart 8, is perfect for getting rid of an oncoming Blue Shell or almost any other items that threaten to ruin your day. Now if only Lightning was given out at a lesser degree to racers that are behind. In a lot of ways Lightning has replaced the Blue Shell as the most notorious item because. It strikes without warning and the odds of you having a Star activated when someone uses it are slim to none.
I feel I'm being too negative on the items now. Really, the way items work in Mario Kart 8 is the best they've handled in a long time. Outside of Lightning and the Blue Shell, and arguably the Red Shell, you have to be in close proximity to get a lot of the other ones to work. Also, you cannot have more than one item at a time. If you've got a Green Shell and hold it behind your kart for protection, you won't be able to pick up another item until that Green Shell goes bye-bye. This changes the game up drastically and places an even greater emphasis on how you'll use the items given to you. I've found myself being a much more cautious driver as a result of no longer geing able to stock up items and discovered that sometimes I'm better off guarding my back rather than trying to take out the racer that's ahead of me.
This is the first Mario Kart game that I've gone online with and I'm pleased to say that things turn out quite well. The online races are very smooth and I've never had a problem finding others to race with. I usually do good enough to where I can get points added to my overall online racing total and while I don't take first often, it's always elevating when I do. Yesterday, during an 11 person race, I stole first out from the leader at the last minute thanks to Triple Red Shells. I hit the lead racer with one Red Shell and then another not far from the finish line. Even better, I did this racing as my Mii.
Mario Kart TV is a great addition. There's nothing like savoring your best moments and watching them over again, especially in slow motion. I never thought I'd get this much mileage out of Mario Kart TV and Nintendo simply has to include it in future installments.
Shovel Knight (Wii U, 3DS)
I never really kept up to date on this game following up to it's release. I just watched gameplay videos of the demo and I knew I had to have this game. "Coming soon" seemed like a means of torture for me whenever I checked the eShop only to see that the game still didn't have a concrete release date. Well the game has been out for about a month now and I've been playing and loving it both on the Wii U and 3DS.
I've heard some complaining that the game is too short or that once you beat it, some of the fun is diminished due to know how bosses work and where things are. With the length, I think that just makes it more replayable, and I've played Mega Man games more times than I can count and they didn't suddenly become less fun because I found out how bosses work. So, to me, that doesn't seem like a valid criticism.
I know other people have cleared the game in under 9 hours but I'm taking my time and enjoying Shovel Knight. I'm trying to get as many of the achievements as I can, well, the reasonable ones, at least. I still don't have all the armors and I'm missing one of the relics, so I'm probably gonna have to hit YouTube to find it.
I really hate dying in this game because if you perish at a particularly bad spot, getting your lost gold back can be impossible and if you die multiple times, you lose even more gold since the game doesn't keep track of all the gold lost in each spot, just the very last location you died in. Dying over and over again really hurts.