Starting from the top, then, there has been a surprising amount of confusion surrounding the resolution of the game with some sources even suggesting a native 1080p presentation. We can finally put that rumour to rest right here and confirm that Mario Kart 8 instead operates at what is effectively the console's standard 1280x720. Of course, considering the quality of the visuals, this can hardly be considered a disappointment especially when other developers are struggling to hit 1080p consistently on more powerful hardware. What is surprising, however, is the complete omission of anti-aliasing in any form. At the very least, Nintendo has previously utilised a basic edge-smoothing algorithm across its Wii U titles and such a feature could have demonstrably improved image quality without a serious performance hit. As it stands, however, we're left with a heavily aliased presentation filled with obvious stair-stepping and pixel-crawling artefacts throughout most scenes. Busier areas can even result in a loss of detail to the point of reducing visibility.
When it comes to performance, Nintendo has always aimed to deliver a rock-solid 60 frames per second with each home console Mario Kart and, aside from Mario Kart 64, it has always managed to achieve just that. There was never any doubt that Mario Kart 8 would fall right in line with the rest of the series but upon seeing it for ourselves we immediately noticed that something was amiss. During gameplay we experienced the regular appearance of duplicate frames manifesting as a constant but subtle stuttering effect. Upon analysis we determined that the game suffers from extended clusters in which a duplicate frame is displayed every 64 frames. What this ultimately means is that, during normal gameplay, Mario Kart 8 continually drops down to 59fps. This may not seem like a big deal - most will probably not notice it at all, and it has zero affect on playability - but it has a noticeable impact on image fluidity that mars what would otherwise be a perfectly consistent frame-rate. And for us at least, once it is seen, it can't really be unseen.
By most standards, Mario Kart 8 is an incredibly polished game with beautiful visuals, a high frame-rate, magical playability and an excellent menu system. By Nintendo's stratospheric standards, however, we dare say that it falls just a bit short. When a Nintendo game goes gold you better believe the final product will be complete and polished to perfection. In the case of Mario Kart 8, the issues we encountered with performance and image quality do detract just a little from an otherwise totally solid experience - and bearing in mind its previous, relentless push for gaming perfection, it leaves us wondering just how the stutter in particular managed to slip past Nintendo QA. Thankfully, the issue should only really stick out to those most sensitive to frame-rate and shouldn't impact the experience for most people, while the sheer fun and imagination injected into this title clearly trump the technical limitations in the image make-up.