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Mario returns on wheels and in plastic, and the gun of a giant “Macross” robot fits in your hand

by Brian Ashcraft

Start your Mario Karts

Nintendo’s famous racing game returns, and with the best-looking graphics the series has ever seen. “Mario Kart 8″ features HD graphics running at a crisp 60 frames per second. This is one pretty Wii U game.

As in past entries, players can race using go-karts, motorcycles, four-wheelers and hang gliders. The new addition to the series is gravity-defying upside-down courses: When players reach the antigravity section of a track, their vehicles’ wheels turn inward so they can hover. In the background, for example, you’ll see waterfalls flowing upward and the Mushroom Kingdom turned on its ear.

Nintendo is hoping the game will give the Wii U the boost the console badly needs. If looks are anything to go on, it just might. “Mario Kart 8″ will be released in Japan on May 29, priced at ¥6,156.

www.nintendo.co.jp/wiiu/amkj/

Shine a light

“Child of Light” looks like an illustration from a children’s story book come to life. In it, a young girl must get the moon, the stars and the sun back from the Night Queen. In other words, this 2-D role-playing game is like a fairy tale you can play.

It is being developed by the Ubisoft team behind “Far Cry 3,” one of 2012′s best first-person shooters. This game, however, couldn’t seem any more different, having been inspired by old-school Japanese role-playing games. You solve puzzles, jump around on platforms, level up and fight using a turn-based combat system like you see in JRPGs. It is shaping up to be one of this year’s most interesting games.

Priced at ¥1,598, “Child of Light” will be released in Japan on April 29 on PS4, PS3, Wii U, Xbox 360 and, when it launches here this autumn, Xbox One.

www.ubisoft.co.jp/products/278/

1-up your toy collection

Nintendo’s iconic plumber Mario has been a race-car driver, a golf player and a boxing referee. And next month, he’s a new poseable action figure from S.H.Figuarts, which lets you pose him as you like.

Mario comes with a coin, a Question Block and a mushroom, and there are two accessory playsets sold separately: One comes with another Question Block and coin, a green plastic stand, two Brick Blocks and a Goomba; the other comes with a Goomba, a turtle shell, a set of different hands for the Mario figure, a coin, and two Warp Pipes. Buy both sets and you can re-create levels from “Super Mario Bros.” on your desk or bookshelf.

Out this May, the S.H.Figuarts Mario is priced at ¥2,700, while Playset A and Playset B are ¥2,160 each.

www.tamashii.jp/special/shf_mario

A tactical Japanese game parody

The “Hyperdimension Neptunia” series of role-playing games are parodies of the Japanese game industry, with young anime girls personifying game consoles. The latest entry, a spinoff titled “Cho Megami Shinko Noire: Gekishin Black Heart,” is no exception.

The game stars characters Noire, who personifies the PlayStation; Vert, whose green coloring references the Xbox; and Blanc, the Nintendo Wii character. There are some important differences, though, with previous “Hyperdimension Neptunia” games. “Gekishin Black Heart” features cuted-up, chibi (itsy-bitsy) versions of the characters.

What’s more, unlike previous games, “Gekishin Black Heart” is a tactical RPG set in a new world called “Game Shijokai,” or “Game Market Kingdom.” There are also new characters who parody an array of game series, including “Metal Gear Solid,” “Street Fighter” and “Dragon Quest.” The future of the Japanese game market is in your hands!

“Cho Megami Shinko Noire: Gekishin Black Heart” will be released for PS Vita on May 29 priced at ¥7,344.

www.compileheart.com/noire

Robot weapon

How would you like a Gatling gun made for a giant robot? In the “Macross” anime and video games, the Howard GU-11 Gunpod is the weapon wielded by the VF-1 Valkyrie, a jet fighter that can transform into a mech. This replica model, however, isn’t built to giant robo scale, and the 84-cm-long Gunpod can fit in human hands.

The GU-11 features a muzzle that lights up and spins, as well as shooting sound effects. It’s almost like the actual Gunpod from “Macross,” save for it being smaller and not firing uranium bullets.

The replica is available in two versions: the standard Howard GU-11 Gunpod version and a special EX Version that comes with a carry strap and markings for the fictional military in “Macross.” Limited to only 50 units of each, these are not cheap! The standard version costs ¥128,000, while the EX Version is ¥158,000 — tax not included.

Preorders end later next month, with the Gunpod replicas slated for a June release.

www.arcadia.ac