Nintendo / Nintendo EAD
For most games, selling 8 million copies would be considered a huge success. Much whooping and hollering would take place, and both publisher and developer would metaphorically and physically kiss each other on the lips at a job well done.
Mario Kart isn’t most games though. For it, 8 million is quite an underachievement. Considering the DS, Wii and 3DS entries sold 23, 36 and 14 million copies respectively, a ‘mere’ 8 million has to go down, bizarrely, as a disappointment.
This was the fate that befell the appropriately named Mario Kart 8, which failed to hit octuple figures through no fault of its own. Indeed, most people who played it considered it the greatest Mario Kart game ever made.
The reason for its relative sales funk, of course, was that it was released on the Wii U, a console that – as genuinely great as it was – ended up being about as popular as an Al Jolson cosplayer at the MOBO awards.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, then, finds itself in an interesting position. It’s essentially an enhanced version of a game that, despite already selling 8 million copies, is set to be experienced by a whole host of new players for the first time.
I’ll get to what this means depending on your situation in a bit, but first let’s break down exactly what you’re getting here, and how it differs from the 2014 Wii U version.
Out of the box (or the eShop, if that’s how you roll), Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has practically everything the Wii U game had – including its £11 / $12 DLC – all available as standard.
That means all 30 standard characters and all 7 DLC characters (whereas in MK8 the female Animal Crossing Villager was an alternative ‘skin’ for the male one, here they’re split into two separate characters).
It also means all 32 tracks and all 16 DLC tracks, including the F-Zero, Zelda, Excitebike and Animal Crossing courses.
It means all 56 vehicle parts and all 16 DLC parts – and yes, that even counts the bizarre Mercedes-Benz themed ones that were made available for free on the Wii U.
And it means all 20 Mii racing suits, including the 19 that can be unlocked with supported amiibo figures (yes, you still need the amiibo to unlock them: hey, us collectors still need to be able to justify buying them).
Each of these elements has also been added to, though, to ensure that this Switch version isn’t just a straight port.
In some areas the additions are minor – a new Splatoon amiibo suit has been added, along with two new Splatoon vehicles and the Koopa Clown car – but in others there have been decent upgrades.
The roster has been beefed up with another five competitors. The return of Dry Bones, King Boo and Bowser Jr should please fans of those particular characters, while the continued success of Splatoon has meant an Inkling Boy and Inkling Girl have also been added to the mix.
(You can also unlock Gold Mario, but he’s just an alternative skin for Metal Mario so I’m not counting him).
The biggest change, though, has been to the tracks. Not so much the 48 courses that were already on the Wii U version, but rather a brand new Battle Mode with eight new arenas.
For those who don’t remember it (and you’d be forgiven for it), Battle Mode in Mario Kart 8 was a bucket of wank. It had you playing on eight of the standard tracks, which were clearly not designed with battling in mind and ended up being a boring joust-type situation where players just went round and round the track hoping to encounter an opponent.
This time there’s a proper, fully-fledged Battle Mode and – almost as if it was apologising for how shit it was on Wii U – Nintendo has gone above and beyond to ensure it’s the best yet.
There are eight battle arenas to choose from, three of which are retro courses (Wuhu Town 3DS, Luigi’s Mansion GCN and the majestic Battle Course 1 SNES).
The other five consist of:
• the generic-looking Battle Stadium, which is based on the Mario Kart Stadium track
• Sweet Sweet Kingdom,which is set in the same world as the Sweet Sweet Canyon track
• Dragon Palace, which is loosely based on the Dragon Driftway track and has two separate areas: a temple and the courtyard outside it
• Lunar Colony, a completely original stage set on the moon
• Urchin Underpass, a Mario Kart-ised version of the much-loved Splatoon stage
These eight new arenas are host to no fewer than five different battle mode types, ranging from classics like Balloon Battle and Coin Runners to the new Renegade Roundup, a brilliant 6-on-6 cops and robbers game which might even be my favourite.
It’s great news all round for fans of Battle Mode, who were understandably gutted at the Wii U version’s meagre effort. Going from the worst Battle Mode in Mario Kart history to arguably the best is one hell of an accomplishment, especially when you consider Nintendo could have really gotten away with not even touching it and the game would still sell plenty.
Other than the new modes and characters, what else is new then? Just little bits and pieces, really. Most notable is the graphical upgrade: whereas the Wii U version rendered at 720p, this time it’s a full 1080p and 60 frames per second.
That’s actual 60 frames per second, mind, not the bizarre 59 fps the Wii U game had. You may not have even noticed it, but Mario Kart 8 actually stuttered every second for a single frame: it was so minor that those not trained to see it never did, but those who eventually noticed it could never un-see it. That’s gone now.
Speaking of drift boosts, there’s a new pink boost. Whereas Mario Kart 8 gave you a blue boost or a faster orange boost depending on how long you held a drift, there’s now a third pink boost which kicks in if you hold it even longer. Your time trial strategies have just been punted onto their arse, Wii U players: time to start relearning your racing lines.
Finally, there’s new driver aids designed for less experienced gamers. Auto accelerate does what it says: it ensures your kart continues to drive forward. This may seem pointless but it’s ideal for very young players who like using motion controls to steer but may not have grasped the concept of holding an accelerator down yet.
Smart steering, meanwhile, adds a little RC car antenna to the back of your kart, which lights up any time you’re about to hit a wall and steers you to safety. It’s extremely difficult to drive off the track or hit a barrier like this, but don’t worry: it’s not going to ruin online play.
Again, it’s designed for inexperienced players, so when the auto-steer kicks in it hits the brakes too. If you do the turn yourself, you’ll clear it much faster. Anyone using it online against anyone with even a mild degree of ability will finish dead last: it’s just designed for kids and non-gamers to play along with the family and not get too frustrated.
A word of warning, though: smart steering is turned on by default. When you get the game and start your first race, jump into the Pause menu and turn it off. You’ll only need to do this once.
The only other change is a system-level one, and it’s one that disappointed me personally but most players won’t care. In the Wii U version, every time you won a GP with a new character you’d unlock a Miiverse stamp of that character.
Since the Switch has no Miiverse, that means this feature is completely gone and there’s no longer any need to play as the other characters: if you like Baby Daisy you can play as her and nobody else. Also, you’re wrong because Baby Daisy is a prick.
As a result, the only real progression available is to gold-star all the GPs and collect coins to unlock the various vehicle parts (the only element of the game which isn’t completely unlocked at the start)
REPLAY OF MY MARIO KART 8 DELUXE LIVESTREAM:
And so we come to the crunch. When all’s said and done Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, for all its new whizzbang gizmos, still consists of about 85% old content that 8 million people have already enjoyed. Is it worth forking out £49.99 for again? Well, it depends on your circumstances.
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way. If you didn’t own a Wii U but you own a Switch, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is as essential a purchase as you’ll ever make. It’s the greatest Mario Kart game ever made and whether you’re playing locally or online it’s one of those evergreen titles that you’ll continue to play for years.
If you’re one of those 8 million who did own Mario Kart 8 though, it comes down to what you want from this version. If you’re the type who mainly plays your Switch on your TV, and you’re more interested in standard GP style races than Battle Mode, a resolution boost and a couple of extra characters may not be enough to justify you making the upgrade.
If you’re a Battle Mode fan, it’s a no-brainer. Get it. It’s the best Battle Mode to date. That one was easy.
And if you’re the sort who embraces the Switch’s handheld capabilities (or, like me, accepts that the Switch is actually a handheld with a TV-out), then once again it’s a no-brainer.
The last handheld Mario Kart game was Mario Kart 7 on the 3DS, and while it was great the difference in visual quality between that 400×240 racer and this Switch sequel is absolutely staggering. This is the best handheld Mario Kart ever made, by the length of Oxford Street.
Ultimately, the only people who should be having second thoughts about this are Switch owners who still have a Wii U with Mario Kart 8 and who don’t care about Battle Mode or handheld play.
Everyone else with a Switch? This review is redundant. All you need me to tell you is to remember to press the accelerator right as the ‘2’ hits.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is available on 28 April, priced £49.99 / $59.99 on the Switch eShop. You can also buy it from Amazon UK for a wee bit cheaper.
In order that I could write this review, I received a free copy of the game from a PR. The content of my review and the opinions therein were in no way positively influenced by this.
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