April 22, 2017

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe - Review

Mario Kart 8 was one of those rare Wii U titles that helped move units, simply because people love their Mario Kart and while I still hope we get an all new title for Switch, the question is now, does Mario Kart 8 Deluxe help get people on board.

Right of the bat, it is important to note that if you played the heck out of Mario Kart 8 on Wii U, there is not going to be a lot that is new here for you, yes Battle mode has been revamped, but that is really it. The game offers up all the courses found on the original release, including those that were added from the DLC packs, it adds a few extra characters as well and brings back some items from past games, but more or less, it is the same as was released back in 2014. Depending on your mileage, you will either really enjoy playing through the game again, or not be a fan of it, but like Nintendo’s past remastering/re-releasing efforts, there have been several changes for the better here.

The changes that the game brings, fall into one of two groups, performance and ease of use, starting with the latter, the game now lets you select the number of players you want to use right from the main menu, which helps make it feel less cluttered than it did on Wii U. From the menu, you can jump into the solo experience, online multiplayer and both the local and wireless play, where you can join a number of switch units together to play. There are also options to check your play stats, scan amiibo, watch Mario Kart TV and even a space to learn how to play the game, if you need it. The only thing removed from the menu from the Wii U build is the stamp icon, as Miiverse did not make the jump to Switch.

Once you choose a mode though, you can then select your character, the entire gang from the Wii U release is here, Mario and Peach, along with their baby and metal versions; Luigi is here again with his death stare intact. The new members of the crew are Dry Bones, King Boo and Bowser Jr, but fans will likely enjoy playing as Inkling Girl and Inkling Boy from Splatoon. There is a hidden character to unlock, but actually unlocking this character will take some serious skills, so they did the right thing and did not have a slot waiting to be filled. When it comes to selecting your vehicle and accessories, there are only a few options to choose from to begin with, which is odd, given that every track and every cup is selectable, without any unlocking. To earn new rides, tires and gliders, you need to collect coins and as your tally increases, the parts start to unlock.

The two biggest changes to the core gameplay come from the return of the double items and the assisted driving. With the assisted driving, which is turned on by default, each kart or bike gets an antenna on the back and what it does is keep you from driving off the edge, like bumpers at a bowling alley. Players who are used to the series will likely find no use for the feature, but for those younger players, it is perfect for help them experience the game, without driving off the track every 10 seconds. The double item though is going to be the thing series fans are going to be excited for the most and while the two racers per kart did not come with it, It is nice to see it return. In addition to that, the ghost item makes a return and it’s just as annoying here as I remember it being, nothing like having the perfect item, only to have it stolen away from you.

The course selection is the same as Wii U, which is a shame, as it would have been great to add an extra two cups to the game, adding more value to the pack. Where the game got more content was in the Battle Mode, which if you played the Wii U version, will have likely let you down. Rather than dumping players onto the tracks and hoping they can find the other players, now players can battle it out on specially made arenas, 3 are remakes of classic battle stages, with one coming direct from the original title. The other 5 are all new tracks and with one inspired by Splatoon and while fans of the series will find some fun with that course, my time was spent with Lunar Colony and Dragon Palace, the first because it has low gravity, so the jumps are epic and the second because it has so many parts to it.

Battle mode is broken into different game types, Balloon Battle returns, as does Bob-omb Blast, but the new mode Renegade Round-up is a hoot to play. Playing across your selected course, you will need to work with your team, to avoid or capture the opposing team, if you are avoiding and you get caught, you end up in jail and until one of your team runs over the comically large button to release you, you are stuck there; If all members of your team are captured you lose. While I have spent a lot of time in the modes against the CPU, given the lack of players right now, when I was able to find players to play with, I did not encounter any issues with lag, something I honestly thought might happen, given the newish nature of the Switch.

Where Mario Kart 8 Deluxe improves on its Wii U counterpart the most is in the games performance as a whole, when docked it does output at full 1080p and is locked at 60fps, what that means in human speak is that the game runs buttery smooth, with no noticeable dips in performance at all. Add a second player in split screen and it’s still there, 3 or 4 players and the frame rate drops to 30, which is what it did on the Wii U. When you remove the Switch from the dock, you can then enjoy the game in 720p and while some might state that the lower resolution is noticeable, there is something about enjoying the game while in handheld mode. The other part of the games performance is the load times, they are faster overall than the previous release, loading into individual tracks or even Mario Kart TV, the most impressive load time though is the games first load from booting into the game, on Wii U that could take up to 20 seconds, here it is done in a quarter of the time.

The only fault that I can find with the presentation of the game is that the Deluxe branding is only on the menu and the opening loading image, when loading into tracks, the loading icons scroll across the bottom, but the image behind is the same from the original release. Some of the trucks and billboards also contain the promotional artwork from the original release, like I said it’s the only fault I can really find. The rest of the presentation is on par with what we saw with the original release, the games music is presented here nice and clearly and is as wonderful now as it was then, the visuals are nice and polished, matching exactly what we saw on Wii U.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a game that people who never played the Wii U release, need to get, for those that already sunk hours into that version, it comes down to the battle mode. While the battle mode is fun and I enjoyed my time with it, does that warrant a reinvestment?

Thanks to Nintendo Australia for supplying the game for review

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