This morning, Nintendo announced that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was the fastest selling Mario Kart game in the franchise’s history, bringing in 459,000 packaged and digital sales. Proving right now that it doesn’t really matter what you think of the Nintendo Switch, people will purchase things they love in droves. Mario Kart 8 in itself was an awesome game, but a game with a lot of flaws that people couldn’t see past because it didn’t feel like a real Mario Kart game without Battle Mode and a better online comparability for races. With all the hype of changes and additions going into the Deluxe version, we threw on a helmet and strapped ourselves in to test this new version out.
So immediately out of the gate, everything from the regular version of Mario Kart 8 is here. There’s no fixing of courses or changing things up for a different version. All those races you love and hate are back. You also get all the DLC stuff like the Egg and Triforce cups. What has changed are the features you have access to that make some of this easy and challenging at the same time. First, you now have Dual Items, a primary and a standby item that will become the primary once you use it. A nice incentive for when you’re in first and stuck with just a coin. You now have a quick turn to get a 180 on the break, and a super drift boost where if you keep drifting until the sparks turn blue, you’ll get some additional speed.
Speaking of items, the jumping feather and the Boo that steal items are back. The first is annoying and only serves a purpose in battles, the second is just mean and makes it fun when you’re in the middle of the pack. One of the nice features in racing and battles is the new Smart Steering, which is basically here to help kids get through some of the harder races on the game because steering through the last eight is a nightmare even for adults. While we’re on the topic of steering, I noticed the joy-con operates the same way the Wii U does when it comes to positioning. Meaning that if you lean your joy-con a little to the right, you’ll turn to the right. This becomes an annoying feature if you’re getting into a comfy position and start to lean a certain way the rest of the match.
I managed to get in some local multiplayer linkups with some friends who snagged the game and tried playing with me on a linked system. The one-on-one gameplay was flawless and the four player battles using the joy-cons worked perfectly. I honestly expected there to be some kind of connection issues or possibly one of the two systems having problems syncing up with what happened on the other. To my surprise, none of that took place. There was, of course, complaints about the CPU racers as we hit tougher CC modes, but no one ever said Nintendo played fair, so we were game to waste the battery life on both consoles to beat the living hell out of Daisy who kept being cheap on Rainbow Road.
Getting right to the parts you probably want to know the most about: new characters, karts and battles. The six new people (which includes Gold Mario if you unlock him in 200cc Mode) sit more in the medium and heavy side, with Bowser Jr. being the only lightweight. King Boo has better steering than others, Dry Bones is basically a tank, and the Inklings are about as durable as Mario. There are new kart additions for you to race in, which includes the Splat Buggy, Ink Striker, Koopa Clown, and Super Glider. You still have to unlock parts to play with them, so there’s plenty you’ll need to do before you can mess with any of the special features the karts may have.
Battle Mode is, by far, what I’ve been waiting to do for years. The courses are a mix of mostly new arenas and a couple of throwbacks. There’s even one called SNES Battle Course 1. Balloon Battle is the obvious favorite as it’s basically a free-for-all with every weapon. Coin Runners is the cheapest of the bunch as you don’t even have to make contact with anyone, you can just roam the board in a specific pattern snagging coins. Shine Thief takes a little getting used to as you’re basically playing a mobile capture the flag game, but it becomes awesome once you get the hang of it. Renegade Roundup is the most confusing of the bunch that will make you play it often to figure out what the hell happened. You have two teams and no map, one of renegades trying to stay out of jail, the other with Piranha Plant used to capture them. You can break people out, but you must be able to survive the whole round to win. The one that I could go either way with is Bob-omb Blast, which as the title suggests, you only fight with bob-ombs. It becomes a game to see how many you can stack as you drive around, but the game loses it’s steam after a while.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, even with the small flaws in places and things that could probably use a tweak or two, is an amazing racing game. I’m going to make a statement that many will agree with and many will hate: This is the game we should have gotten back in 2014. MK8 was fine, but this is the entire package. This is what Nintendo should have thrown an extra six months of work into and made in 2014. I could complain about some things, but they’re so minor it isn’t worth it. I’m very happy as a Mario Kart fan that I have this now, and I fear whatever Nintendo designer has to start work on the ninth installment, because this is now the measuring stick and we won’t settle for anything less. Now come find me on the racetrack and watch me smoke you with a Shy Guy.
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