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Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Review – Pros & Cons

April 30, 2017

30 April 2017

Is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for Nintendo Switch the definitive version of Mario Kart yet? The simple answer is yes. Forty eight tracks, four speed classes, oodles of characters and kart options, four-player split screen gaming, online gaming for up to two players split screen, time trials, and a fully fledged Battle Mode. Yes, it’s the most definitive version yet. So the real question here is whether there’s room for improvement, especially for seasoned players.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe - Review - Pros & Cons

I never owned a Wii U, upon which Mario Kart 8 was originally released, along with its DLC that now comprises the Deluxe version on the Switch. The Wii U was a disaster in the pantheon of Nintendo systems by being its worst seller and possessing the weakest game library. Nintendo loyalists consequently deserted it in droves – including myself – while it couldn’t redeem itself by gaining new fans. The big problem was the gimmick controls of the game-pad in a market that had grown long tired of such novelties on previous systems, notably the Wii (which I also boycotted). While the game-pad was far more conventional than the Wii’s Wii Remote, it was perception that Nintendo were still messing around with gimmicks instead of getting back to basics of quality games on interesting systems. In the Switch, and by extension games like The Legend of Zelda: Breadth of the Wild and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Nintendo has done exactly that, and rewarded those once disenfranchised fans with immediate releases of pinnacle versions of games from those series.

While I never owned a Wii U, I certainly played plenty of Mario Kart 8, thanks to several associates owning it on the Wii U. So that usual expectation of learning and mastering brand new tracks you get from a new Mario Kart does not apply to me. In that sense, I’m an experienced Mario Kart 8 player, and an experienced Mario Kart player in general, and with Deluxe now the fourth iteration of the same driving model – of holding the shoulder button to build up boost when power-sliding – I don’t even have a new technique to learn. I’d say most Mario Kart players would fall into that latter category, so potentially will find much of in Deluxe to be familiar – possibly too familiar.

PROS

Battle Mode: After the Wii U only offered a superficial experience on regular courses, Deluxe has a fully implemented version with specific courses and with 5 battle types.

Boosting: There’s a third stage when drifting now – purple. Known as an “Ultra Mini-Turbo”, it’s rare to activate it on normal corners because of the long duration of sliding required. Mostly I’ve activated it in anti-gravity mode after a speed boost from bumping into objects and other racers puts you into a stage 2 boost range, so it’s only one step up to purple.

Slipstreaming: It seems far more easier to attain, and the speed reward seems really large. I can’t know for sure because I can’t compare directly to the Wii U. Suffice to say, it is a fast activation and a really juicy speed boost!

Speed Classes: All four are open from the start, including the super fast novelty 200cc mode as first seen in the Mario Kart 8 DLC on the Wii U.

Time Trials: One of the most under-valued modes in the game, and again it’s complete with online leaderboards and ghost racing options, and is extremely addictive.

Ghost Item: Gone since Mario Kart 7 on 3DS, it should never have been removed from the game. Stealing items from other players and then using them against them is one of the most satisfying parts of Mario Kart. Generally speaking about items, the allocation is quite balanced too. You need to be near the back of the field to get the really powerful items like Bullets, Stars, Lightnings, and Lucky 8s.

Online Mode: While it’s basic in its standard form, that’s designed to constantly keep you in the action. Players are offered a choice of three tracks or a random choice, and then the computer picks randomly one of those options. Battle Mode is similar with the addition the battle type is random too. In my four tries I played Balloon Battle, Renegade Roundup, Coin Runner and Balloon Battle. If you want more control, there are plenty of custom races and Cups set up by others players, or can be set up yourself and invite friends. Compare to that to Mario Kart DS, the first online Mario Kart, that was fixed at a four race Cup and people would often quit before the championship ended. As a rule, online gamers are morons so the basic options will satisfy most players.

Fire Hopping: The exploit in the Wii U version that allowed you to extend the duration of boosts by hopping left to right, is gone. Good!

The Switch: Nintendo have nailed this device. Nothing beats whipping it out on the couch and playing a few online races while you can still monitor the TV or ignore someone wanting to talk to you. Oh, and the graphics are gorgeous and fast, both on TV and in handheld mode. More here

CONS

Single Player Mode: There’s none! While the 48 courses are divided into 12 Cups and therefore 12 mini championships to win, for seasoned players, they’re a joke. There’s no challenge! This is a perennial problem for Mario Kart, especially on home systems. Even hitting a new game of unfamiliar tracks, most experienced players rarely have any trouble breezing through “the game”. It’s only in split-screen or online multi-player modes that you can truly experience Mario Kart at its exhilarating best. Of course, new players to the series will have a challenge. Hand the controls to a novice or a child, and they will struggle through even 50cc. Still, we’re in a era now where some people have been playing videogames for 30 years, so even if they lack specific skills, they will adapt fast. I raced a few Cups on bikes – which was a new skill to learn – and still adapted quickly to win easily. At best, the CPU opponents may bombard you near the finish line or you fall off the track in error, which will cost you several places and potentially a championship. Otherwise it’s on your merry way. There is simply zero challenge in the game. I repeat: zero challenge!

I even raced the first Cup on 200cc, which is an unnatural speed for the game, and won it with three wins and a second. While the option of trying to earn a 3-star rank on each Cup is somewhat a challenge, all you’re doing is trying to annihilate the field as much as possible. Hardly ideal and, again, like the rare losses in a 150cc Cup, missing the 3-star rank mostly comes down to bad luck or your own silly errors. Chasing coins to unlock all the kart options is really the game’s only aim, and that’s only achieved through tedious persistence, not reward for supreme effort. It’s farcical.

There’s absolutely no excuse for Nintendo not to include some sort of serious single player mode in the game – whether that be an insane difficulty mode where CPU opponents race super fast lines or are super fiendish with items. It can be done simply too. Note that Diddy Kong Racing on the N64 had an Adventure Mode, where you gradually unlocked courses and even had boss races. Even on Nintendo’s own Mario Kart DS, it had had a mission. This could be returned, and expanded, where you might race a fiendish team Donkey Kongs constantly attacking you with bananas. Most basic of all, Nintendo only needs to do is ramp up the AI – possibly via “Master Cup”, and offer it as a Super Championship over all 48 courses. Fix it for Mario Kart 9, damn it!

Kart Selection: There should be an option to randomly assign a driver and a kart configuration, or at least the latter. Why? As with any Mario Kart, certain combinations prove the fastest so everyone gravitates to those. It makes for the same old racing styles, less inclination to experiment, less fun and less longevity. On Mario Kart Double Dash on N64, there was a random option, and we always used it. It really livened up the racing, and would offer true bragging rights for the most versatile racer out there. For something so simple to add, it’s staggering it’s only been seen in one version of the game. To think, playing online could have a fully fledged random option, where instead of seeing half the field of Metal Marios, you could be racing anyone and anything. The single player mode would also benefit from such options, where you must beat the Cups with a light, medium and heavy type of configuration. Or there’s a Random Cup that will switch everyone to another configuration after each race.

Mirror Mode: A perennial inclusion since the N64 and a perennial waste of time. Who cares if left corners are now right? A far better idea would be Reverse Mode. Yes, you race the tracks in the opposite direction, as is common in many car racing games, and would therefore give you 96 courses all up. For those people that will immediately whinge “what about those sections of courses that you can’t reach if going in reverse”, you simply place a cannon on the course to shoot racers back up. It’s not rocket science! Or, at least, it shouldn’t be.

Balloon Battle: The main Battle Mode, it would be nice if it had an elimination option. Lose your five balloons means you are out of the game. Currently you are restored with three balloons and a few wins removed from your tally. It would be nice if there was a mode of last kart standing.

Twelve Racers: That’s the default number in the game and with so many it can get chaotic. I’ve found 8 to be optimum, which was the standard until the Wii, and is still the standard on dedicated handhelds like the 3DS. At present your only options in split screen modes are CPU opponents on or off. Even in single player, it would be nice if it could be changed too so the focus bends more to racing and less on chaos. Here’s an idea. Why not make a championship mode of only four racers where you would race 3 fiendishly difficult CPU opponents? Come on! It really shouldn’t be so difficult.

Holding Items: A “feature” that’s been around for a few iterations, both humans and CPU races love holding shells or bananas behind their kart for protection. While I don’t mind it in principle, there should be a downside to it, like losing speed or unable to slide and boost around corners. After all, you have one hand off the wheel and holding something out the back, so that must compromise your driving ability somehow! Otherwise, a good racer that gets to the lead is basically invulnerable to everything other than a blue shell. The other solution is the item drops automatically after 5 seconds.

Custom Mii: This representation of yourself that hangs out in the online lobbys cannot be updated once created. Mine is slightly too tall and I can’t make the adjustment.

SUMMARY

Yes, while Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the best Mario Kart ever, it’s not the best possible Mario Kart. Not by a long shot. For that we must wait for Mario Kart 9. Off to unlock the Blue Falcon…

 

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From → Warrior Life

One Comment
  1. Great review. MK8D is definitely the best MK game so far, but there’s still room to grow. I’m personally hoping that MK9 ends up being Nintendo Kart with more Nintendo characters joining the fray.
    That said, would you like to share your articles in our FB group? We’re a growing community of gaming bloggers and we’re always looking for more writers to share their work and discuss all things gaming. Just search for “Game Bloggers United” on Facebook. 🙂

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