Review: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is an enhanced port of Mario Kart 8, which has previously been released on the Nintendo Wii U. Mario Kart is a series known to many gamers worldwide and is considered one of the strongest system selling games out there.
While practically every single system from Nintendo since the SNES has received its own iteration of Mario Kart, Nintendo has opted to instead port the previous version over to the Nintendo Switch. Since the Wii U had rather lukewarm sales, the amount of people exposed to Mario Kart 8 would have been greatly limited. Porting the game could therefore make sense, since it will expose the game to more people and also add another game to the Switch’s library, with very little development resources necessary to do so.
About the Game
The main gameplay in Mario Kart 8 is the standard racing, which takes place over 48 tracks with a selection of 42 characters. The series has always been the definitive cart experience and what sets it apart from the competition, is the sheer amount of quality, polish and care that has been put into the game by the developers. Nearly every single character feels distinct, with each one of them showing personality through unique animations when certain events take place. This has also given rise to the “Luigi Death Stare” Meme, which was very popular around the time the original version of Mario Kart 8 has released.
This attention to detail is also present in the maps themselves, which show a lot of little nods and references to other Mario Games. This greatly enhances the immersion into the game, making you really feel like you are racing through the Mushroom Kingdom. The most impressive part though is that out of the 48 tracks present in the game, every single one feels distinct. Each one features a unique soundtrack, which has been recorded by a band instead of being generated by a computer. The quality here is astonishing and creates an atmosphere only rivalled by big blockbuster titles.
The core of the gameplay is the racing itself combined with the arsenal of items you use against your opponents. Your objective is to reach the goal first and how brutal you are to your fellow players is left completely up to you. You race across the track collecting item boxes, which will then randomly assign items to you based on the current position you have. The further you are behind, the better the items are that you will receive. This design choice has been present since the first game in the series and is pretty smart to be honest. Either you are a frontrunner in the competition and can enjoy being one of the best racers on the track or you are a bit further behind allowing you to obtain and operate an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. This way anyone on the field has a chance to have a good time, which has always been the key goal of Mario Kart.
The Mario Kart Series sets the standard for cart racing games and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe does its series justice. Starting off, the controls are very easy to learn. Accelerating and steering feel just as they should be. Moving, turning and drifting all feel very responsive giving you the feedback you need, to upgrade your technique. Drifting for example is something you need to practice and master to get to a high level of play. Drifting gives you a speedboost if you do it for long enough, but drifting for too long will result in you hitting the edges of the course. As you can see there is quite a bit of skill to be gained in this game. If you enjoy it, play it more and show your friends what you’ve got. Be prepared to still lose to them from time to time though. The game is designed around the principle of giving all participants a great time and how much fun would it be, if one person always wins?
Much like in Double Dash for the Gamecube, you are now able to hold up to two items. This means you have more items to hit your enemies with and also the other way round. While this adds a strategic layer to the game, it also increases its randomness. Some people may enjoy this and others may prefer the single item slot. While the former increases the chance based nature of the game, it gives lesser skilled players a chance to win at it, hence increasing the fun of the game for all participants. On the downside it can make it quite frustrating and punishing to get hit multiple times in a row and makes it less viable to play competitively and solidifies it as a social or party game.
A good way to handle this would be to allow players more options. It would have been really great if one could set their matches to allow for more freedom in what is possible, especially in regards to the double items. Options are good, as they allow players to play the games their way, which has been masterfully executed in Breath of the Wild or Grand Theft Auto V.
Yes, there are quite some options available in the versus mode like choosing the Motor Class, Team play, CPU’s and their difficulty and even even some variety in the items. Yet there are some checkboxes missing that could enhance the variety of the game. For example changing the number of laps, which was a feature in Mario Kart Double Dash or allowing players to pick and mix the items they want included in the game, much like how it is handled in Smash Bros. These are the kind of things desired by the community nowadays and set apart the great games from the fantastic games. It is a disappointment to see that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe could be so much more than it already is if it just had more options available to the player.
On the positive side, a proper battle mode has made a glorious return to the series. Mario Kart 8, while being praised for being one of most fun racing games around, was harshly critized for a lackluster battle mode, which is usually a defining point of the series. This has been fixed in the Switch version, by offering 8 battle arenas and 5 battle modes.
When you are used to racing in Mario Kart 8, going into Battling can feel quite unfamiliar. The car physics are slightly different, allowing you to more easily turn 180 Degrees. This took a little getting used to, but after that, we wholly remembered why the Battle Mode was so much fun in the previous games. It is an exhilarating experience to struggle between defending yourself and getting points by hitting other players. The biggest strength here however is playing with friends, either locally or online. Getting hit then taking revenge all the while shouting at each other can give you a rush barely rivalled by any other multiplayer game.
However, the battling mode is also limited by the number of available options. Here comes one example. Earlier Mario Kart Battle modes worked like this, you had a limited number of balloons which then determined the amount of hits you can take before you are knocked out and the winner of the match is the last man standing. In Mario Kart 8 Deluxe however, you respawn after you die with your penalty being that you lose half of your score. Some players feel very nostalgic to the traditional style of battle mode and a simple option to allow it would give the game more variability and charm.
Many people have critized Nintendo for their online services and their use of friend codes. We hope that Nintendo ups their game in this regard and releases some updates for the Nintendo Switch where those issues are addressed. To be fair though, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has some very decent online features. You can either enter matchmaking to be thrown into a race with other people or create your own match and get friends to join you for either battling or racing. The creation of tournaments is also possible, where you can share a tournament code with a wider online community and have a kind of “private server” for it.
A few features expected by modern standards are still missing though. Examples for this would be a matchmaking lobby and the infamous voice chat. What is present in the game though is regional matchmaking, which was absent from Splatoon. In this case, the delay seemed to be quite acceptable, both in racing and battle modes. The netcode for the game could be a lot better for playing with opponents throughout the globe though. Oftentimes hits seemed to be registered at first, yet its effects disappeared right after. It was quite annoying when you thought you hit an opponent with a mushroom boost to steal their shine yet you never received it.
Let’s determine the value of the game now. It features the original 32 tracks of the Wii U version plus the 16 obtained from its DLC, which you will race across in Grands Prix and Time Trials. You battle on 8 tracks across 5 modes online or offline. With 42 characters and tons of car parts to fit your racing style, it is hard to argue for the game being worth any less than its MSRP to anyone new to Mario Kart 8. However, this game is an enhanced port and as such it will be judged on the new additions to the game.
The amount of standard tracks of the game has stayed the same at 48, so the value will mainly be bolstered up the battle mode and the opportunity of the game to play it anywhere you want, even with two players. The third tier of drift boost (pink sparks) and the double items are also noteworthy additions to the game. We therefore determine its value to be around 40 Dollars.
In conclusion, this game is perfect for the Nintendo Switch. Being able to take out your Switch anywhere you want and immediately playing it with two players is a huge opportunity and will make every road trip just that much better. The racing feels great and the game is one of the most complete Mario Kart experiences to date. Unfortunately, the lack of further options both in racing and battle modes hurts the potential of the game to become something truly fantastic both for casual and competitive players. Mind you that despite the criticism we have for the game it is still excellent and we recommend it to anyone to pick it up. We therefore give Mario Kart 8 Deluxe a score of 87.
(out of 100)
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a game that could become so much more than it currently is if it gave the consumers more options for races and battles. Nevertheless it is a great game and a testament to the care and polish Nintendo puts into their titles.
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