Considering Nintendo’s poor reputation with downloadable content, Mario Kart 8 has totally spoilt its fans, when in November 2014, eight new tracks were surprisingly revealed, with the promise of another eight in April 2015. They weren’t lying. April 23th saw the revelation of two more cups, and a 200cc mode (though more on that in a moment).
So here is a brief review of each of the new tracks, released on the ‘Crossing Cap’ and the ‘Bell Cup’.
THE NEW TRACKS
Wild Woods is wild indeed.
It also has what in my opinion is the best looking scenery of all of the new tracks, intricate enough that during the boardwalk section that runs through a village in a massive cave, I deliberately drove off of the track to land on a ‘track’ below as a short cut… only to find out that it was only part of the scenery. That was slightly disappointing, as I was hoping that the track might have run through the village. Fitting with the scenery there is a speedy stream later in the track, leading to boosting skips across lily-pads. While there isn’t anything especially mad in the track itself, this is a favourite of the new tracks. 8/10
Returning to somewhere visibly recognizable as a true Mario Land (if only due to various signs directing attendees to various tracks), is the Super Bell Subway. It appears to be similar to Sunshine Airport in how racers are taken through the stations and into the runway, while the Subway takes us from the stations through railway tunnels. This is another great track in that it is complex as two tracks tangle around each other in the subway tunnel, with a third (albeit difficult to stay on) track appearing on the train itself. And all of this without a single moment of anti-gravity. A word of warning: don’t try and follow the train off of the track. You can’t go down that tunnel, which as with Wild Woods disappointed me a little. 8/10
THE RETRO TRACKS
Like Wario’s Goldmine (Wii) in the previous DLC, Neo Bowser City (aka Koopa City), originally from the Nintendo 3DS, it is a little too recent for any surprising overhauls. That said, the HD visuals look beautiful, with the rain spattering on the screen, blurring the vivid lights of the city. The actually layout isn’t that exciting, and I found this one kind of short with the additional speed that MK8. Still, it’s good. 7/10
Speaking of short…
One track that has split opinion ever since its original appearance in Mario Kart: Double Dash is the infamous Baby Park – a simplistic oval track, so short that it requires seven laps. Originally, it was considered by some to be dull and lazy filler. Since the release of MK8, it has been one of the most sought after retro tracks. It’s had a slight revamp too. First of all, MK8 is visibly faster, making this crazy as it is, but if that isn’t enough, the track has been slanted slightly, justifying the track being 100% anti-gravity. With each of the many collisions between the twelve racers comes even more chaos. Also, the surroundings of the track are more colourful and bustling with park rides. Sure, Baby Park is not the most creative track ever, but it’s madder and just as fun as ever. I had called the Excitebike Arena the ‘ultimate Baby Park’. While the Arena is preferable, Baby Park is more than welcome. 7/10
On the subject of revamps, there are a couple more from the past that definitely do this properly. The announcement that two GBA tracks would be featured was slightly underwhelming. Without the novelty of Baby Park, they seemed destined to be dull. Players will be proven completely wrong. Very little from the original version remains in Cheese Land, extremely revamped to feature more craters, much better scenery (while the GBA version was meant to be made of cheese, MK8 takes us to the desert, featuring sand-sculptures and rocks resembling wedges of cheese) and wilder terrain. Wild enough that there is even a signature anti-gravity section. It’s a bit short, but it’s fun enough. 7/10
The other GBA track to surprise with its update is Ribbon Road, which is far more twisted. It looks amazing, as the racers shrink for the race to take place entirely on ribbons on a bedroom table, surrounded by toys (with some Mechakoopers intervening throughout. True to its name, it’s a bit of a tangle, but nothing too terrifying. However, this is definitely the retro that gamers will be falling off of the most, with waving roads and very little in the way of barriers. Quite a challenge considering just how childish it looks. 7/10
THE ‘SUPER SMASH’ TRACKS
I assumed that fans would refer to the tracks that ventured away from the Mario franchise ‘Super Smash/Smash Bros. Tracks’. Well, they weren’t, but the title here demonstrates what I mean anyway.
First is the easily most promoted track, to the point that one of the new cups is named after it – Animal Crossing, which goes all out to reference the series as closely as possible. In a similar way as Hyrule Circuit and its rupees, Animal Crossing replaces its coins with Bells, and fallen apples function as mushrooms. Mr Resetti sets out to furiously attack you from underground. Characters also stand at the sides of the track, waving jovially as the racers fly by.
This received so much attention for appearing like four different tracks on the trailers, as the visual design (though racing experience remains the same) alters between seasons, chosen at random at the beginning of each race. This is a fun novelty, but when I first saw this, I was hoping for the seasons to maybe change during the race.
Considering the sheer scale of its design, I was a little disappointed that it was as short as it is. That’s not to say the track is bad at all. It’s great, but considering the attention it got, it’s a bit of a pity that it’s over as fast as it is. 7/10
On the other end of the scale comes the return to F-Zero – Big Blue, the only DLC track to feature just on long lap. After all, after the fan love for Mute City, and the high concept of the track matching that of the F-Zero games (perhaps being the closest that we will get to an F-Zero game any time soon), it would be a terrible opportunity to waste.
Needless to say, the track map is terrifying looking, and it is a vaster scaled version of Mute City, with additional streams and difficult to follow fast and slow pathways for the entire track. There is a long sequence that takes racers upwards vertically. As before there is an even more chaotic version of the earlier F-Zero soundtracks, and even the brief giggle of the signature “Yeah! The final lap!”. If you liked Mute City, you will love Big Blue. 10/10
While Mario Kart isn’t at the speed of the F-Zero series, it has taken a jab at it, with one of the most talked about updates of the whole DLC – the introduction of a 200cc cup. Nintendo did a good job of hyping its speed and difficulty, and after a while testing it on various tracks, I can confirm that this is the truth.
I have the genuine opinion that this will in fact split opinion a little in how it is virtually impossible to avoid crashing into walls or fall off at least once, even when drifting around the corners, unless (shock-horror) you use the brake. Really. When has anyone ever used the brake during Mario Kart? It will take some getting used to, as players realise just how simplistic their skills may have been for however long they have played. Some tracks suit this speed without too much difficulty (and really adds to Excitebike Arena, and blitzing down the forever brilliant Mount Wario.
And that is the Mario Kart DLC 2. The new tracks have been great (adding up to forty-eight in total), the new characters has been a fun bonus, and new difficulties have given Mario Kart 8 a new lease of life. While I’m sure that many are still holding on for actual battle arenas, I’ll venture to guess that the latest version marks the end of its maintenance. Still, how can one complain when an additional ‘half’ was added to the original game?
Whoever said Nintendo didn’t know DLC?