That’s not a horse…
Nintendo is doing something super-smart with Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U. They’re releasing DLC (DownLoadable Content) for it. They’ve never really done this before for their Mario Karts, and it is a simple and genius idea. Instead of coming out with a new Mario Kart every few years, just come out with some new tracks and new drivers periodically!
So the first DLC set came out a while back (I wanted to write about it then, but there were… problems), and I thought I’d write some thoughts about the new tracks and drivers. And then you can watch a 1-minute recap video of each of the new tracks! NEAT!
First off, the new drivers!
It’s Mario! In his Tanooki Suit from Super Mario Bros 3! That’s right, this is NOT Racoon Mario. This is Tanooki Mario. Tanooki does not equal Racoon. They’re different animals. A very aesthetically pleasing design, but doesn’t seem to play any differently than regular Mario. Or maybe he does? Sometimes the differences between drivers are incredibly subtle.
Peach dressed up in the Cat outfit that everyone got in one of the more recent Mario Games. Honestly, I haven’t tried this driver much because it uncomfortably blurs the line between being an outfit and being a wank destination for furries. *Shudder*
Mario Kart’s first foray outside of the Mario franchise! Nintendo has decided to open up Mario Kart to the wider Nintendo world, much like Super Smash Bros. Their first choice is a grown-up link, similar to the classic Link from Ocarina of Time. It’s pretty interesting to see him bumping karts with Donkey Kong and Toad and the like.
There are 8 new tracks in the DLC, divided into 2 new Cups (Egg and Triforce). For the Egg Cup, I chose Link and his motorcycle. For the Triforce Cup, I chose Tanooki Mario and the badass Blue Falcon—Captain Falcon’s hovercar from F-Zero! Wait, why would I do that when the Legend of Zelda track is in the Triforce Cup? You’ll see…
Yoshi Circuit (Gamecube)
This is one of the tracks from Double Dash, which is still my all-time favorite Mario Kart. Though I have to say, I barely remember it. This is a straight-ahead ground race. There are no hills, no anti-gravity segments, no nothing except turns and turns. In fact, the map of this course is an outline of Yoshi’s silhouette. Hence the name of the track, I suppose. An interesting inclusion, I suppose to contrast the very up-and-down nature of the rest of Mario Kart 8.
THIS is why I chose Link and a motorcycle for the Egg Cup! This is a very simple course with a very cool hook: it’s just a simple, two-turn oval (much like Double Dash’s Baby Park course), but it’s chock-full of ramps and jumps and mud straight from old-school, 8-bit Excitebike! And here’s the hook: every time you play the course, the positioning of the jumps and muds and whatnot is randomized, so it’s a (slightly) different course each time! Plus the music is a great remix of the original Excitebike theme song. This course is a lot of fun, but I wish it would have been 5 laps (like the original Baby Park, which is my all-time favorite course) instead of just three; it’s a bit too short as it is.
A heavily Asian-themed course that is almost 100% anti-gravity. You wind yourself along the body of an enormous Asian dragon (NOT a European-style dragon) over a very old-timey-looking Asian village. The music is very… Asian. Y’know, if it weren’t for the fact that this game was designed by Japan, I would think this course bordered on uncomfortable stereotypes. But it is one of the prettiest courses out there.
Incorporating a track from another racing game into Mario Kart? This is a great idea! When this DLC was originally announced they made a big deal about how Mute City was going to be a 100% anti-gravity course. But it comes immediately after Dragon Driftway, which is an almost-100% anti-gravity course, so it seems a little weird. There are some awesome touches in this course, like the way you collect coins by driving over the healing strips from F-Zero. There’s also a really cool shortcut you can take if you have a mushroom.
Wario’s Gold Mine (Wii)
For some reason Mario Kart 8 got rid of Mario Kart Wii’s “half-pipe” gameplay mechanic in favor of the anti-gravity mechanic. I’m not sure why they couldn’t do both? So this isn’t a 100%-faithful translation of the Wii’s Wario’s Gold Mine course. But they did bump-up the prettiness factor quite a bit.
Rainbow Road (SNES)
The final boss of the original Mario Kart! The original Rainbow Road was a deadly course with only 90-degree turns and a perilously narrow track. Unfortunately they dumbed it down quite a bit in this version by making the course WAY too wide. It’s actually kinda difficult to fall off, whereas in the original Mario Kart it was kinda difficult to NOT fall off. The Thwomps making the track ripple is an excellent touch, though (especially since you can stunt off of the ripple like they were jumps), and it sure is damnably pretty. It’s just way too easy.
Ice Ice Outpost
I think maybe this is supposed to be an Ice Clibmers themed course? I’m not sure. But the track is divided into two halves that twist and wind themselves around each other. There are a bunch of shortcuts and alternate routes you can take on this track, and one of them you don’t need a mushroom to use…you just have to be willing to drive off the edge of the track at the correct spot! The course has an interesting design, and there’s a bunch of interesting things going on in the background that I never get to look at because I’m too busy driving (is that a Yoshi helicopter flying around in the background?).
Y’know, maybe it would have made more sense to play as link in this Cup and use the Blue Falcon in the Egg Cup… but OH WELL! This is actually a pretty standard course, with some curves and jumps and such, but it has a couple of cool features. For one, instead of picking up coins you’re picking up Zelda-style Rupees, complete with Rupee-collecting sound effect (in fact, the whole course is filled with Zelda sound effects and music). Also, when you enter the castle there’s a neat little secret—if three crystal switches are activated in the hallway leading up to the Master Sword room, a secret ramp raises itself (complete with the classic Zelda “secret” sound effect) and you can actually jump up and touch the Master Sword! And since you’re in anti-gravity mode, touching something gives you a boost. So not only do you get to bypass an entire curve, but you get a boost out of it.
And there you have it. Eight new courses, bringing the grand total up to a bulging 40 total. That’s pretty badass! And there’s another DLC on the way this spring, that introduces an Animal Crossing Villager into the driver mix. Who is excite? I am excite! If they keep on extending the life of Mario Kart 8 like this, it could be well on its way to becoming my favorite of them all.