NS Review – Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo Switch)

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Review

From the fluffy snow and smooth shiney ice surfaces of Mount Wario, to the cheddar rocks of Cheese Land, the rushing water of Shy Guy Falls and Piranha Plant Pipeway, to the dirt track of Excitebike and the lush grass of Moo Moo Farm, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has such a wide range of locations to race around in that you’d be forgiven for forgetting that you’ve actually seen them all before. There are so many beautiful locales to visit in this game you can literally rarely see the same place twice when racing online; each selection of tracks including somewhere you’ve likely forgotten about. Depending on how recently you last played Mario Kart 8 on Wii U of course.

And of course, that’s the thing here. You have seen them all before. This game is without a doubt a must own, must play, the best Mario Kart experience available, that you probably already own for Wii U. If like me, however, you’ve not delved into the live, competitive online racing world for a little while, Switch is the perfect excuse to do so. And it’s never looked so good, felt so good in the hand, or played together with friends so well as it does right here. Much to my initial disappointment there aren’t any new tracks in this Deluxe edition, yet the 48 tracks that do feature are more than enough for anyone; a new comer who missed the game on Wii U or a seasoned expert. The game is just that good.

On Switch, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe looks absolutely fantastic. It immediately hits you as you start the game, choose your character and vehicle parts and begin your first race. The colours pop, the character models look lovely, it’s super sharp, particularly on the Switch screen, and the range of textures excel in glossy HD. Plug into a nice big TV screen using the dock and the full HD 1080p graphics look wonderful. It’s super smooth, with the tracks whooshing by at 60 frames per second and even in 4 player split screen mode it’s a great looking game.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Review

Playing with a pro controller in hand is thoroughly recommended; the shoulder buttons in just the right position for that all important drifting and weapon activating, as well as the left analogue stick with just the right amount of movement to accurately steer around competitors and dodge those shells. Suited perhaps for shorter play sessions only, a left or right joy-con, held horizontally, also does the job. It’s a bit small and the tiny L and R buttons are not ideally positioned, but for pick up and play, two player racing it’s a viable option. Slip the joy-cons in the new small steering wheels, activate motion controls and that option too, with it’s larger triggers, is also a fun, if not entirely fool proof control option for multi-player action. I should reference the HD rumble here too – it feels just right, particularly on the Pro Controller, with crashes and smashes rumbling on the left or right side of the controller accordingly.

If you can find how to turn on the motion controls, you’ll also stumble upon the new smart steering option too. Which is on by default, much to my suprise. Hidden behind the kart customisation options, as well as on the pause screen, obviously (do’h – I spent a while looking for this!) you can switch OFF the smart steering, and also turn on auto accelerate too. Yes, with these options on you need do nothing, but where’s the fun in that! But on a serious note, whilst smart steering really is not for everyone, it’s a great option for kids and novices, meaning they can join in some friendly multi-player fun. My daughter is now confidently managing top half table finishes.

With all tracks unlocked from the start, it initially feels like there is little incentive to win all cups here. That said, the motivation to keep on racing, be it online, locally with friends, or on your own, is certainly still very much alive. As before, the more coins you collect the more kart items you unlock. There are many wheels, gliders and kart bodies to collect, including, of course, the gold ones. Win gold on all 200cc cups, however, and you’ll unlock Gold Mario to play as too. A mode that was perhaps ignored when it was released as DLC on the Wii U, these are the cups you may indeed spend some time winning – it really is blisteringly fast and the need to brake into the tighter corners adds a new level strategy to racing around many of the tracks.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Review

There are a couple of other new features here too. The ability to gather and hold two weapons at once adds a new level of tactics; like this it feels like you nearly always have some way of defending yourself or something to launch forwards or backwards at your rivals. You can’t swap between one or the other in order to choose which you activate first, as you could in Double Dash though. Also fun, and extremely satisfying to pull off, is the new purple coloured turbo. Drift for just long enough and the sparks change to purple, launching you with a slightly longer boost. An essential skill to master. The new Boo item also comes in handy, adding a level of randomness to the chance of, say, stealing someones super mushroom and using it to speed past them and cross the line just ahead of them. Online racing never felt so competitive.

What is entirely new in this version of the game is the battle mode. After the disappointing, perhaps-tacked-on-at- the-last-minute, feature in Mario Kart 8 on Wii U which saw you driving around some of the main racing tracks, Battle Mode is back and fully featured here with a range of battle types to keep things interesting. Chosen at random when playing online, matches range from the simple Balloon Battle, to Coin Runners, to the new Renegade Round Up. This new game splits players into two teams, where one has to capture members of the other, using Piranha plants mounted to the front of their karts. Once captured, players can be rescued from the (boring, and sometimes lonely) cage to re-join the match. The stand out feature here is the new arenas though; Urchin Underpass from Splatoon looks wonderful (PLEASE can we have a full race track?!); a real joy to drive around, and other great looking new arenas include Dragon Palace and Lunar Colony. Classic stages from the SNES, Gamecube and 3DS also feature and all have been carefully recreated to take full advantage of HD. Oh, and make sure you make use of the new battle mode only quick turn on the spot move, activated by pressing accelerate and brake at the same time.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Review

A mention should also go out to the new characters in the game, particularly Inkling and Boy and Girl from Splatoon. Well suited to the thrashing around these colourful tracks in a range of karts, bikes and quads, these guys look right at home as they transform from squid form and back again as you perform stunts. The animation is superb, sound effects spot on and the new vehicles that they bring with them feel right at home amongst the selection. Surely dead certs for the line up in future Mario Karts.

The future looks bright for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on Switch. With sales soaring and the growing online community, surely some DLC will arrive at some point. Some new tracks, perhaps from the world of Pikmin or Metroid, characters too (where’s Diddy Kong?) and perhaps even some Mario Odyssey related content will ensure this game stays high in the recently played list on many Switch consoles for a long time to come. At least until the inevitable Mario Kart 9 turns up…

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Review

Thanks to Nintendo UK for the review copy of the game.

Reuben has also been checking out Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on Switch.

I have to admit that I wasn’t initially sold on the idea of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (MK8D). I understood why it needed to exist, as it was the best way for those that missed the game on the Wii U, but I had little intent to purchase a game that I already had. But then I played the game at the Switch pre-release event in London. MK8D looked crisp and clear on the Switch screen, the controls felt natural and the local multiplayer at the event was seamless. This caused me to ‘double-dip’ on the game and I have come away more pleased than I predicted.

So, after more time with it; the game looks stunning in every play mode that the Switch can do and the controls, even on a single Joy-Con, are tight and responsive. The changes to the mechanics of allowing two items to be held at once, and the return of the Boo item, alter the base game just enough to force me to mess with the muscle memory I built up over years of the vanilla MK8 on Wii U. The only minor gripe I have with it was that Smart Steering was on by default and it wasn’t obvious that it existed nor how to turn it off. I love that it’s in the game, just give us the option to use it. An essential purchase if you never owned MK8, and one that should be seriously considered even if you have.

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