Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Switch) Review
When Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U released three years ago, we were all pretty stoked with the game. It looked great, played great, and the DLC was also great. There was really only one problem. The Battle Mode sucked. Badly.
Now with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Nintendo is here to make amends. A proper Battle Mode returns along with the DLC from the Wii U version, graphical improvements, and maybe even the most important change of them all – the versatility of the Switch.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has a huge amount of content out of the box. Including the DLC content, the game features an impressive 48 tracks. Half of the tracks are original creations for Mario Kart 8, where the other half are remakes of retro courses adapted with 8’s signature underwater and anti-gravity sections.
From the get-go, nearly everything is unlocked, including all the characters (bar one) and courses. If you’re coming from the Wii U version, this will save you having to unlock everything again, but removes the challenge for newcomers. Don’t worry, as there are still tonnes of car parts to unlock. Four more characters have been added to the game as well. King Boo, Bowser Junior and Dry Bones join the ranks, plus the freshness of Splatoon’s Inkling Boy and Girl. Because there are no new cups added to the game this means there’s no other representation from the Splatoon world outside of a new map in battle mode – which includes the ‘fresh’ soundtrack from that game.
The main reason you’re here, however, is Battle Mode. Eight battle tracks are included for the returning battle mode, again an equal split between original offerings and remakes from Mario Kart’s past. The Battle Mode not only brings the classic Balloon Battle back but also new modes including Bomb-Blast where bombs are your only weapon. Another additional mode is Coin Runners which has you collecting more coins littered around the map than your opponents. Once there’s none left you’ll have to take down the other players to steal them back.
There’s also Renegade Roundup, which is a variation of the classic cops and robbers. In this mode, there’s a team of good guys using the Pirhana Plants (with little red cop lights on their head) to capture the other team. The game is won by capturing everyone, but the bad news for the cops is that the Renegades can break open the cages holding players. The only issue I had with this mode was that it was somewhat hard to make out who was on what team without looking at the top of the screen to see the characters. Everyone just moves so damn fast. The last mode is Shine Thief – it’s nice to see someone at Nintendo still remembers Super Mario Sunshine. There’s one Shine Sprite in play and whoever captures it must hold onto it for 20 seconds. It’s pretty simple and it’s pretty hectic with the max amount of players. All of the Battle Modes can be played online, locally or over wireless in addition to every other mode in the game.
Thanks to the Switch there’s a huge array of ways to play the game by yourself and with other people – whether it be online or with your friends locally. The local Wireless Play mode can take up to eight people playing together on their own Switch consoles. Two people can play on a single Switch console as well but you can only use the Joy-Con controllers horizontally, not as a pair. However, you can play with two people on the one Switch and two Pro Controllers. This seems like a bizarre requirement and there must be a technical reason behind it. This means up to four people can play the game split-screen on the one Switch. This means everyone has a 3″ screen if you’re playing it in table-top mode. It’s not pretty but it’ll do in a pinch. Otherwise, if that’s not your thing there’s a LAN option for up to 12 players, something we couldn’t test for the review but will no doubt come in handy at tournaments and events.
Online play again supports up to 12 players. It works pretty much the same as the Wii U version which means, of course, no voice chat but we’re hopeful that’ll come later when Nintendo start charging for it and we have the app. You can choose to play with people from all over the world, in your region, and search for your friends and rivals. Tournament mode is back again and new settings like auto-steering can be forced off along with every other option you can imagine. We were only able to play a handful of games online before release but the races we did play worked just as well as the Wii U version.
So what does the added power of the Switch bring to the game over the Wii U? Well, the game now runs at a full 1080p and 60fps when docked, and the good news is that silky 60fps also carries over in handheld mode. The only change when running handheld is that the game drops to 720p, the same as the Wii U version was. This isn’t a problem really because it matches Switch screen’s native resolution, meaning it looks crisp and sharp, putting the Wii U GamePad’s low-resolution vaseline vision to shame. It’s perhaps unfair to compare Mario Kart 7, the last portable version of Mario Kart to this game but the change in just a short few years is phenomenal.
The other changes to the game are more subtle. Double items are back meaning you can ‘queue’ up items if you run over another item box or hit a double box. This change isn’t necessarily better or worse. Mario Kart 8 forced you to think differently because it only had the one box – but enough people must have hated it to force a change. Powersliding also gains a ‘third boost’. The pink boost requires a long drift to activate but you’ll get a huge 2.5-second boost out of it – a full second more than the yellow. Maybe you can use this new boost with the new ghosts in the time trial mode as well. HD Rumble is implemented subtly as well, rather than just a large rumble on everything, the HD Rumble will create a different feeling on different surfaces, and there’s also haptic feedback on item pickups and other small places.
The other additions to the game are more for those with children or perhaps people who aren’t so skilful with Karting. From the vehicle select screen and from the pause screen you can turn on both auto-accelerate and auto-steering. The latter won’t completely auto-pilot you around a course but if you’re headed for disaster at the edge of a track it’ll forcibly redirect you back on course. You’ll know who is using the auto-modes thanks to a little antenna on the back on their karts. This is probably a good time to mention the Joy-Con Wheel that Nintendo is also releasing on the same day as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. The wheels are a huge step up over the Wii Wheel; the smaller size won’t suit everyone but if you’re going to use motion controls, you’re probably not a hugely competitive player. The fact though that you can use the wheels as a ‘grip’ on the Joy-Con and you get better triggers out of them, and still use the Joy-Con’s analogue stick to control works well too, you still would never choose it over the Pro Controller.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe delivers another wonderful and fun karting experience. To dismiss it simply because we’ve played a lot of it before on the Wii U just wouldn’t be right. For some people, this is going to be their first experience with the game and it’s hard not to be jealous.
Even if you’ve already played the original to death, the inclusion of Battle Mode and the general level of extra polish the game has received will be enough to get you to double dip. The icing on the cake is that the game can now be played anywhere, with multiplayer out of the box. The silky smooth graphics are impressive for what is technically a portable game, while the punchy jazz-inspired soundtrack just gets better with age.
If you have a Switch, this is one you’re going to have to pick up. Just watch out for blue shells on the bus.
- Take anywhere Mario Kart 8
- Silky smooth 60fps docked and undocked
- Battle Mode is back and more awesome than before
- Odd Joy-Con restrictions in Wireless Play
- No Waluigi Pinball