Friday, 5 May 2017

Greenalink reviews: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (2017)

Developer & Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: 28/04/2017
Average Price: £45

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is an enhanced port to one of the best selling games for Wii U.
Nearly 3 years after the original release back in 2014, Nintendo decided to release the definitive version to the new console, including all of the extra DLC content with 16 courses and 6 characters, plus some new content exclusive to Deluxe.

48 Racing Tracks
41 Playable Characters (excluding Miis)
8 Battle mode maps
5 Types of Battle modes
Deluxe version is exclusive to Nintendo Switch

Boo hoo to you Diddy Kong.

Nearly every mode in the game has a gameplay tweak to enhance the experience. Two the of the biggest changes from the Wii U Original to Deluxe are double item support and ultra mini-turbo.

Double item support: This is the first game since Mario Kart Double Dash to support double items without holding your primary weapon behind the player. In Mario Kart DS, Wii and 7 you had to hold the first item such as Shells or Bananas in order to pick-up the second item. Initial problems with this system mean that you are more likely to get hit by a Blue Shell and even Lightning. Though after playing through the 200cc Grand Prix and some online races, it wasn't anywhere near as bad as in Mario Kart Wii. The player at 1st place does have an extra chance of getting a useful recovery item, including a Mushroom, Superhorn and even Red Shells to take out any new leaders.

Inkling-Girl is half kid and half squid.

Ultra mini-turbo is a level 3 turbo, and the duration of the boost lasts 1 second longer than a Super mini-turbo. This could be useful for 150cc and lower engine classes, but for 200cc it's situational because of the higher top speeds. Ultra mini-turbo can be a hindrance at certain parts of the tracks and should only be used when the path is a straight road.

Minor additions include 2 more items: Boo and Feather.
Boo (as an item) makes its long return from Mario Kart DS, no major changes since its last appearance but it another way to mess up the opponent's strategy though not as reliable because it tends to steal items from racers nearest to the user.
Feather finally returns as an item in Mario Kart after being absent for over 24 years, restricted to only Battle mode this time round (because it would be too good in VS Races). It can be used to jump over obstacles (SNES Battle Course 1) or if the player is close to another opponent, steal a balloon from them. One thing to note is that it cannot super jump as high as it did back in the first Mario Kart.

Time Trial now supports 200cc which is a neat addition for speedrunners who want to be the very best on a single track. The difficulty varies from track to track, GBA Mario Circuit's 200cc Staff Ghost is pretty challenging while GCN Yoshi's Circuit is a piece of cake.

VS Race now supports 48 track marathon which is the best way to play an All-Cup tour similar to Mario Kart Double Dash. The Wii U original can only play up to 32 tracks at once, even with the DLC tracks installed.

Link's dream during his 100-year sleep.

Local Multiplayer has a lot more options now, the original only supported up to 4 players on a single TV. The Switch Deluxe version now adds up to 8 players in Handheld Wireless mode and an outstanding 12 players by using Docked Mode's Wired Lan feature. The minimum approach to 12 players requires at least 6 Switch systems and 6 TVs. 2 players per Switch & TV, the main reason why it cannot be done with 4 players per Switch is because the gameplay framerate drops from 60 to 30 when there are 3 or more players on a single console.

One of the biggest complaints in the original was the lacklustre Battle mode. Back then, the courses were re-used tracks from the Grand Prix and the main intention was to encourage players to keep on moving because of the Item box will not respawn until that player had moved away by a couple of meters. Those reused courses are now gone and have been replaced with 8 new stages, some of them are from previous games. In fact, this mode is one of the main reasons for Wii U veterans to get the Deluxe Switch version.

The balloon mode went back to Mario Kart Wii's formula where losing all of your balloons now halves the player's score and can carry on playing the game until time is up.

Respect my Koopauthoritah.

Four other modes have been added to the game as well, one of them is brand new to the series: Renegade Roundup, a team battle only mode with a focus on Cops & Robbers. 6 cops have to take out the 6 robbers, any robber who gets captured will be locked inside a cage, the surviving robbers can help out by pressing a switch underneath the cage. Cops can only win by capturing all 6 robbers. The robbers only need at least 1 surviving player to win. I can see this as a great mode with possible voice communication support sometime in the future, right now it's best to chat with your good friends over Discord for clan style matches and most importantly communication.

Bob-omb Battle is a returning game mode from Mario Kart Double Dash, but the main difference is that it uses the same scoring system from balloon battle; instead of a 3-star scoring system where players can fill up the meter by scoring points and losing a fraction of the meter by getting hit. Players can carry up to 10 Bob-ombs at once and the forward throwing distance has been adjusted in this mode. The final minute gets frantic as the game spawns more double item boxes allowing players to fill up their ammo up to 10 much sooner, a bit more skill is involved mainly because there are no homing weapons.

Shine Thief is an old school 'hold the flag' style game. The player who holds the Shine for a certain amount of time wins. The shine carrier has a slightly reduced top speed. This is a mode where karts with good acceleration can get the Shine early but karts with good top speed can chase the player holding the Shine without problems. It definitely gets more frantic when there are a couple of players who need to hold the Shine for at least 5 seconds remaining.

Coin Runners focuses less on hit confirm for points and more on survival when collecting a lot of coins. A single hit against the leader can make a huge difference. 

Outside of revised Battle Mode there are 5 new playable characters and there's 1 extra variant for an old character, which is unlocked after winning 1st place in all 12 cups of 200cc Grand Prix. 1 new kart and 2 new ATVs have been added to the game. New kart body piece is based on the Mario universe and new ATVs are based on the Splatoon universe. 

Inexperienced/first-time players can try out handicap options including Smart Steering which allows players to sharply turn tight corners and Auto Acceleration simply means not having to hold the A/Y button to accelerate. There are also motion controls for steering as well which is compatible with a single joy-con, joy-con grip combo and pro controllers as well.

200cc, Mushrooms Only, Big Blue.

Online play is very simple, two of the quickest options are both Global and Regional, then you can choose either race or battle. The engine class in races is usually 100cc until after obtaining over 4000 VR points, the engine class increases to 150cc.
One issue I had was trying to get friends and join a server against other random players. For example, Player A was in a room with random players, I could join in the fun with Player A but only when the room has some spare player slots left. It would be nice to have an option to jump both you and a few friends from a private room to a random room against other players.

A few features have been removed from the game due to various reasons including Miiverse Stamps, Youtube upload support from Mario Kart TV and Mii characters are less expressive.

This is the first game since New Super Mario Bros U + Super Luigi U pack to include a re-release plus DLC content in one, on a different platform. If you've never played the original, what are you waiting for?! This has the biggest amount of racing content since Mario Kart Super Circuit's 40 track count.

+ 48 tracks with a few based on other franchises.       
+ Decent visuals 3 years after release thanks to native 1080p support.
+ Double items makes a huge difference and sometimes frantic, something missing in the original.
+ Better Battle Mode with more modes than ever.
+ Accessible options to inexperienced gamers.
+ Wii U veterans no longer need to grind to unlock the other cups again, just pick-up loads of coins to unlock vehicle parts.

- On the flip side there isn't a lot of stuff to unlock other than vehicle parts and a character skin.
- Extra custom options such as lap count would be great, especially when playing 200cc.
- Online features can be improved.
- Still no mission mode.
- In-game timer only appears in Time Trial mode, not Grand Prix nor VS Race.
- N64 Rainbow Road needs the classic 3 lap system, not a point to point system = 1 lap.

Recommended: A-*

* If you haven't played the original, then give this score an A because there is a lot more value for money.

Version played: Nintendo Switch
No review copy was provided.

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