I can’t quite put my finger on whether Nintendo’s handling of the Mario Kart 8 DLC packs is extremely smart or a little bit stupid. In each pack, you get eight new tracks, three new characters, and four new vehicles. That means, for £7 (or £5.50 if you bought the bundle) you’re getting about a quarter of the game’s content added on each time, at least in terms of cups and tracks.
That’s a lot of content, and although it seems redundant to complain about getting a good deal, Nintendo could’ve easily sold each pack for £10 or even £12 without many complaints. When you compare it to Destiny’s DLC, selling for £19.99 with each pack, and including a few missions, strikes and a raid, it does feel like a bit of a steal. Sure, that DLC in particular is very high and suffers from a particularly unfavourable exchange rate, but either Nintendo are being naive or intelligent here with their pricing, and it’s really hard to tell which it is.
It’s all brilliant stuff, thankfully – the tracks are on par with those found in the original game, if not better than them in some cases. It also takes the series beyond what we’ve seen before and into other Nintendo properties, bringing an F-Zero and The Legend of Zelda track, themed cars, and even Link himself into the fold. It feels like a true expansion, essentially, and it poses perhaps the best value for money to gameplay we’ve seen this year.
This add on content – and the subsequent Animal Crossing-themed one next year – truly paves the way for the future of the Mario Kart series. It evolves the game into Smash Kart, effectively, with other series getting their first look in at a karting game, executed with the same effort as stages or characters in Smash Bros. – Link might be the only outsider so far, but he’s adapted into this crossover wonderfully, his style reflecting the series which he comes from, while also fitting in with the aesthetic of the Mushroom Kingdom.
There are even retro throwbacks, similar to what you’d see in Smash Bros., with an ExciteBike track – complete with randomly generated obstacles and ramps – making an appearance. In the Zelda stage, you’ll collect rupees instead of coins, the Piranha Plants you’d usually see along the side of the road are replaced with Deku Babas, the bats are similarly replaced with Keese, and the musical notes are familiar to anyone who’s played that series. It’s great fan service, and treated with the same respect that the Super Mario series is with the main game.
It’s the perfect time for it, really – Nintendo fans are eager for a crossover and for this one to arrive a few weeks before Smash Bros. at the end of this month, it’s just the right amount of time to tide anyone over. With two new Grand Prix tournaments – four if you’re counting mirrored mode – as well as time trials, multiplayer action, and online play, it will definitely last players well beyond the end of this month.
Even if you just like playing Mario Kart, if you’re not in it for the chance to get close to a new F-Zero or have Link race with an Epona-esque bike, there are several other tracks which are all designed very well. The remakes of tracks such as Yoshi Circuit and Wario Goldmine fare better than the new tracks from within the Mario universe, Dragon Driftway and Ice Ice Outpost, but it’s truly the F-Zero inspired Mute City that’s the star of the show, whether you’re a fan of that series or not.
This DLC brings back the exhilarating racing that might’ve gone a bit stale after dozens of hours over six months, and gets you back into the game again, laughing, smiling, and swearing. The only disappointment – and this is in line with the main game – is that Nintendo haven’t paid any attention to the Battle Mode. The new DLC doesn’t bring proper arenas or a competent mode, though perhaps a separate pack could fix this oversight in the future.
When it comes down to it, it doesn’t really matter whether Nintendo are being brave, dumb, or just not caring about the pricing of the DLC: they know what their fans want, how they can easily please them, and exactly how to deliver that.