Monday, May 8, 2017

Mario Kart 8: Deluxe Review

Mario Kart is kind of like driving through a Super Mario level. It’s a racing game, but the tracks are full of big jumps and Mario themed obstacles. There are tracks that resemble real race tracks, but even those are way crazier than any real-life race track. Most courses are more like backwoods dirt bike trails. If there were dirt bike trails in the woods behind Peach’s castle.

Mario Kart 8: Deluxe is an enhanced port of the Wii U game, Mario Kart 8. The big new thing in the Switch version is the Battle mode. The Wii U game’s Battle mode was kind of half-baked. It didn’t have traditional Mario Kart battle arenas. Instead, it had players running around the same courses as in the GP, while battling. It was the major flaw in an otherwise great game.

Mario Kart 8: Deluxe has a completely redone Battle mode with 8 courses and 6 modes. There are 5 new battle courses and 3 classic courses from previous games. No Block Fort, though. There are 5 returning modes and 1 new mode. The modes included are; Balloon Battle, Bob-Omb Blast, Coin Runners, Shine Thief, and Renegade Roundup. Renegade Roundup is the new mode in which one team tries to catch the other team and throw them all in a cell before they can be set free by one of their teammates. Balloon Battle is the classic MK battle mode, Bob-omb Blast is Balloon Battle with Bob-ombs only, Coin Runners is won by the person with the most coins, and Shine Thief is a game of keep away, with a Shine from Super Mario Sunshine. Shine get!

The rules for Battle mode are completely customizable. You can set the computer difficulty or turn off computer players, choose item sets, vehicle types, courses, time limits, and the number of battles before a winner is declared. You can basically customize everything except individual items, like in Super Smash Bros.

Battle mode is playable in single player, local multiplayer, and online. You lose control of all the options when playing with random people online, though. When using random matchmaking, you only get to pick your character and vehicle and a course to throw into the list of courses to be selected roulette wheel style. The game will randomly pick between all the battle styles and the rest of the settings will always be the same. You don’t have to play this random mode if you want to play online (and have no Switch friends), though, thanks to Tournaments.

The Communities feature from previous Mario Kart games is back for MK8:D, but this time it has been renamed “Tournaments”. It works pretty much the same as it did in other games. You make a tournament by creating a race or battle game with custom rules and then you get a code you can give to other people for them to join or you can get a code and enter it to join someone else's game. You can also search for tournaments and there’s even recommended tournaments section. Tournaments allow you to play whatever mode you want, with any rules you want, with whoever you want.

Of course all the racing goodness is still here. There’s Grand Prix in 50cc, 100cc, 150cc, Mirror, and 200cc, with 12 Cups, and a total of 48 courses. Time Trials can now be done in both 150cc and 200cc. And there’s VS Race, which is a way to play fully customizable cups. VS Race allows you to play in any speed class, on any course, with custom item sets, teams, CPU or no CPU on 3 difficulties, and from 4 up to 48 rounds. You can also play with courses in their regular GP order, randomly, or pick your own. All of these racing modes are also playable in local multiplayer, and online, except for Time Trials. Time Trials does have online ghosts you can play against, though, and you can upload your ghost data for others to play against too.

MK8:D introduces 5 new characters to MK8; King Boo, Inkling Boy, Inkling Girl, Bowser Jr., and Dry Bones. There's also a new skin for Metal Mario, Gold Mario. He’s the same as Metal Mario, but in gold. You can unlock Gold Mario by getting gold trophies on all 200cc cups in the Grand Prix mode. The rest of the characters are unlocked from the start. You had to unlock a lot of them in the Wii U version.

There’s still a ton of stuff to unlock, though. You can unlock new vehicles, sets of tires, and gliders every 50 coins you collect, up to 5,000 coins. All coins collected in every mode count towards unlockables, so you’re not forced to play any one mode. You can collect all coins in online races and Battle mode if you want.

MK8:D has all the modes from the Wii U version and a couple of new multiplayer ones. One of the new modes is the Wireless Play mode, which lets you play all multiplayer race and battle modes with custom rules and up to 12 players. That’s a max of 2 players per system and a max of 8 systems linked together, so you’ll need at least 6 Switches to have a 12 player game. The 8 system limitation is just a limit of the wireless technology used to link Switch systems together.

There is also a hidden LAN mode which replaces Wireless Play when multiple Switches are connected to a router. This is a docked Switch mode only, since it requires a LAN adapter and a wired connection to a router. You can hook up to 12 systems in a LAN with up to 2 players per system. This of course, also requires 6 to 12 TVs. Most people will probably never use this mode, but it should be great for competitive gaming communities and tournaments.

There have also been some gameplay changes to the game. Mario Kart 8: Deluxe introduces a second item slot. In most previous Mario Kart games, you only had 1 item slot, but you could hold 2 items if you dragged one behind you, like a shell or banana peel. In Mario Kart 8, that was changed so that you could only hold 1 item, even if you dragged one behind you. In Mario Kart 8: Deluxe, you can hold 2 items even if you’re not dragging one behind you, thanks to the second item slot. Just run over an item box and the item will be held in the second item slot. There’s even double item boxes on the tracks now.

Two classic items from previous games return in MK8:D, the Feather and the Boo. The Feather is exclusive to Battle mode and it allows you to jump over obstacles. It can also be used to steal balloons in Balloon Battle if you hit someone with your jump. The Boo is available in race and Battle modes and can be used to steal opponent’s items and gives you temporary invulnerability to banana peels and shells.

There’s also a few new or tweaked driving techniques. The U turn has changed from, release A during a drift while holding ZR, to hold B while driving and steer left or right. This technique is exclusive to Battle mode. It comes in handy when you want to quickly turn around and hit someone. A new tier of mini-turbo has been added and they call it Ultra Mini-Turbo. This boost works the same way as the other drift boosts, you just have to hold your drift longer to activate it. You’ll know it’s ready when your sparks turn from blue to purple. And finally, the new Drift Brake allows you to brake while drifting, which you could not do in the Wii U game. This helps counter some of the sliding that happens when drifting and helps you stay on the track. This technique is most useful in 200cc, especially when using vehicles with low traction.

Mario Kart TV has also been changed around a bit. The YouTube component is completely gone. You can save up to 6 favorite replays and the game automatically keeps your last 12 replays, but there is no uploading or sharing at all. There is supposed to be a system update which will give the Switch video recording and sharing capabilities, so that’s probably the reason for the changes. Having video sharing in both the game and the system software would be kind of redundant.

As far as the graphics go, the game’s resolution has been bumped up from 720p to 1080p. You can even play splitscreen with 2 players at 1080p and 60 frames per second. The Wii U version’s 59 FPS bug has also been fixed and it runs at a true 60 FPS now. The Wii U version did 59 frames and then repeated one frame. I don’t know why that happened, but they never bothered to fix it in a patch. Everything else looks the same. MK8 was one of the best looking Wii U games and it looks even better now. I’d say Mario Kart 8: Deluxe is the best looking rendition of the Mario universe besides Super Mario 3D Land.

I think this game is totally worth it, even if you’ve already played the hell out of the Wii U version. The new Battle mode is a lot of fun, even if you can’t control the settings while playing random people online. I actually have a lot of fun just playing the computer on hard difficulty. You don’t even need online! And of course the racing part of the game is still amazing. This was already my favorite Mario Kart with just the racing part on Wii U and now it’s even better!