With a brand-new console comes a brand-new wave of quick-and-dirty ports, ready to fill in the gap between the big titles. In need of a really definitive multiplayer game (Puyo Puyo Tetris doesn’t count), how will the Switch form an online userbase before Splatoon 2 comes out? With one of those quick-and-dirty ports, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
Mario Kart 8 originally released on the Wii U to some serious accolades. It’s often considered the best Mario Kart to date, and since the Wii U crashed and burned pretty hard, porting it to the Switch seems like a logical choice.
It’s got all the Mario Kart gameplay you love – driving fast, hitting boosts, drifting sparks, and hurling items, hoping desperately that someone behind you doesn’t have one of the dreaded Blue Shells that haunt gamers’ nightmares. But what did Mario Kart 8 do differently from all the others?
It introduced the anti-gravity mechanic, letting karts pull an F-Zero and drive up and down and all around. It also changed dynamics, encouraging bumping into your fellow racers to get mutual boosts – which lead to attempting to force your opponent off the stage through giving them a not-so-helpful push.
It also introduced the Super Horn, the counter to the Blue Shell, that with a well-timed attack, could destroy it. It brought back bikes, added ATVs, and refined a lot of game systems. Items were reworked so “holding” one behind you didn’t free up a slot, forcing players to be a bit more strategic with their item use.
With a solid track list, bolstered even further by some excellent DLC tracks, Mario Kart 8 was an excellent package. Online play was pitch-perfect, and the soundtrack and visuals stunning beyond all belief. But alas, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows.
The Battle Mode, a cherished gamemode since the series’ beginning, was horribly butchered, seemingly beyond repair. The game forced all battles onto the actual in-game tracks as opposed to the arenas of games past, and the modes on display weren’t too hot either. It was a complete wash and a stain on an otherwise impeccable experience.
Deluxe, however, fixes a lot of problems Mario Kart 8 had. Aside from introducing a lot of characters people felt were missing from the original…
It also brings in a new-and-improved Battle Mode! Rejoice, one and all!
Battle Mode once again takes place in arena-style areas, removing the in-game tracks from the selection entirely. You have eight places to cause trouble in, five brand-new ones and three returning favourites.
The host of gamemodes has also increased to include pretty much all the ones from games past. The standard balloon-popping variant, along with Shine Thief, Bob-Omb Blast, and Coin Runners, with a brand-new mode: Renegade Roundup.
Renegade Roundup is essentially cops-and-robbers. A team of “cops” try to catch a team of “renegades.” The cops all have permanent Piranha Plants (and can use other items on top of this!) that, when munching a naughty renegade, put them in one of the jails on the map. Once all of the renegades are in jail, the cops win.
However, the jails can be broken by the renegades if they’re able to hit the switch underneath them. Thus begins a careful game of cat-and-mouse. Players also score individual points based on their captures or rescues. Renegade Roundup is a lot of fun, and it’s an excellent addition to the series.
Aside from that addition, players can now carry two items at once in all game modes, heralding the return of the Double Item Box from Double Dash!! The end result has even more chaos on the course than the original release, and considering how notorious Mario Kart is with its items, at times, the game can feel like it’s beating you mercilessly.
The rest of the release is just tune-ups. Aside from the flashy new Battle Mode, Deluxe’s enhancements are all under the hood, presenting the definitive Mario Kart experience at long last. Portability adds a lot, too, and the game runs silky smooth at all times. Local multiplayer lets you connect multiple Switches wirelessly and works quite well, at that, allowing two players at once for each individual system. Playing using the JoyCons also feels really good, this title has sold me on the versatility of the controller.
If you’ve got a Switch, this is a game worth picking up.