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Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on Switch
Mario Kart 8 definitely felt like a high point for the series when it released back on the Wii U. Yet, with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Nintendo has outdone themselves once again, delivering the definitive version of an already stellar title. All of the absurd mayhem you’d expect is here, and while Deluxe technically isn’t a new title, it packs a decent amount of new content.
In truth, Deluxe plays about exactly the same as the original Mario Kart 8, albeit with a few technical changes. All of the controls including drifting and item use are mapped to the same buttons they were on with the Wii U, although Switch has a few different options for control. Playing with two Joy-Cons, the Pro controller, or the Switch in tablet mode feels great, and HD rumble really adds a tactile feeling to your drifts and item pickups. However, things can get a little more difficult if you’re controlling the game with one Joy-Con, as the tiny controller feels a bit cramped and takes some getting used to.
A couple new control additions also make it easier for new or inexperienced players to keep up. Smart Steering is automatically on when you start the game, and it basically steers your cart away from drop-offs and track edges. It’s not something that’s going to give you an advantage over a seasoned pro, but it’s definitely an addition geared towards accessibility. Meanwhile, auto-accelerate is a boon to everyone, letting you select an option that automatically keeps your cart accelerating at all times, instead of requiring you to hold down the A button. A few other small changes also make Deluxe the smoothest Mario Kart experience, like a super drift boost and two-item carrying capacity, allowing for more freedom with power-ups.
Besides being one of the smoothest playing racers around, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe also runs like a dream on the Switch. The upgraded hardware is clearly working for the game, and combines with its colorful aesthetic to make a visually stunning experience. Beautiful vistas surround each track, textures look incredibly detailed, and characters are all vibrantly animated. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a brilliant follow-up to Breath of the Wild in showing what Nintendo can do, graphically, with their new hardware.
Of course, the most important addition to Deluxe probably comes in the way of Battle Mode, returning once again to the series. This fan-favorite mode switches things up by having players duke it out with power-ups in one of five modes. Classics like Balloon Battle and Bob-Omb Blast return, although my personal favorite mode in the entire game comes with Renegade Roundup. This battle mode is basically a game of cops and robbers, splitting players into two different teams. One team is equipped with Piranha Plants, and is tasked with capturing the other team. When captured players are locked in a cell, that can be opened by another member of your team. It’s a wild and hectic mode that really allows for some fun moments, especially when playing with friends.
Eight different maps are playable in Battle Mode, including Urchin Underpass from Splatoon, which somehow seems right at home in Mario Kart. Of course, there’s a ton of other content outside of the new battle mode. Deluxe features all of the tracks from the original Mario Kart 8, along with all of the DLC tracks that were previously released. This puts the count at a whopping 48 tracks, providing a ton of diversity. Almost universally, each track in the game is engaging in its own way, although some stand out more than others. Personally, I found myself enjoying the DLC tracks far more than any others, as they feature some really smart design, and cameos from series like Zelda, Animal Crossing, and F-Zero.
There’s also a wide array of characters and karts to choose from, with over 40 characters now featured in the game. Deluxe does make some additions to the roster, adding on Inkling Boy and Girl, King Boo, Dry Bones, and Bowser Jr. All characters are unlocked from the get-go save for one, but you’ll be unlocking new kart customization parts as you earn coins. This lets you experiment with different vehicles and options, and finding the play style that’s just right for you.
There’s plenty of content to dig into with single player with 50, 100, 150, mirror, and 200 cc, plus even more with Time Trials and Battle Mode. The big appeal of Mario Kart, however, is playing with friends and there’s plenty of options for that. Online multiplayer remains pretty much the same from the original game, and I had very few technical issues in my time with the game.
With the exception of a couple disconnections, online multiplayer ran smoothly. You can also play local co-op on one system, and local multiplayer by connecting up to eight Switches together via Wi-Fi or via LAN adapters. Admittedly, one disappointment in the multiplayer options comes in the form of a problem with the Switch itself: the lack of voice chat. This is something that will, of course, be added later, but it’s a bit of a letdown to not be able to form a party with your friends on the Switch and chat, instead having to seek out methods outside of the game.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe may be based off of a three year old game, but it feels fresh on Nintendo’s hybrid console. Being able to take the excellent experience on the go is a huge draw, and there’s a decent amount of new content at the same time. However, the truth is, this isn’t a new Mario Kart game. For all the new additions, fans that sunk hundreds of hours into the Wii U version won’t find an abundance of new content. Despite this, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe truly is the definitive version of the game, and probably of the entire series. It’s a gorgeous, content-packed experience, and the perfect game to fill your time with while we wait for upcoming Switch titles.
SCORE: 4.5/5 – GREAT