I'm playing Mario Kart 8 again.
That opening statement, in itself, speaks to the draw of this new content. After it came out initially, back in May, I played enough Mario Kart 8 to realize that I still didn’t like single-player at the higher CC tiers, and while I did enjoy online multiplayer, the lack of voice chat during games meant it wasn’t all that different from playing against the computer. I got my fill of Mario Kart 8, and put it down.
Then the DLC announcements came. Mercedes-Benz cars come down the pipe, and we heard of a Season Pass that would add 16 news courses courses and significantly bulk up the character roster. I’m not really sure why anymore, but I bought the Season Pass. I was rewarded with multicolored Yoshis and Shy Guys.
But the first actual DLC track pack came through recently, and I’ve had a good amount of time to adjust to it. It’s really spectacular, but it doesn’t really change my overall feelings about the game.
Let’s talk about the new characters and karts first. Tanooki Mario, Cat Peach, and Link are the new characters. I find it disappointing that, rather than find other Mario characters to stuff in these games, we’re getting alternate versions of existing characters—Pink Metal Peach wasn’t bad enough? Get Toadette back in there, or Paratroopa or King Boo. You should run the Mario Kart character well dry before going to suit-versions of those characters. Link is the real star of the show, though. It’s the Skyward Sword version of the character, and he hoists his Master Sword to the sky when pulling off tricks. He fits in surprisingly well.
The new vehicles are more exciting—the Blue Falcon from F-Zero, the B-Dasher from Mario Kart DS, and the Master Cycle, which looks a little bit like a horse. The Master Cycle gets two custom parts, as well: Triforce Tires and the Hylian Kite glider. As usual, all these parts can be mixed and matched with existing karts and parts.
But the real action is in the two new cups: Egg Cup and Triforce Cup.
The Egg Cup comprises three brand-new tracks and one retro classic, and they are among the game’s more impressive. Yoshi Circuit, a Double Dash holdover, is a twisty, colorful course with one or two shortcuts that will put your drifting skills to the test. Of all the tracks, it’s the one that feels the least inspired, but it’s fun. Excitebike Arena is an interesting throwback in that it’s a 3D representation of the NES Excitebike track, so you’ll be avoiding patches of mud and taking a LOT of jumps off ramps. Despite being randomly generated (!!), the ramps are well-placed, encouraging you to chain multiple jumps together for an essentially continuous boost. Dragon Driftway is a crazy loop-de-loop of a course that is easily my favorite of the four new tracks. Mute City, which is from F-Zero, is straight-up insane. You’ll spend the whole time in hover mode, which is fitting, and the winding, speed-boost-heavy track is insanely fun. The music, of course, is also amazing.
The Triforce Cup is an odd mix of classic and brand-new courses. Wario’s Gold Mine makes a return from Mario Kart Wii, and it’s just as fun this time around. Rainbow Road is a remake of the SNES original, right down to the Thwomps, whose smash attacks cause the raceway to ripple (you can trick off the waves). The 90-degree corners can be harrowing, but if you can find your line, this is a great track. Ice Ice Outpost is a unique course with two occasionally-intersecting paths, neither of which is clearly superior to the other. Finally, the Hyrule Circuit provides a fairly easy but entertaining ride around and through Hyrule Castle. Watch out for the Deku Baba plants!
These are all great courses—my least favorite is the Yoshi Circuit, but only because every other new course makes it feel so vanilla by comparison. I said this back when Mario Kart 8’s hover-mode was first announced, and I still feel this way: F-Zero is dead, but Mario Kart is absorbing its core components. This theory is further validated with the inclusion of the Blue Falcon kart and the Mute City course. There are certainly plenty of differences between Mario Kart 8 and, say, F-Zero GX, but I’d rather have this than no F-Zero at all. The character selection is weak, and they’ve got to know that. Tanooki Mario and Cat Peach are basically shout-outs to Super Mario 3D World. I could give you a good long list of characters from previous Mario Kart games that could’ve been included instead. Link is great, though; he seems really happy to be here.