Friday, 10 November 2017

Review No. 134 Mario Kart 8 Deluxe - Nintendo Switch (3+)

Strong Points:
Works excellently in all Switch modes
Even more characters and karts
Boo and Feather are nice item editions
Purple boost and two item slots are incorporated well
Battle mode has been remade!
Mario Kart on the go is where it's meant to be
Crisp graphics and animations
Online works well

Weak Points:
At least another cup would have been nice (especially for previous DLC owners)
The ability to compare kart setups is still not here
No Mission Mode yet

In-depth Review:

Release Dates:
World Wide: April 28th, 2017

Controls (Two Joy-Con Set Up):
Left Analogue Stick: move kart/move menu
Right Analogue Stick: move camera
A: accelerate/select
B: brake/reverse/back
ZR: jump/(hold) drift/trick
ZL: use item

(One Joy-Con Set Up):
Analogue Stick: move kart
A/Left D-Pad: accelerate
B/Down D-Pad: brake/reverse
SR: jump/(hold) drift/trick
SL: use item

I've always been a fan of Mario Kart, having every successive game from Mario Kart DS and picking up the SNES version on VC as well as Double Dash!! when I picked up a GameCube a couple of years ago. This is probably my favourite version (besides the nostalgia given to the DS version). It is the most polished and complete version of a Mario Kart game so far, with very little wrong.

Battle Mode is the biggest addition so I'll talk about it first. The original MK8's battle mode was pretty bad. It basically consisted of some 'repurposed' maps from the normal cups, resulting in massive areas of no activity and an overall boring experience. I wouldn't say it detracted from the experience but never really added anything either. Nintendo seemed to listen to critics' complaints, remaking Battle Mode from the ground up with specialised maps, more game modes and quickening the pace. I'd call it a tie with Mario Kart DS for best MK game and it is definitely a massive improvement than MK8 for Wii U. It easily expands the playability of the game tenfold, especially due to the added mobility of the Switch.

There are five separate modes in Battle Mode now. Firstly, we have regular Balloon Battle, which has you try and pop as many of the enemies balloons as possible in a time limit. Having smaller, enclosed maps really help to keep the tension in these matches, and the fast pace and regular items make it really enjoyable to play. Next, we have Renegade Roundup - a new mode specially made for MK 8 Deluxe. Basically, it's cops and robbers and it's pretty good, adding a team layer to the normally single player experience. However, I did notice a slight handicap for the coppers as only one robber needs to get to the cells to free everyone.

After that, we have Bob-omb Blast. Originating in MK Double Dash!!, Bob-omb Blast is a very specific version of Balloon Battle, using just Bob-ombs. This makes the game even more frantic, with bombs exploding everywhere. I wouldn't call it quite as good as Balloon Battle, but it's fun all the same. Coin Runners is next, returning from Mario Kart Wii. Grab the coins and keep them. Simple as that. Finally, we have Shine Thief, a returning mode from MK Double Dash!!, it has you trying to retrieve and hold onto a Shine Sprite for 20 seconds. I really liked the too and fro of this mode, although it can take a while! Overall, my ranking is Balloon Battle, Shine Sprite, Renegade Round-up, Coin Runners and finally Bob-omb Blast.

The Switch's mobility is more than just being a hand-held, we've had plenty of Mario Kart games like that. It finally reaches the point where being on hand-held doesn't limit the game graphically or performance wise, actually allowing you to just 'pop on' (without minute long wait times in between). Being able to seamlessly move it to tabletop mode for multiplayer or big screen for parties means the accessibility of the game is just amazing. We could be out and my sister would ask if she could play for a bit, we'd then stop at a restaurant and have a multiplayer game while waiting for food and then when we get home I can plug the game in and try and three star a 200cc cup. The small Switch screen is also big enough to enjoy 2-player split screen, although I can see 4-player split screen being a bit cramped.

The extra fine tuning present in this game needs to be included in all future 'deluxe' or 'game of the year' editions. Besides having six more characters and a few more karts, we also have two more items: Boo who makes you invisible and steals an item and Feather which allows you to jump in Battle Mode. There's also an extra Pink Mini-Boost and the ability to hold double items, additions which are added so smoothly it feels like they've always been there.

Not only that, but for newcomers to the game there's also two handicap options. Auto-accelerate (allowing you to focus on turning) and auto-steering, stopping you from constantly falling down. These are great as it allows the younger or 'weaker' members of the competition (namely your younger sister) to play and keep up, removing at least some of the frustration of the game. If there's one grievance I have with it, it's that they are automatically enabled and the icons don't make it completely clear that they are, making me play with them enabled for a bit. I felt like a God but it does feel like cheating...

Graphically the game is as good as it was on the Wii U, showing once again the optimisation skills of Nintendo. I haven't noticed any frame rate drops either, although having only played up to two player split-screen (only have two Joy-Cons), I can't vouch for anymore players. There's been little overheating as well, with the fan only getting loud if I've just swapped over from TV mode and BOTW into MK8 and handheld mode.

Again, due to the Switch's added mobility, the game invites small bursts of game time. If I'm waiting for the bus or something to cook, I'll just pop Mario Kart 8 on and complete a Grand Prix or race someone else. I've had to force myself to go on another game (namely BOTW) and even then I'll find myself coming back to MK8 just as quickly.

Finally, if I was to nitpick, I guess another cup would have been nice, especially for previous DLC owners. Also, the ability to compare Kart setups (with what would improve or decrease in value) would be nice, especially when comparing small differences for time trial, as I don't like having to resort to a wiki to compare easily. And maybe a Mission Mode like in MK DS?

Conclusion: overall this is the definitive version of Mario Kart, great for solo or multiplayer and I'd recommend all to pick it up.

Rating: 96%

Thanks for reading, Satamer.

P.S. Check out our original Mario Kart 8 review for the Wii U here

P.S.S. Is it just me or are Lightning Storms and Bloopers more abundant now?

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