Nintendo don’t often do DLC, but when they do, they put every other company out there to shame. The first pack of Mario Kart 8 DLC is priced at £7 / $7.99. Or, for £11 / $11.99 you can bag yourself this pack, have the next pack (due next Spring) pre-ordered, and get palette swaps for Yoshi and Shy Guy. Pretty awesome, right?
So, what does this first pack of DLC contain? Three new characters, eight new tracks, and four new vehicles for your troubles, that’s what, and I’m happy to report that it’s more than worth the asking price.
Let’s get the biggest news out of the way first: Link, the green clad hero from The Legend of Zelda is in Mario Kart, confirming that Nintendo is quite happy to casually make fanboy dreams come true at the drop of a hat. Naturally, some people have complained that Link looks a little out of place in Mario Kart, but then these people should probably not be playing a game where an Italian plumber races a giant fire breathing lizard across a rainbow bridge in space. At any rate, Link looks great in this game, and any Nintendo fan worth their salt will squee the first time he pulls out his Master Sword when he tricks off a ramp.
With one of the free characters being such a fresh and exciting addition to the roster, it almost seems a shame that the other two characters are essentially alternate costumes for Mario and Peach, especially considering we already have Metal Mario and Pink Gold Peach (still confused by that one). Tanooki Mario and Cat Peach are two new inclusions that no one is likely to get too excited about, but then again, they put Link in the game, so Nintendo could come round to our houses and wee on our children, and I’d still love them for that.
The new vehicles are all great, and visually striking creations. The B Dasher returns from Mario Kart DS, and the Master Cycle looks exactly like what you would imagine Link’s motorcycle would look like (if you were ever weird enough to imagine something like that). Meanwhile, the Tanooki Kart looks like what you would imagine a raccoon would look like if you turned them into a Jeep (stop imagining these things), and of course the Blue Falcon makes an appearance from the F-Zero series, sparking further hopes that one day Nintendo will buckle and give us the F-Zero on Wii U that we all want.
Seriously Nintendo, give us F-Zero.
I’ve discussed the characters and the karts, all of which are substantial and fun additions to an already great game. However, we all know that the real meat – and joy – of Mario Kart comes from the tracks, otherwise we’d all just be driving around in a car park, and that game wouldn’t be half as much fun.
This DLC pack offers a mix of new tracks, and some from Mario Kart‘s extensive back catalogue. Obviously, the newer ones are the more exciting, with the standout easily being Hyrule Circuit. This Zelda-themed track offers great attention to detail. Instead of coins, you pick up rupees to go faster, and there’s even a mini puzzle for you to solve halfway round the track which results in the Master Sword appearing for you to do some cool tricks off. The whole thing is soundtracked by a brilliant orchestral rendition of the main Legend of Zelda theme, and you’re left wondering why Super Smash Kart isn’t a thing yet.
Excitebike Arena is another great new track that evokes that warm feeling of nostalgia, with music hot from the NES cartridge. Players can do all kinds of awesome tricks off the myriad of ramps and dirt hills. Dragon Driftway is perhaps the most beautiful of the new tracks, with a look based heavily on ancient China, and some great use of the anti gravity features as you twist and turn along the gorgeous architecture.
Ice Ice Planet is perhaps the weakest of the new tracks, with a relatively simple route and not a lot of use of the aforementioned ice. It’s still fun, it just feels like something of a missed opportunity. This is made up for in spades with the last of the new tracks however: Mute City is taken straight from F-Zero, a high-speed race that makes frequent use of the anti gravity feature and is sure to have a lot of newcomers plummeting to their deaths more than a few times before they master its many turns.
The retro tracks are Wario’s Gold Mine, given a huge HD facelift from its last appearance on the underwhelming Mario Kart Wii; Yoshi Circuit, which was one of our favourite tracks from Double Dash on the Gamecube, and the original SNES game’s Rainbow Road. SNES tracks usually tend to be the weakest, as they can’t make massive use of Mario Kart 8‘s unique features; but with so much else on offer in this DLC pack, we can forgive them one dud track.
The new Mario Kart 8 DLC exceeds expectations in every way, offering up heaps of fan service, and extra hours to squeeze from the game. With two new cups to bag three stars for, and eight new tracks to master on Time Trial, If you have Mario Kart 8, you absolutely need this pack.