The Nintendo Switch has been in the public's grasp for over three months now and I recently got one as a birthday gift from my loving girlfriend. Among the starting games I got with it, the one I spent the most time with so far is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Here are my thoughts on this re-release of the Wii U title that comes with some additional content and enhanced graphics.
Back in the Driver's Seat
The original Wii U release of Mario Kart 8 was in May 2014. I played the heck out of that game when it came out and loved every minute of it. To me it felt like one of the most fun and aesthetically pleasing Mario Kart titles to date. The music of the game was also stellar and live recorded by a number of different composers and musicians from Japan.
I played the title religiously, unlocking every character, cup, kart and bike (including all their tires and gliders) and loved every minute of it. I played so much that I ended up doing pretty well in online races against other players too.
It was easy for me to jump back in with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Besides the differing control methods, not much has changed minus a brand new Battle mode that's excellent. This time around there's also a few new characters and vehicles that have been added to the roster, but no new courses sadly besides the battle stages.
The ability to hold two items at once (ala Double Dash!!) has been included, as well as a third tier for drift boosting with pink sparks which provides a stronger boost after navigating a turn successfully. Weight classes of some characters have also been altered slightly, affecting how fast they go and if they get bumped around by other "heavier" characters.
Overall the way I play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe hasn't changed drastically from when I was playing it on my Wii U a couple years ago, but the extra item slot is great and provides more versatility while trying to come up with the best way to earn 1st place in a race. Two new items from past Mario Kart titles also make an appearance in Deluxe in the form of the feather from Super Mario Kart, allowing players to jump over obstacles and the Boo item from Mario Kart 64 allowing them to steal another player's item. These add even more strategy to the game.
All of the characters (except Gold Mario) and courses that were originally DLC for the Wii U are now available from the get-go in Deluxe, which is great news for new Switch owners looking to get into a fun title with some of their closest friends and family. Karts, Bikes, ATVs and their parts will still have to be unlocked though.
A Battle Mode that feels Right
The biggest missed opportunity of the original Mario Kart 8 was its Battle Mode. For some reason specific racing courses were repurposed for use in Battle Mode and it just didn't feel right. Luckily for us Nintendo corrected its mistake by including 8 arena style courses, 5 brand new ones and 3 from previous games. All of these are a joy to play on and reminded me of the fun I had while playing Battle Mode on both Mario Kart 64 and Mario Kart: Double Dash!!
There are five different ways to battle including the standard Balloon Battle, Shine Thief, Coin Runners, Bob-omb Blast and Renegade Roundup. All of these are fun in their own way and are even better online with 11 other human controlled players. Renegade Roundup is the only truly new mode and has a cops and robbers feel to it, with players on the cops side trying to capture the robbers by driving into them with their piranha plant deputy. The robbers can free their teammates by driving into a key switch underneath the cell they are being held in. If all the robbers are caught the game is over or if all the robbers manage to elude capture for the full 2 minutes then they win.
Portability and Longevity
The most convincing selling point of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the ability to take it with you wherever you go and get the full fledged current gen Mario Kart experience. Whether you're playing by yourself in the Switch's handheld mode or with 3 other players in tabletop mode, the versatility of it all is unparalleled for gamers looking to get their Nintendo fix whenever and wherever they may be.
To me, the convenience the Switch provides is more than worth the asking price for buying Mario Kart 8 Deluxe at full price again. While new racing courses for this version would have been awesome, the 48 courses from the original title and its DLC are more than enough to keep Mario Kart fans busy racing for a long time especially on the go. The new characters, vehicles and items are a nice addition too. Battle Mode provides some of the most fun you will have with this new title in your Switch library. Deluxe should be a blueprint for future Wii U re-releases that are inevitably coming. Overall Recommended.