by Matthew Thompson
Downloadable content is something I’ve wanted to see in Mario Kart for years. As my favorite multiplayer series, Mario Kart titles get played at my house long after release, so getting some new content added along the way is a huge plus. With its first DLC for Mario Kart 8, Nintendo has delivered with both quality content and great value. Here is my breakdown of what is included in The Legend of Zelda pack.
This DLC features three classic tracks. The first is Yoshi Circuit from the GameCube’s Double Dash. It kind of reminded me how flat that game could feel due to its lack of a hop button, but it looks lovely with the new graphics and will put your powersliding skills to the test. Wario’s Gold Mine is probably the best of three retro courses in the DLC. MK8’s new anti-gravity feature is worked in nicely including being able to spin boost off of passing mine karts. The final of the three older tracks is Rainbow Road from the SNES version. This track is about as old-school and no frills as it gets. Very flat, none of the new features worked in. I personally prefer Mario Kart in 3D, so these more two-dimensional courses aren’t my favorite, but your mileage may vary. I would have at least liked some interesting twists added with some of MK8’s features. The three classic courses are solid additions, but they aren’t exactly all-time greats from the series. They also don’t feature any mind-blowing tweaks to their design like some of the ones featured in the base game.
The new courses fare much better. Dragon Driftway seems to take its inspiration from Super Mario Galaxy 2’s Gobblegut. As the name of the track would suggest, you’ll find yourself drifting around the curvy ins and outs of a dragon-shaped course. The thing is loaded with small details like those depicted in the wall murals while zooming through interior areas. It takes place almost entirely in anti-gravity and a few clever shortcuts round out a great new raceway for Mario and company. The other original Mario universe-inspired effort comes in the form of Ice Ice Outpost and may be this DLC pack’s best track. The weaving paths of the Outpost may remind some of Electrodrome or even the newest Rainbow Road, but I feel this course does them the best. It includes three different shortcuts along with the choices provided by the crisscrossing main lanes, two of which feature the kind of risk-reward I like in a good shortcut. The frozen look and feel to the course bring it all together for something you’ll want to play each time you and your friends sit down for a few courses.
Along with all of this, this pack introduces content based on some other well-known Nintendo properties. One course is inspired by the classic NES title Excitebike. The aptly named Excitebike Arena has a simple oval design. The ramps that fill up most of the track actually change each time you play the level which is a very cool touch. These sharp-angled jumps and the pools of mud littered throughout help bring the Excitebike feel to the track as does the amazing reworked music that will play as you complete your laps. The shape has drawn comparisons to Double Dash’s chaotic Baby Park, but the longer straightaways and plethora of jumps make it a bit more friendly to folks more into the racing aspect than filling the circuit with bouncing shells, which is a mark in Excitebike Arena’s favor in my opinion.
The next of these crossover tracks is Mute City based on the F-Zero series. I love how they reworked the way you collect coins to more closely resemble mechanics from F-Zero. That is just one of many references to that series found here including some well-done tunes. I don’t think I enjoyed this one quite as much as the other two crossover tracks. I’d like to say it is because of the design, but it may be mostly because I have less nostalgia for F-Zero than the others.
The final DLC course is Hyrule Circuit. I was never enamored with the idea of Link being in Mario Kart. Unlike some people, I am fine with Mario Kart being Mario-focused and not turning into Nintendo Kart. Despite my apathy towards Link joining the race on his Master Cycle, I think this Hyrule Castle-inspired track is excellent. It isn’t the most challenging of courses, but it is a well-rounded one. And like the other two tracks I just talked about, it is loaded with references to the series from which it spawned. Rupees replace coins. Deku Babas replace Piranha Plants. You’ll be treated to plenty of Zelda sound effects and a great remix of the classic Zelda theme. There is even a secret ramp that can be opened which will allow you to nab the Master Sword. Partly because of my affinity for The Legend of Zelda series, this course resonated a bit more with me than the other crossover tracks, but I think it is one any Mario Kart fan will appreciate.
On top of these eight courses, you get three new racers (along with Link, you get Tanooki Mario and Cat Peach who are both pretty cute new additions), four new vehicles (the returning B Dasher, Link’s Master Cycle, F-Zero’s Blue Falcon and my personal favorite the Tanooki Kart, a cool raccoon-styled jeep) and a pair of Zelda parts (Triforce Tires and the Hylian Kite). None of these hurt, but I think the main appeal is the new tracks
Mario Kart’s first foray into downloadable content is a total winner. The price is great especially if you get the bundle ($12 for 16 tracks whereas 32 come in the full game) and the content they delivered is high quality stuff. The retro tracks, additional racers and added karts are solid, but I came away most impressed with the new course designs. And I appreciate the work Nintendo put into the crossover tracks. They didn’t need to make the kind of tweaks they did to give each the unique flavor of the series they drew inspiration from, but they did and it shows a high level of care for the content. If you own Mario Kart 8, this DLC is a no-brainer purchase.