by Matthew Thompson
Nintendo has delivered another swath of great new content for Mario Kart 8 this month. Just like the series’ first foray into the world of downloadable content last fall, MK8’s latest DLC delivers fresh new courses, remade classics and new characters that feature some crossovers from other Nintendo franchises, all at a very affordable price.
This time around they’ve included four classic tracks from previous entries remade for the Wii U. The first is the divisive Baby Park. Some love the chaos that ensues on this short track, but I personally would have preferred a more racing-focused course. It isn’t even a particularly good remake. With some of the crazy special items of Double Dash missing and the newly implemented divider in the middle, it doesn’t even deliver the insanity it is known for during normal play. The added amusement park background is nice, but ultimately superficial. It is the rare Mario Kart 8 classic track that doesn’t actually improve on the original’s design. I did love the music getting more and more frantic with each of its seven laps, but overall it still feels like a waste of a slot to me. Neo Bowser City comes over from MK7 and is a solid if unspectacular addition. The rainy nighttime setting gives the track some good atmosphere while the twisting roadways will put your powersliding skills to the test. It reminds me a bit of Yoshi Circuit in that way.
Alongside these, this latest DLC pack brings over a couple of courses, Cheese Land and Ribbon Road, from the Gameboy Advance’s Super Circuit. That is the only MK game I haven’t played, so I wasn’t sure what to expect but I came away impressed with both tracks. I tend to favor the 3D courses as opposed to the flat ones featured in the SNES and GBA games, but the developers have given these both such radical makeovers, you’d never know they weren’t from one of the more recent entries in the series. Both are challenging and feature some clever shortcuts while at the same time putting MK8’s new bells and whistles to good use, but I found myself particularly taken with Ribbon Road (pictured above). The general toy room theme is wonderful and well-realized with Mechakoopas shuffling onto roadways and Jack-in-the-Box Koopa Clown Cars acting as legitimate obstacles during the gliding section. It ranks amongst my favorite classic courses in the game and showcases the dev team’s knack for sprucing up old tracks.
These redone classics are joined by four wholly original course designs. Wild Woods is probably the most visually stunning of the bunch, situated amid a forest village teeming with Toads and Shy Guys. The weaving waterways recall MK Wii’s Koopa Cape while the wooden raceway is reminiscent of that same game’s Maple Treeway. I’m not sure Wild Woods is quite as clever as either of those from a pure design standpoint, but it remains a worthy addition to Mario Kart 8’s growing suite of tracks. The next one is themed after the Animal Crossing series. Like the crossover tracks in the Zelda DLC, they do a good job of merging little franchise-specific ideas into the proceedings. That means Bells replacing coins, prize boxes hanging from balloons, and most importantly changing seasons. The latter means four variations on the same course. These all help an otherwise fairly standard track stand out a bit more.
My favorite course in this pack is Super Bell Subway. It feels like a mix of Coconut Mall with its modern indoor locations and some of the traffic-based stages from throughout the series with its central train hazard. And I just love all the routes available to you including the opportunity to get some air from a jump atop the train itself. The overall design of it all is just superb. The final level is Big Blue. As another F-Zero themed track, it features similar tweaks to the last DLC’s Mute City and once again puts Mario Kart 8’s anti-gravity feature on full display. I prefer Big Blue to Mute City though and find it to be one of the better sprint-style levels in the game (meaning it breaks one long course into three sections as opposed to having traditional circuit laps).
While the eight tracks are the main appeal of the DLC, you’ll also get some other goodies in the package. That includes three new characters, two of which hail from the Animal Crossing series (Isabelle and a Villager with male and female versions) plus Dry Bowser (a skeletal version of the Mario villain). There are also four karts. Again two are Animal Crossing themed (the Skreetle and the City Tripper), then there is the P-Winger (based on the Mario power-up) and finally the Bone Rattler which is intended to be Dry Bowser’s ride. To top off the Animal Crossing theme of this pack, there are a couple kart parts: Leaf Tires and a pretty nifty Paper Glider that looks like a good old-fashioned paper airplane.
Another noteworthy addition is the new 200cc class which comes alongside this DLC pack in a free update. Trying it for the first time is a bit of a shock. It is just that fast. You really have to change the way you play. While I still feel 150cc is the sweet spot, I can really appreciate Nintendo adding this new speed as it is exactly what many fans want and I have enjoyed the extra challenge.
Nintendo knocked it out of the park once again with this new DLC for Mario Kart 8. Tons of amazing content awaits you with this Animal Crossing pack and the price makes it a great value. Both of Mario Kart 8’s major DLC drops have made a fantastic game even better. I’m not sure if there is any more in the cards, but I’d happily fork over some cash every six months for a couple new cups especially if they matched the quality of the ones found in these first two packs.