The first of two planned Mario Kart 8 DLC packs was released this morning for the Wii U. In order to access these DLC packs Nintendo requires players to pay $7.99 USD individually, or $11.99 USD for both in a bundle. What could have easily been a free content release from Nintendo ended up costing Mario Kart fans (but mostly their parents) around the same cost as a 40-piece chicken nugget meal from McDonald’s.
The first DLC pack was released November 13th on an early Thursday morning in North America. It features two cups with four courses a piece, three unique playable characters, one new kart and one new bike (with the Wii’s Blue Falcon and DS’ B Dasher karts making returns). Out of this new content five of the eight tracks are unique to the Wii U; with Yoshi’s Circuit from the GameCube, Wario’s Gold Mine from the Wii, and the original SNES version of Rainbow Road making its way into both cups.
The Skyward Sword portrayal of Link debuts in the Mario Kart world with this pack and is sized to be either middle-weight or heavy-weight. He has a pair of Zelda-themed animations when tricking off a ramp, and has to tuck his feet and legs when racing in smaller karts in the most adorable way possible. He also brings the tricked out Hylian “Master Cycle” with him in this pack. The Master Cycle is one of the heavier bikes, with a high top speed and low acceleration. It is virtually identical to “The Duke” bike, with a slight edge on handling and lesser traction, so you can hook and turn around the other 11 Links on Master Cycles when playing online.
Tanooki Mario (Super Mario Bros. 3) and Cat Peach (Super Mario 3D World) both make their fluffy middle-weight debuts into Mario Kart along with the “Tanooki Kart.” The Tanooki Kart is set up as an off-road Jeep-looking vehicle, with balanced stats and exceptional traction. It is the slowest of the three new karts, and has a color-scheme themed around the Tanooki suit. Players can now breathe a sigh of relief as they have four different Mario and Peach character options, yet still no King Boo.
Two returning karts from previous installments, the “Blue Falcon” and “B Dasher” are the typical speed versus acceleration options. The Falcon fits in nicely in its return and is a bit lighter, but accelerates much more quickly with slightly better traction. Plus it includes the added bonus of pretending you’re Captain Falcon zipping around Mute City. The Dasher has a bit more weight to it as well as an edge on top speed, it serves the exact same purpose it did in the DS version – being a speedy yet well-rounded kart – and doesn’t bring much else to the table in regards to visual design when lined up against an F-Zero kart and bike crafted with an embedded Hylian shield.
The first circuit, the “Egg Cup”, holds three new additions to the series and one classic course.“Yoshi’s Island”, making its return from Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, is about forty times as curvy on the road (and about 15% less shaped like Yoshi.) Players will be using the powerslide button on this track like it’s a Mario Party mini-game. There are only a couple of hazards throughout the course, and the sharper turns, close quarters, and few straightaways keeps everybody close throughout the race.
“Exitebike Arena” has to be one of the more satisfying courses to play in all of Mario Kart 8. Filled with small, medium, and large ramps similar to the original 1985 NES title. The arena has a few sections of mud and grass to keep players honest, but still contains wide open straightaways with few turns in between. This allows racers to blast full-speed without fear of repercussion, with the biggest threats being the player next to you.
“Dragon Driftway” is twisty, winding, and punishing with plenty of turns without barriers. Its design is ornate and feels more like a modern Mario Kart course with its spin-boost pillars and flying sections. One of the more challenging of all the new tracks, the Driftway has everything a standard Mario Kart 8 track would feature, all while running through the body of a giant Chinese-themed dragon.
“Mute City”, the fictional city in the F-Zero series, is an extremely high-speed course with boosters packed to the brim. With only a few areas where things could truly go wrong, Mute City is the right amount of accessible and intense. There are turn sections that feature light-pads lining the road next to the walls that allow players to add coins to their kart the longer they remain on the pad. This keeps every racer clocked up at top speed, keeping the theme of the track in constant motion. One of the better crossover tracks, it’s pretty tough to get cooler than playing Mario Kart racing the Blue Falcon with the revamped classic F-Zero theme song blaring in the background.
The second circuit, the “Triforce Cup”, will bring back two classic tracks as well as introducing two new ones. “Wario’s Gold Mine” is another more challenging track of the group. Taken from the Wii version and only altered in subtle ways, the Gold Mine retains its roller coaster feel with steep blind drops and wide turns. Even though the course only features a few subtle hazards, it’s the cramped railroad tracks and open edges that keep players humble. Visually the map will feel identical to those familiar with the Wii version, with a slight next-generation upgrade in lighting and textures.
For this version of “Rainbow Road” Nintendo brought back the SNES version, the grandfather of them all. If players remember the original, and succeeding installations, Rainbow Road has always been the most punishing track of each cup. This throwback is no different. With few alterations, except for a few Whomps removed here and there, racers can expect a harsh, small-sized map with nothing to prevent you falling off at all times. One way the track seems to suffer in the current state of Mario Kart is the diverse arsenal of items at the players disposal can now make things feel a bit more chaotic than before. Regardless, if the player is looking for a map to weed out those who can’t handle a challenge, bringing back this version of Rainbow Road will get the job done.
This is now the third installation of a Rainbow Road version in Mario Kart 8, and the twelfth time its been in the series overall.
“Ice Ice Outpost” is a brand new creation from Nintendo for this DLC pack. The course consists of two separate roads that twist around each other and conjoin in certain sections. Players are constantly intertwined with one another despite the track separation, and the final run towards the finish line has a typical jump-ramp that will launch players and glide them down to the final turn. The map is approachable for all types of players, and is rather straightforward in its design with rails at almost every turn preventing even the most inexperienced racer from falling off.
The most anticipated track of the entire pack, “Hyrule Circuit” is a charming fan-service for Nintendo fans of both Zelda and Mario Kart. The course lets players zip around Hyrule Field before being thrust through the inner-workings of Hyrule Castle. The most clever parts of this track are the subtle ones; with coins being re-skinned as rupees and piranha plants turned into Deku Babas.
Unfortunately the track itself runs a little more short than a serious Zelda fan would want, with the only active section of the course being the grand hall holding the Master Sword. Players won’t be treated to any areas showing off Zelda’s rich overworld of the Kokiri forest, Lake Hylia, Death Mountain, or plenty of other themes that could have been turned into race zones. But for the Zelda franchise’s first introduction into the Mario Kart series, things will hopefully be left open for future content to be taken advantage of and added into the mix.
For avid fans of Mario Kart 8, this DLC pack will serve as a nicely bundled first course of the overall DLC meal. It’s a fair mix of classic, new, and fan-service maps guaranteed to have one track that satisfies somebody. For those expecting a little bit more from added Nintendo content requiring payment, it might be a bit of a standard experience expected from Nintendo at no additional cost. But at essentially $1 a track (not including the bonus karts and characters) this first DLC pack can easily be considered a fair deal.