Our first impressions of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: Booster Course Pass (Wave 1), developed by Nintendo. Wave 1 (of 6) available now for Nintendo Switch.
READY SET GO
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is fantastic. We said as much in our recent Switch “state of play” here.
Unfortunately, its new (and long-overdue) first batch of Downloadable Content is… average? As we’ll get into below, it’s effectively a glorified port of an existing mobile game, which is disappointing, though not deal-breaking.
But with only one wave and eight courses to speak of, it’s too soon to run a full review of the DLC pass, which is set to include six waves (48 tracks total) over the coming years. Instead, here are some first impressions after a couple weeks with the first wave.
MTX 8 DELUXE
I confess there was a time, not so long ago, when I found myself logging in daily to Nintendo’s mobile gacha game Mario Kart Tour. An impressive looking but ultimately shallow take on the fabled progenitor kart series, Tour‘s biggest selling point has been its consistent release of new characters, 144 and counting. Of course, 90% of those characters are palette swaps, and 100% of them are walled behind in-game storefronts, but with diligence and judicious spending habits, I managed to scrounge together a decent roster of favourites like Luigi, Penguin Luigi, Classic Luigi, Builder Luigi, and Lederhosen Luigi – all without spending a nickel of real-world money. Then I quit, because daily logins and microtransaction-heavy gacha games will actually break my brain.
Tour‘s other selling point is its expansive track list, with mobile-friendly renderings of tracks both beloved (N64’s Kalimari Desert or Wii’s DK Summit) and new (Vancouver Velocity is a standout). The game looks amazing, with nice upgrades to retro tracks dating back to the SNES, though in the end it’s still a mobile release with expected graphical limitations. Now, five years into the lifespan of Switch’s Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and two-and-a-half years after Nintendo went to the trouble of porting all those classic tracks to Tour, Deluxe is finally set to benefit from those efforts.
In other words, the new DLC “Booster Course Pass” looks and smells an awful lot like a port of the mobile Tour. That’s… okay, I guess, if it means that we’ll get to (re-)experience 48 tracks’ worth of classic races and new creations previously only available in Tour. But it’s weird and disappointing that Nintendo is charging a full $32.99 for what amounts to a quasi-upscale of a mobile game.
As for what’s here so far, the first wave of DLC includes eight tracks, and they’re all pretty good! For reference, here’s the complete set of new tracks, split into two new “cups”:
- Toad Circuit (3DS)
- Choco Mountain (N64)
- Coconut Mall (Wii)
- Shroom Ridge (DS)
- Sky Garden (GBA)
- Paris Promenade (new from Tour)
- Tokyo Blur (Tour)
- Ninja Hideway (Tour)
There are clear standouts, like the beloved N64 track Choco Mountain and Wii’s Coconut Mall, although – as in the core MK 8 release – the retro tracks have all been nerfed in various ways. For example, there are less ledges to fall off, you’re less likely to get knocked out by environmental effects (like the falling boulders in Choco Mountain), and when you do get knocked out, recovery time is much shorter. It’s frustrating that Nintendo keeps tinkering with the classics like this, resulting in ever-easier versions of classic tracks that feel like shells of their former selves.
Still, even if they aren’t quite as you remember them, it’s nice that the retro remasters look a lot better than they did back in, say, 1996 (Choco Mountain) or 2008 (Coconut Mall). Unfortunately, they also look a lot worse than existing MK 8 Deluxe tracks, including other ports from those eras. To be fair, the Booster Pass doesn’t appear to be 1:1 ports of mobile Tour tracks, but it’s obvious that far less effort has gone into making them match the look of modern MK 8 Deluxe on Switch.
Surprisingly, it’s the new courses, borrowed from Tour, that fare best. Back in my Tour days, I had a blast zipping through the streets of Tokyo in Tokyo Blur, flying by the Eiffel Tower in Paris Promenade, or weaving across rooftops in Ninja Hideaway. For tracks originally built for mobile, they’re remarkably well-designed, and I look forward to more of them making their way to the MK 8 Booster Pass. At the same time, I think part of the reason they work well as DLC is that they don’t carry the same weight of memory as the retro tracks. Nobody was clamouring for an HD makeover of Tour‘s Ninja Hideaway, but people who saw the MK 8 Deluxe reimagining of N64 Toad’s Turnpike and had high hopes for Choco Mountain will be sorely disappointed.
Yes, the Booster Pass is a bit of a cash-in.
I can’t imagine it took much effort to slap together these ports, whether they’re assets lifted directly from Tour or if they used similar software to throw them together. Honestly, given how slapdash it all feels, I’m surprised they didn’t just drop all 48 tracks at once. I’m not convinced the allure, such as it is, of forty more courses over the next few years will be enough to justify this purchase.
On the other hand, the DLC is free if you’ve already subscribed to the Switch+ Online Expansion Pack, which also comes with an online-multiplayer port of Mario Kart 64, aka the best Mario Kart ever made. If you find yourselves longing for the pure, true versions of Choco Mountain or Toad’s Turnpike, or if you just wanted to make your old college roommate cry (with nostalgia and/or anger), MK64 awaits.
Visit the official page for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe here.