Nintendo have, in the past, always advocated that they would always choose to ship a complete game to consumers, rather than force them to expand their experience through downloadable content.
It’s an admirable strategy especially when compared to those of their competitors, but it has meant that players have had to be left satisfied with the content that populates games that only ever release once in the lifetime of each of their consoles.
That’s certainly been the case for the rampantly frenetic Mario Kart series, but that is all set to change tomorrow when The Legend of Zelda x Mario Kart 8 DLC Pack 1 welcomingly drifts onto the Nintendo eShop. With three new playable racers, four new vehicle options and eight new tracks – building on the already expansive 32 tracks in the main game – we were recently invited by Nintendo UK to take everything for a spin ahead the DLC’s arrival. So, let’s give you a rundown!
Taking time out from his repeated tussles with Ganondorf, Link is undoubtedly the highlight among the new additions to the playable character roster. Taller than most of his Mushroom Kingdom competition, much hilarity was had early on in witnessing how Nintendo have squeezed him in to Karts by bunching his knees up. Performing tricks sees the Hylian hero thrust the iconic Master Sword skyward or blaze the Triforce to taunt competitors, while Nintendo’s love for finer detail sees his green cap playfully rustle in the wind – much like Shy Guy! Coming in at the more heavily-weighted end of the character scale means that he will surely be a popular choice for proficient players on the competitive scene.
Initial reaction to Tanooki Mario may have been dismissive in believing that Nintendo have simply dressed the Italian plumber up in his iconic suit, and that assumption’s correct to a large degree. Still a middling weight class, it is in the joy of witnessing the accompanying trick animations that players will take delight from this new addition – whether that be gently floating in a circle, wagging his bushy tail or turning into the invincible statue that was seen in Super Mario Bros. 3.
It’s great to see Super Mario 3D World‘s Cat Suit make an appearance, even if we discover that Cat Peach falls into a similar camp to that of Tanooki Mario. Remaining a medium weight class, it is Cat Peach’s trick animations that will lend visual variance as you speed around Mario Kart 8’s numerous tracks. The perfect accompaniment to the game’s Cat Cruiser vehicle, the costume change sadly makes far less of an impact than the other new characters – clenching her claws, licking a paw, or kickflipping over jumps.
Revealed by The Legend of Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma through Miiverse, the Master Cycle is the most striking vehicle to rock up in Mario Kart 8’s already exhaustive garage. Modelled after Link’s equally legendary equine companion Epona, the bike, which handles somewhat tightly when drifting around corners, sees Hylian Shields slapped on to either side. With other customisable parts including the Triforce Tyres and Hylian Kite, The Legend of Zelda aficionados will feel right at home with this ride.
If Tanooki Mario didn’t already have your tail wagging, Nintendo have also chosen to serve up the accompanying Tanooki Kart. Designed around a jeep, this slightly weightier alternative remains just as mischievous in style. Chunkier wheels aside, an extra is strapped on to the rear of the vehicle that matches the tanooki tail in colouration.
Making a return appearance after Mario Kart Wii is the Blue Falcon. Although rather than taking inspiration from Nintendo 64’s F-Zero X as before, this instead now winds the clock back further to the original F-Zero on SNES. Speedy although risky due to its lighter frame, it proved the natural choice alongside the Mute City track.
The B Dasher is more instantly recognised as the kart which Nintendo’s mustachioed plumber is leaping into on the Mario Kart DS cover, but rolls up to the starting line for the first time on console in Mario Kart 8. Prioritising speed over any other parameters, it’s ideal for skilled drivers who want to lead the pack but can make do with reduced control over handling and drifts.
Egg Cup (3 new tracks, 1 retro track)
Yoshi Circuit leads the returning tracks, having first appeared in GameCube’s Mario Kart Double Dash!! Shaped around Mario’s much adored fruit-guzzling companion – clearer when viewed from above – the course has plenty of twists and turns to keep you on your toes.
It feels wrong to drive around Excitebike Arena in anything but a bike, but the track is one of the most riotously hilarious additions. The oval-shaped track, inspired by NES classic Excitebike, is populated by hilly climbs, mud splats and boost pads, resulting in a race that can be predominantly won by chaining as many boosts together as you can. A clear favourite for me, despite the deceptive simplicity of it all.
Dragon Drift Way is a somewhat nauseating addition to Mario Kart 8’s tracks. Blending Chinese-styling with that of Super Mario Galaxy 2’s menacing Gobblegut, the anti-gravity laden track is a topsy turvy affair that had our stomachs churning in our four player split-screen session. After whizzing through the wooden Gobblegut’s innards you’ll race out along the dragon’s tail, although the continually shifting camera direction makes this more a battle of concentration than skill.
F-Zero’s true return may still not have come to light, but Mario Kart 8’s new Mute City track will let many settle for the next best thing. This high octane ride is, as you could expect, entirely anti-gravity with a generous smattering of boost pads throughout its entirety. While no Coins can be found dotting the track, speeding along F-Zero inspired energy strips will fill your racer’s coffers letting you concentrate on surpassing the competion to claim victory.
Triforce Cup (2 new tracks, 2 retro tracks)
Wario’s Gold Mine
While it’s still unclear as to how the ever greedy Wario managed to claim his own gold mine, it’s great to see this popular track from Mario Kart Wii rejoin the line-up. Now more resplendent in high definition, there isn’t much change here aside from the addition of anti-gravity sections that have been inserted into the existing course. Still remaining upright, this invites you to collide with the passing mine carts to receive a welcome speed boost – helping you to take the lead or catch up to the competition.
We’re not sure whether Mario Kart 8 needed a third Rainbow Road track, but the Triforce Cup marks the return of the original that appeared way back in Super Mario Kart on SNES. Nostalgia aside, this comes as a disappointment – the track broadened to ease frustration and feeling rather tame throughout. Thwomps now slam the neon-infused flooring to furiously ripple it toward you – which took us by surprise the first time around – but aside from that it doesn’t quite set the pulse racing.
Ice Ice Outpost
Ice Ice Outpost isn’t as skiddy an experience as the track’s name would have you believe, and instead sees you steering your way around intertwining tracks – respectively coloured green and yellow. This again felt like a trouble-free track to make your way around despite the narrow design, and can’t quite match the exhilarating descent down Mount Wario.
Easily rivalling Excitebike Arena as the DLC’s neatest track addition, Hyrule Circuit will undoubtedly be the first that keen racers will wish to speed around. And it’s absolutely glorious, with a resounding Zelda theme remix to boot. This will see you leave dirt trails across Hyrule Field, before descending into the very depths of Hyrule Castle. Once inside if a player activates three successive crystals for spin boosts, a speed boost ramp will appear that allows you to collide with the Master Sword itself for another. Rupees replace Coins, and the Item Wheel jingle is replaced by a sped up version of the music that accompanies Link whenever he opens a treasure chest.
New amiibo support
The heralded arrival of DLC Pack 1 will be accompanied by a new software update for Mario Kart 8, which will activate the now revealed support for the company’s amiibo range. Those that scan either Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, Link, Captain Falcon, Fox, Samus or Kirby figures will unlock access to a Mii racing suit themed around each respective character.
Scanning the amiibo in to unlock each suit is a one-time process, meaning that you can take your figure around to a friend’s house to expand their racing suit collection without any consequences. They’re all carefully designed, but the Yoshi, Donkey Kong, Star Fox and Captain Falcon suits are clear favourites!
The Legend of Zelda x Mario Kart DLC Pack 1 will be available from Thursday 13th November priced at £7.00 ($7.99), as will the Animal Crossing New Leaf x Mario Kart 8 DLC Pack 2 arriving in May 2015. Both can be purchased as a discounted bundle for £11.00 ($11.99), with those that buy each pack receiving eight-coloured Yoshi and Shy Guy characters as a bonus.
Particularly comprehensive for such a low entry price, if anything this is an ideal sign that Nintendo’s approach to downloadable content is headed in the right direction.