While games on both Microsoft and Sony’s platforms have had downloadable content for years, Nintendo are still quite new to the table. After successes with the extra content for both New Super Mario Bros. U and New Super Mario Bros. 2 (on the 3DS), two of Nintendo’s biggest releases this year now have content packs with both Mario Kart 8 and Hyrule Warriors having extra content being released. Taking a leaf from other companies’ books, both games have had a season pass for content made available, with a number of packs coming for Hyrule Warriors and two track packs for Mario Kart.
The first of these is now out, which Nintendo have titled ‘The Legend of Zelda x Mario Kart 8’. As well as the DLC, a new patch for Mario Kart 8 was released at the same time which adds support for Nintendo’s upcoming Amiibo figure line. Much like Skylanders or Disney Infinity, these are small statue figures which can link up to compatible games. Nintendo have stated how the Amiibo figures will be compatible with a number of games, introducing the possibility of rewards in one game based on how you’ve done in another transferred by the Amiibo. For Mario Kart 8, various Amiibo figures will unlock racing costumes for the Mii racer based on outfit of that character.
For its first track pack, Nintendo have gone back to some of their most well loved franchises and designed tracks based on them, but I’ll come back to these in a moment. Firstly, we have the retro tracks, bringing back classic tracks from Mario Kart games of old. I was completely expected there to be four of these, and have the cups mirroring those of the main game with four new and four returning tracks. Instead there are only three, with five new tracks instead. Unlike the regular cups, these are mixed in with the new ones, so you have one cup with two new, two old and the other with three new and one old. I found the choices of the retro tracks to be a little odd.
Continuing Nintendo’s theme of letting me down by not including Wario Stadium from the N64, we instead have Wario’s Gold Mine from the Wii. Wario Stadium was one of my favourite tracks of Mario Kart 64 and its constant absence from the retro tracks continues to both confuse and madden me. We’ve now had I think every single other Wario themed track from past games, including the DS version of Wario Stadium turn up apart from that one, and I’ve almost given up hope of it turning up again. Maybe Mario Kart 9? Anyway, Wario’s Gold Mine is a perfectly fine track, almost completely unaltered from it’s original version (aside from now being really shiny, of course) and still plays well.
Next up is Yoshi Circuit, originally from Mario Kart Double Dash!! on the Gamecube. Another odd choice, as this track has already had a second appearance in Mario Kart DS, but it has been some time since DS came out I guess. They layout of this track features elements from both versons, as the DS version removed as shortcut which still isn’t present here while the overall layout is closer to the original. I’ve always rather liked Yoshi Circuit, it’s a fun track and as I mentioned in my review of the main game I’m a big Yoshi fan too which helps.
The last retro track is Rainbow Road from the original Super Mario Kart on the SNES. While a very memorable track from that game I can’t help but feel that it’s a little redundant. Not only was it in the retro tracks on Mario Kart 7, it also now is the third Rainbow Road in the game. I would have much rather seen the Double Dash!! version of Rainbow Road here if it had to be one, but really would have preferred something different altogether.
Moving on then to the new tracks. Ice Ice Outpost is probably my least favourite of these. Taking place mostly on bright green and yellow roads that go through and around an iceberg, it’s a fairly straightforward track that didn’t really do much for me. The layout is fine, I think it’s just the ice aesthetic.
Dragon Driftway is the next track, an ancient Chinese themed track that takes place on a giant dragon (modelled on Gobblegut from Super Mario Galaxy 2) which is a very cool looking track that makes huge use of the games antigravity gimmick, looping up and around itself.
The final three tracks in the game are all based on other Nintendo properties, and are probably the main selling point of the DLC.The first, the Excitebike Arena, is based on the classic NES game Excitebike. Much like the original game, it takes place on a dirt track although in a first for the series the obstacles such as jumps and mud patches a different each time you race the track. While this is pretty cool, at the end of the day the track is just an elongated oval, so sadly isn’t the most exciting track in the game. Thankfully, the other two tracks more than make up for it.
Mute City is based on the track of the same name from F-Zero, and it’s absolutely stunning. Antigravity is again used heavily as the track loops up and down above a futuristic city, the classic Mute City soundtrack plays and the usual coins on the track are replaced by the traditional F-Zero charging lanes. It’s bright and colourful and well, just really great and anyone familiar with F-Zero will get a great nostalgia kick.
The last track in the DLC is the headliner, Hyrule Circuit. It takes you on a tour around Hyrule Castle, through the surrounding town and some countryside areas as well as through the castle itself. The central room of the castle features the Master Sword in its pedestal as well as having a secret jump shortcut that you can activate by hitting three crystal switches, accompanied by the classic Zelda tone when you uncover a secret. Much like Mute City the coins are gone, here replaced by the currency of the Zelda series, rupees. The track plays a fantastic new version of the Legend of Zelda overworld theme that’s a bit faster and more active than the usual versions, and works really well with the level.
The DLC also adds three new racers, Link, Tanooki Mario and Cat Peach. The latter two are featured in power up costumes from Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario 3D World respectively, but Link is of course the hero from the Legend of Zelda games, making his first appearance in a Mario Kart game. He seems oddly tall, huge especially compared to other humans in the game, but looks and sounds spot on as well as making sword slashing moves and using the Triforce when doing stunts.
With the exception of Donkey Kong (who has always been linked to Mario since his first appearance anyway) and Nintendo Entertainment System accessory R.O.B., the racers in the Mario Kart series have always all been from the main Mario games until now, so the addition of Link is quite a surprising one. In a way though it makes me wonder why more Zelda characters, specifically Zelda herself and Ganon, also don’t appear here. Tanooki Mario and Cat Peach are fine and all, but there were already three versions of each character in the game anyway so their additions to the roster seemed fairly irrelevant to me. I raced as both briefly, simply to get rid of the red star on the character select screen indicating that they were new.
Finally, there are four new karts included. The first is Mario’s iconic B Dasher, which was prominently featured in both Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart 7 - it’s the one on the cover of Mario Kart DS. The second is the Tanooki Kart, a fairly standard looking Jeep decorated in the colour scheme of Tanooki Mario.
The next two karts are by far the more interesting ones. Link gets a horse styled motorbike, the Master Cycle, complete with Triforce tyres and a glider featuring the Triforce as well. The bike looks pretty awesome, particularly when being ridden by Link. The last kart is the Blue Falcon from F-Zero. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about picking up the Captain Falcon Amiibo when it comes out so that my Mii can be dressed as Captain Falcon riding the Blue Falcon in Mute City.. Come on Nintendo, when are we going to see a new F-Zero game?
Leaving my yearning for a new F-Zero aside, I’m rather pleased with the new content. While I could have easily lived without two of the characters or karts, if nothing else the DLC has brought us another 8 tracks for Mario Kart 8 and while I would have preferred other tracks for some of the retro ones they are still more tracks to add to the game and that’s always a good thing. With the DLC priced as low as it is (£7 a pack or £11 for the season pass) there really is no good reason for any Mario Kart 8 fan to not pick these up.
The second DLC pack, Animal Crossing x Mario Kart 8, is due out in May of next year. While I’m nowhere near as big a fan of Animal Crossing as I am Zelda, I’m still eagerly looking forward to these tracks as they’re almost certain to deliver the same level of quality and I hope these pave the way for more content, on Nintendo’s other games generally and, if we’re lucky, maybe even more for Mario Kart itself.