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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mario Kart 8 DLC is the Bee's Knee

I think it's a pretty safe assumption that the Mario Kart franchise is the best spin-off series in the plumber's long history. You know you're doing something right when not only your main series is still going strong, but your chaotic cart racing series is going full speed ahead right long with it.

Martio Kart 8, the latest in Mario's famous racing series has been selling like hot cakes. The game was already jam packed with content right out of the packaging. 15 returning tracks from previous entries with fresh takes on them along with 15 brand spanking new courses, which have quickly become some of my most loved digital roads to race on. Then you've got all the car parts and customization that was returned from Mario Kart 7. On top of that, Mario Kart 8 brought in characters that had never been in a Mario Kart previously like the Koopalings. Even items have been balanced out the Blue Shell showing up less frequently and a way to destroy the accursed item with the Super Horn. All this and some pretty smooth online racing.

Mario used all those coins he collected from
New Super Mario Bros. 2 to buy everyone a stylish set of wheels.

Not long after Mario Kart 8's release, Nintendo dropped one word, three letters: DLC. DLC is nothing new these days. It became common place in the console gaming platforms during the Wii/PSX/360 era with the later two systems brimming with the stuff. It's no surprise that those three letters can make most gamers groan, especially how so many companies like to screw gamers over with DLC, with locking it on the disc and holding back content to release at a later time even when the game is still being worked on. Nintendo, for all of their faults, releases DLC properly, having a better handling on DLC than lots of other companies. 

The first DLC content came in the form of three Mercedes Benz automobiles. That's right, the Big N was gonna let us drive Mario and the gang around in stupidly expensive licensed cars. I originally thought these cars would just be a cosmetic thing but it turns out each Benz has it's own set of stats like all of the other carts in the game. It may be a little strange to see Mario and company in Benz cars in unrealistic environments, but Mario games have hardly ever been normal. The best thing about the Benz DLC? It came at the cost of zip, zero, nothing. We didn't have to pay a dime to see Luigi drive around Cloudtop Cruise in a 1934 W 25 Silver Arrow. 

Yet, there were fans that still wanted new characters and new courses out of Mario Kart 8 DLC. During one of their Nintendo Directs, the company revealed that they had much more DLC to give us. But unlike the Benz, we'd have to drop some cash for this stuff. When they showed us what they had in store, Nintendo already had our money. Cat Peach, Tanooki Mario, Link?! The Blue Falcon from F-Zero?! New tracks?! Sign me up!

Yoshi circuit from Mario Kart: Double Dash!!
was a track I was not expecting among the DLC
since I didn't stay up to date on things. 

If I may, I'd like to talk about Link for a bit. His and the upcoming inclusion of Animal Crossing characters to the Mario Kart series is kind of a big thing. Until now, only Donkey Kong and Diddy have been the only outside characters in the world of Nintendo to be able to drive along with Mario and company, at least as far as the consoles go (the Mario Kart Arcade GP games star Pac-Man) I've heard a few people actually complain that adding Link is just sad and spells the death of the series, which is just eye rolling on so many levels. If you want to get people stoked about some new characters in Mario Kart, dipping outside the Mario universe and choosing someone like Link is a pretty good way to go about it. How adding everyone's favorite pointed eared hero is killing Mario Kart is far beyond my comprehension.

Excitebike Arena is sorta like Baby Park. Except all
the hills which allow you to trick like a maniac. 

We had to wait until November to get the first Mario Kart 8 DLC pack, which contained three new characters, three new carts and eight tracks. After gawking at the screens, I was as excited as anyone but I was a bit miffed that we'd have to wait. I didn't watch the trailer for this DLC over and over again, nor did I really keep up with the screens that Nintendo released. Sure, I knew some good DLC was on the way in the first pack, but since I didn't really make it a thing to stay up to date on things, I didn't know just how good the DLC was gonna be until November 13 rolled around.

As November 13th drew closer, I started paying more attention to the upcoming DLC. A track based of off Excitebike? Cool! Wait, what's this? Mute City?! We haven't had an F-Zero game in 10 years so I welcome any homage to that series I want to see return someday. And a track based off of Hyrule? Come on, November 13, get here already!

Again, while I payed some mind to a bit more details of the DLC, I didn't look into all of it. Much of the pack 1 DLC was a surprise to me after I downloaded it. The B Dasher returning was a welcome surprise as was the new Tanooki Kart.

They say seeing is believing. Well, when it comes to gaming, there's a difference between seeing something and experiencing it. When I finally got my hands on the first DLC pack, I could not stop grinning it up.

I decided to roll with the Egg Cup first and like many of you, the first new character I chose was Link. And to have the Captain with me in spirit, I used the Blue Falcon. I really wasn't expecting Yoshi Circuit from Mario Kart: Double Dash!! to be reborn in glorious HD. I was never too fond of the track due to the abundance of curves, but playing it once more has taught me how to handle it, to the point that I don't mind it's inclusion at all. Dragon Driftway also took me by surprise. The concept of racing inside a huge dragon is cool in and of itself, but Nintendo somehow managed to blend rock with ancient style Chinese music. Freaking awesome!

The love I have for this track cannot be put into words.

As a long time fan of F-Zero, I wish for the series to be revived as much as the next guy and while a single track node doesn't make up for it's absence, the appreciation shown in Mario Kart 8's version of Mute City is just too good not to acknowledge. The entire course is anti-gravity since F-Zero is an anti-gravity racer. Meaning, you can bump other racers around you for a boost. And the pink strips used for refilling energy are also there, and they give you coins since the track has no visible coins on it. Every time you complete a lap, you get a free boost, like the original F-Zero gave you a boost to use for completing a lap. And then you have boost pads everywhere! Yeah, there are some sections of courses in Mario Kart 8 that have boost pads like the final stretch of Mount Wario but not quite like Mute City. There is a definite emphasis on speed here and that wonderful, sexy, jazz-rock arrangement of the Mute City them is crazy awesome. You better believe I'm gonna be mentioning that baby in Favorite Tunes sooner on later.

I've heard some gamers cite the inclusion of SNES Rainbow Road as a bad choice. It's always been one of my favorite courses and I used to be so awful at it all those years ago. I don't know if much has changed from the Mario Kart 7 version of it, outside of the lovely HD look and the fact that it now rests of Donut Plains III, a retro course in Mario Kart 8 that was also in Super Mario Kart. Nice touch, Nintendo.

Hyrule is about to encounter a whole new kind of
terror. The one known as road rage.

Iceice Outpost looks like it takes place on a crossing bobsled track and I really like how all the different paths intersect. And then you've got all those shortcuts, some of which I'm still finding out about. No doubt I'll find even more shortcuts here when I see racers speeding past me when I play online. Still, I fear this course may be overshadowed by Mount Wario if it ever comes up along with it in course selections. Players love them some Mount Wario.

Mario Kart 8 has been a title I've regularly been playing since I picked it up back in early June. Between breaking time trial records, beating my own times, trying to get three star rankings and online play, the game has so much to offer. Mario Kart 8 seems to be the game that keeps on giving. It kinda reminds me of those Special Words in Super Mario 3D World. That brutal post game content really did extend the length of an already fantastic platfomer. Likewise, this DLC breathes even more live into a game that is already teeming with it. 

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