Mario Kart 8 is back for another race around the track. By reviving the Wii U era game with minimum additions, it seems Nintendo thinks that it was the Wii U console — not its software — that caused the system to sell so poorly, and it’s trying to bring the nearly 3-year-old game to what it hopes is a wider audience on its $300 hybrid console.
Initially released in 2014 for the Nintendo Wii U, Mario Kart 8 is being re-released on Nintendo Switch as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Edition, just missing the $300 console’s March 3 launch date and coming out on April 28. An updated version of the original title, the Deluxe Edition is adding some new features, but doesn’t seem to be bringing that much more to the racetrack.
It is, however getting one thing right: Dry Bones, the skeletal turtle-like Koopa Troopa (and my go-to racer in the series), is back as a playable character.
His bony awesomeness isn’t the only new addition. The Deluxe Edition includes all of the original Wii U game’s content — yes, even the DLC — as well as new characters (the Inklings from Splatoon), returning Mario-universe denizens (the giant ghost King Boo, Bowser Jr.), and a tweaked Battle Mode.
Switching things up
It has a sprinkling of other new features: Racers can now hold two items at the same time; it has two new Battle Mode courses (Urchin Underpass, again from Splatoon, and Battle Stadium) and returning courses (Luigi’s Mansion from the GameCube and SNES Battle Course 1); three new vehicles; and a Smart steering feature that assists drivers. But even added together, it’s not a ton of new content, especially if it ends up that there aren’t any new racing tracks proper, just battle ones.
Just by nature of being on the Switch console, it will have other differences inherit to the system. My demo had the Switch in tabletop mode, using the tablet portion as the screen without a TV. The new Joy-Con controllers do offer a unique way to play — players can remove both the left and the right Joy-Con from the Switch screen and immediately have two controllers for multiplayer on the go. I was worried about the smaller size of the Joy-Con controllers, but it seems to work, though I’m still not quite sure if it’s a way I’d want to play Mario Kart for long periods of time.
Being a motion control Mario Kart aficionado, I’m happy that the Joy-Con retain motion controls for steering. It also uses the new HD rumble, though in a weird and anemic — not really the deep rumble players might be used to — way, with it almost feeling like their were little balls inside of the controller itself. Either way, new rumble features aren’t a reason to go rushing out and pick up a game by any stretch of the imagination.
New kart just like the old kart
Now, Mario Kart 8 is far from my favorite Mario Kart game, but bringing it back — instead of developing a new entry in the series, as Nintendo traditionally does for new consoles — means that Wii U-owning Nintendo fans have already played the majority of what it has to offer already. The new additions are mostly superficial, and they might not be enough to convince players who purchased the original title to double dip. The flip side is that, especially given the Wii U’s poor sales numbers, customers who skipped the Wii U but pick up a Switch have a Mario Kart entry sooner than later in the new system’s lifecycle. It’s a trade-off that Nintendo has decided is worth it, but it still has to convince fans to buy it.
Even with the play-on-the-go mentality that being on the Switch brings, I’m just not sure if portability in and of itself is enough of a draw, especially on a title that’s already been released. I’m on the fence about whether or not I’ll even end up double dipping on it, and my disdain for the original release combined with the lack of new features may end up trumping the fact that there’s a Mario Kart game out I don’t have … even one with Dry Bones. And especially at $60, I think it might be a tough sell for others as well.
But, hey, at least there’s Dry Bones.