Originally released on the Wii U in 2014, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the definitive edition of the game. With all previously released DLC included, up to eight players local play with four Switch consoles and a revamped Battle Mode, it’s almost as if Nintendo has created the perfect Mario Kart game. Almost.
From the get go all in-game characters are unlocked, as are all of the available tracks and game modes; a particularly good choice on Nintendo’s part as players who have already purchased MK8 on the Wii U will unlikely want to spend time unlocking their favourite characters all over again. This is not to say that new players miss out on the thrill of unlocking something new. Most of the vehicles and accessories still need to be won by collecting coins. It’s a decent tradeoff and I think returning players will appreciate it as much as new players.
Just like the original MK8, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe features an online mode where players can face-off against other racers from around the world either alone or with a friend. This can be done on the same console or by jumping into a friend’s game while they play. For all of Nintendo’s faults the online multiplayer functions seamlessly. With this being said, however, I did encounter a number of connection issues, one of which would not let me rejoin the online servers until the next day.
The online play functions much like it does on all previous incarnations of the series. Once in a room, players all pick their favourite maps and one is randomly selected to play. Gameplay is smooth and I’ve yet to experience any lag; though random connection errors seem to be an issue at the moment. With this being said, they’re few and far between and have yet to discourage me from firing up the online mode.
While the online multiplayer is good, the local multiplayer is where MK8D really shines. Due to the unique setup of the Switch, there are a number of different control methods for players to try out. Up to four players can go head-to-head on a single console using a mixture of Joy-Cons and Pro Controllers. Nice and simple, split screen gameplay. The Switch can then connect up to another seven consoles to allow eight player madness; all through local play. The Switch connects to the other consoles via an Ad-hoc connection, creating a local network. While I found this to work fine most of the time, I did encounter a few connections issues, even while the consoles were within a few meters of one another. Moving closer did seem to rectify this issue, however.
Now, I’m not usually one to harp on about frame rate and resolutions, but I feel this is a necessary point to make. While docked the Switch runs Mario Kart Deluxe at a cool 60fps in 1080p; everything is bright and crisp. The attention to detail is even more evident in this version of the game and it truly looks fantastic. Even when running in handheld mode, the drop to 720p is hardly noticeable and on the Switch’s screen, the visuals still look just as good as they do on the TV. Through hours upon hours of gameplay I’ve yet to experience any slowdown, both while docked and in handheld mode.
Although a direct port of the Wii U version, Nintendo has added a couple of extras to make Mario Kart 8 Deluxe feel more like an upgrade. Two items have been re-added to the weapons cache from previous games in the series. First is the Feather, wich can only be obtained in the game’s battle mode and allows players to jump over oncoming shells as well as low walls. The second item to return is the Ghost. This can be used during races; when activated it turns the player invisible making them impervious to other items as well as stealing an item from another player in further in-front.
Another returning feature is the ability to collect two items in one go. This feature was used in the Game Cube’s Mario Kart: Double Dash – one of my absolute favourite entries in the series. Unfortunately, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe still only allows you to choose one player, but collecting two items can cause havoc on the race track. I didn’t find the number of items too overwhelming in normal offline play or with local play with friends. The feature works well and gives players who are further behind a better chance of catching up while equally allowing players further in front a chance to protect themselves more.
This all changes once you venture online. Disappointingly, online play becomes more of a ravenous free-for-all. Players in first, second and third are relentlessly hounded with Red Shells, Lightning, Ink and the dreaded blue Spiny Shell. Only players who have mastered each and every track fair a chance against the onslaught of projectiles; getting as far in front as possible is the only way to ensure a victory. There is a matchmaking system, but for the moment it’s inconsistent and fails to match players with others of the same skill; only for the reason that players who’ve championed the Wii U version have had little to adjust to moving to the Switch.
Overall, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is certainly a step up from the standard version of the game. The addition of two items as well as the reworked battle mode certainly makes it feel like more of an upgrade. The ability to have the full Mario Kart experience anywhere is not only an added bonus but one that caters to the style of gameplay; it compliments the game and shows us the real beauty of the Switch. Despite a few issues Mario Kart 8 Deluxe could be considered the definitive version of Mario Kart. It may not be perfect but it’s not far off.