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Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for Switch

I had thought that Mario Kart 8 was as close to perfect as the series could get, but it turns out I was wrong because Mario Kart 8 Deluxe manages to improve upon it. Wii U owners, such as myself, may be frustrated that they’re getting a re-release rather than a new game, but I’ve seen Mario Kart 8 take-off on the Switch on a way it never did, or ever really could, on the Wii U.

I won’t talk about the general handling or the tracks or anything like that, because I’ve already covered that in my review for the original game ( and the two DLC packs, which are included here ( & Suffice it to say that the handling is perfect and the tracks diverse, exciting and wonderful.

I’ll focus instead on what is added. I’ll begin with one of the most controversial additions, the introduction of ‘smart steering’ to keep you from falling off the tracks and an auto accelerate option. Some people (utter pricks) have criticised their introduction, saying that it ‘plays the game for you.’ Having these features on do not give you any real advantage, as you will always skip shortcuts and never really power slide or boost effectively. You might win in single player 50CC matches but that’s basically it and I don’t think anyone will consider that to be the core Mario Kart experience. It is something which allows the very young, or perhaps disabled gamers, to access and enjoy the game. How anyone could view this as a bad thing is beyond me. However, one tiny niggle is that the smart steering is put on automatically when you start, and this isn’t really indicated to you. It should default to off and then need to be turned on, not the other way around. This is literally the biggest flaw in the game by the way.

There are a couple of interesting changes to the core gameplay from the original. The first is the ability to hold two items at once, Double Dash style. In practice it doesn’t really change things too much, but it’s something nice to differentiate itself from the original product. I suspect that the more significant change will be the introduction of a third level of boost on the power slide, this time sending up purple sparks. The tracks aren’t designed for its use, with few corners lasting long enough to activate it, but the boost is massive and it feels amazing when you do pull it off. Neither of these changes mess with the almost perfect mechanics of the original game, but offer something a bit different nonetheless.

Easily the biggest difference in the re-introduction of a proper Battle Mode, which has been somewhat neglected after it’s arguable heyday in Mario Kart 64. There are plenty of different modes, from the classic balloon battle to the shine catching game from Double Dash. There are new courses too, with the most striking being one based on Splatoon, complete with soundtrack. The Inkling boy and girl are also introduced as racers in this game. The new Battle Mode rounds out and expands an already rewarding package.

All said though, the best addition to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is more a function of the Switch console than the game itself. Portable, instant local multiplayer is a game changer. The Switch’s appeal may not be as immediately obvious as the Wii’s, but I think this feature is a system seller. Each player can use a separate Joycon to split0screen race, anywhere you go. The single Joycon isn’t the most comfortable controller in the world and I don’t think anyone will be preferring it to a Pro Controller, but it does work, much better than you might expect. I’m not a fan of online gaming generally; I love multiplayer, but I usually only get that rush of excitement when I’m in the room with whoever I’m competing. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe shows me a vision of a bright future for local multiplayer, something which for many years has been steadily dying.

As a final point, I’ll share a video of what I was doing on Saturday night. For clarity’s sake, I’m the guy who’s amazing at Mario Kart, not the guy who’s amazing at rapping. I’m a good rapper at best. This guy is called Mega Ran by the way and he’s great, go see him. Support independent musicians.

I love this console and I love this game. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is essential.



Mario Kart 8 DLC Pack 2 for Wii U

So, Nintendo pretty much win at DLC right? Now that both are released I am struggling to think of any company that has released a better value pack than this. Containing eight new tracks and three new characters, this DLC Pack easily matches the first one.

As with the previous pack, this one contains four retro tracks and four new ones. The retro tracks are a good bunch, with me being particularly pleased with the return of my beloved Baby Park from Double Dash, which is very much the Final Destination of Mario Kart tracks. Another stand out is Ribbon Road, a fairly forgettable track from Super Circuit that is reimagined as a genuinely stunning track taking place in a child’s bedroom. The new tracks are excellent, of course, with the most immediately noticeable being the Animal Crossing track on which this DLC is based (which changes with the seasons) and a new F-Zero track based on the classic Big Blue. The new characters of male and female Animal Crossing Villagers, Isabelle from the same game and the surprisingly awesome Dry Bowser round out a hell of a pack.

Even though it was actually part of a free update (thanks for that Nintendo), I want to touch upon the new 200CC speed. It does more than just speed up the experience, it completely changes the way you approach the tracks. To be completely honest, it doesn’t really work; it’s clear very quickly that the tracks are designed for 150CC and that the natural rhythms of Mario Kart are lost. However, I think that 200CC is a fantastic addition. It may be a bit of a goof to try a few times for a laugh with friends, but it’s amazing that Nintendo gave us that and they really didn’t need to. The free update combined with very good value DLC once again show up other companies in comparison to Nintendo.

Mario Kart 8, particularly in the one or two player 60FPS, is possibly the most gorgeous game of this console generation and the new tracks are just as delightful and packed with detail as those in the main game. The music is wonderful and the animations for the new characters adorable. The core mechanics in Mario Kart 8 are the best in the series, but it’s also the most beautiful.

Putting aside nostalgia blindness, it’s hard to dispute Mario Kart 8 as the peak of the series and this DLC only makes it better. If Nintendo manage to bring this level of value to Smash Bros. I think I may cry. If you liked Mario Kart 8, get these two packs. Simple.


Super Smash Bros for Wii U

Call it a first world problem, but holding out for this game was tough. The 3DS version was so damn enticing, but I knew playing the inferior version first might dampen my excitement for the Wii U game. No criticism intended of the extremely impressive 3DS version, but I knew that the Wii U would be what delivered the true Smash experience for me. Super Smash Bros. is a lot of things to a lot of different people; for some it’s a casual party experience and for some it’s an intense eSport. I fall comfortably in the middle. I need a Smash game to be simple enough that anyone can play but with extra depths to master and Super Smash Bros for Wii U comfortably does that.

Mechanically, Smash Bros hasn’t changed a huge amount. Perhaps it’s just the glossy newness of it all, but I feel that it meshes the best of both worlds from Melee and Brawl. Despite being much maligned, I don’t think that Brawl was a bad game by any stretch. A lot of the new characters were brilliant and I like final smashes, but it was an undeniably sluggish experience compared to the zippy Melee. This new Smash isn’t as fast as that, instead raising the more deliberate style of Brawl to a much more enjoyable speed. The new characters are generally really good as well and fun to play as. Some characters like Rosalina & Luma, Little Mac and Shulk have interesting mechanics of their own to play with, such as Shulk’s ability to switch Monado Arts to buff different stats and Little Mac’s dominance on the ground but uselessness in the air. Although many clones are gone, almost every move set from previous games is back. The only exceptions are Snake and Ice Climbers, which is a shame, but with a roster this size it’s hard to complain. The core gameplay is simply superb, nothing much else to say.

Online multiplayer will be a big draw for many people. Not for me though; Smash Bros. will always be about local multiplayer. The whole thing is as obscenely customisable as ever so you won’t struggle to get your perfect style of game. One minor, but nice, change is that all the stages now have an ‘Omega’ mode, which essentially turns it into a standard Final Destination style level. This is a very nice touch for people who want a stripped back skill based experience when playing Smash but are sick of the Final Destination visuals and music. The Smash Tour mode is a fun diversion, adding a Mario Party-style mode where players circle the board collecting characters and skill buffs which are all put together in the end for a winner-takes-all rumble. I like this mode and will probably come back to it occasionally, but the actual board game part is quite dull, leaving me itching to just get back to regular battles.

One area which left me a little disappointed is the somewhat lacklustre variety in single player modes. The Classic and All Star modes are back and they work fine as a way to get you to grips with the characters. There are also a handful of mini-games and the Master Orders and Crazy Orders, which see you completing a bunch of challenges and then fighting either Master or Crazy Hand. The Event mode is the best single player mode, which sees you completing little challenges, often based around amusing scenarios Nintendo have concocted between the different characters. My biggest issue with this game is the lack of any kind of Adventure or Story Mode. I think we call all agree that Brawl’s Subspace Emissary left a lot to be desired, but I can’t be the only one who felt that it was pretty incredible seeing all these characters come together in a story context. Rather than throwing out the concept entirely, I wish Nintendo had instead worked to make that original concept better. That said, this is a game utterly packed with stuff, so criticising it for what it’s lacking seems unfair. I wasn’t particularly interested in the customisation stuff; I never am in multiplayer games, but some people I’m sure will get a massive kick out of customising their fighters to their hearts content.

After Super Mario 3D World and Mario Kart 8, Nintendo are gaining a reputation for technically astounding releases on the comparatively weak Wii U and Super Smash Bros for Wii U continues that trend. Running at a slick and consistent 60FPS, Smash Wii U is gorgeous and packed with those little details and charms which make Nintendo so special. Everything from the stages to the character animations is perfect. The collectible trophies are compelling fan service, but the absolute highlight of the presentation for me has to be the music. Featuring a cross section of music, some taken straight from the game and some remixed, this game is guaranteed to make me happy. Whether it’s the fantastic Ocarina of Time medley to the uplifting and sweeping music of Super Mario Galaxy, I’m in. There are some goofy choices too, such as Ashley’s Song from Wario Ware and City Escape from Sonic Adventure 2. I pretty much love them all. There are even songs from games which don’t feature in the game; I was pretty thrilled the first time I heard the battle theme from Golden Sun: The Lost Age on one of the Metroid stages. This is the way to do fan service.

There’s much more I could say about this game, but I’ll leave it here. I’ll end this review with a brief story. A friend of mine, my number one fellow Smash enthusiast where I live, was in hospital when this game came out. We’d planned a long night of playing for release day, which didn’t get to happen. I later decided to bring my Wii U to hospital with my Gamecube controller adaptor, and on the Wii U gamepad screen we spent a couple of really good hours playing Smash there in the hospital room. This wouldn’t have been possible on any other console and that is the Nintendo difference.smash-bros-wii-u-release-date-super-smash-bros-4-wii-u-3ds-unlock-all-characters-stages-in-one-hour (1)

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