Recently we were invited to Nintendo's UK headquarters to have a go at The Legend of Zelda x Mario Kart 8 DLC that's arriving on 13th November, and naturally we just had to tell you what we thought of it. This is the first time a Mario Kart game has had DLC, so Nintendo has to make an impact to convince buyers to part with their hard-earned cash, and including a pointy-eared, green-wearing adolescent isn't going to be enough by itself.
The New Characters
The three new characters in the DLC are Tanooki Mario, Cat Peach and Link from The Legend of Zelda series. Link of course is a tremendously exciting addition, as it's the first time any character that isn't directly affiliated with Mario has appeared in a Mario Kart game; as a heavy character he feels very weighty and offensive, much like his swordsman nature would suggest. Tanooki Mario and Cat Peach however feel a bit lacklustre in comparison. Two out of three of the new characters are simply variations of character we already have in the game, whilst we're still missing series staples such as Diddy Kong, Birdo, King Boo, Petey Piranha, and Bowser Jr.. Tanooki Mario does have some fairly interesting stunt animations that involve him turning into a statue much as he did in Super Mario Bros. 3, but we still feel a bit cheated by this multi-Mario representation. You can also unlock a number of neat character-themed outfits for your Mii by tapping an amiibo on the GamePad, but this feature naturally won't be available until the amiibo toys have been released.
The New Vehicles
This pack contains four additional vehicles: the Tanooki Kart, the Master Cycle, the B Dasher, and the Blue Falcon. There are also Triforce Tyres and a Hylian Kite to add further customisation options to make your ideal vehicle. The Blue Falcon is the stand-out, as it looks almost identical to Captain Falcon's famous flyer from the F-Zero series, although on a smaller scale to make it kart-sized. All the vehicles have their own appeal — the Tanooki Kart is powerful, the Master Cycle looks rad — but why don't we get on to the meat of the matter?
Egg Cup Courses
Yoshi Circuit (GCN)
A brutal, relentless track filled with a huge number of sharp, unforgiving corners and chicanes that ramp up the difficulty greatly compared to its first appearance, that to the speed and mechanics of Mario Kart 8. Like all the other classic tracks in the game, this course is beautifully remastered to look a hundred times more appealing than its first incarnation. Little details are scattered about the course, such as a town at the start line instead of the boring rocks that preceded it and a waterfall you must burst through in order to complete a nefarious shortcut, to name just a few, and all of these make the experience of replaying the old track all the more delightful. Yoshi Circuit is easily one of the most difficult tracks in the game to master, but if you manage to get your hands on some boosts, many of these devilish swerves can be easily avoided by boosting across the grass, just be careful not to get chomped by a piranha plant as you do so.
This is one of the more unique track layouts in the DLC, and it's not difficult to see why. The predominantly straight course only has two corners, but between them you'll get an awful lot of ups and downs. The many ramps that are scattered across the track are partially randomised, which is very important, as it's clear that just the same ramps over and over again would get tedious fairly quickly. Knowing when to perform a trick and when to try and avoid a ramp altogether is crucial in getting a good lap time, but if you're unlucky enough to get hit by an item at the start of a series of these hills, it can be absolutely crippling. The speed required to get over the ramps effectively is surprisingly high, meaning if you've been slowed by an adversary you can lose an awful lot of places as you struggle to climb up the hills and get back up to speed.
An almost exclusively anti-gravity track that makes full use of the mechanic. The track spirals and twists almost constantly, and manages to really feel as through you're defying the laws of physics, unlike most of the anti-gravity sections in other levels. The level is full of sharp turns in a similar fashion to Yoshi Circuit, but the ones in Dragon Driftway feel significantly smoother and pose less of a challenge than its Yoshi-themed counterpart. It blends beautiful design with gorgeous curves and motion sickness to create a contender for the best original track on Mario Kart 8. With one exception, of course…
The kingpin of the Egg Cup, Mute City is — as most people know — based on the F-Zero racing series, and takes far more from it than just the track design. The course itself is mostly curved like many of the tracks in the series it emulates, and somehow the track has been designed so that it feels much faster than the other tracks. Of course it isn’t comparable to the blistering speeds in F-Zero, but it’s enough to have a significant impact on how you feel. There are also an abundance of boost strips in true F-Zero style, which also help to make the track one of the fastest in the game. Another wonderfully unique twist is the complete lack of any coins on the course, but don’t worry about not getting that extra speed that comes from pockets full of coins — you can increase your coin counter by passing over the various recharge strips at the side of the course. This little detail really helps to make the course feel like a completely new experience in an already well-established formula. Once you finish your race you may well recognise the music that’s played over the results screen, but you’ll have to shout ‘you got boost power!’ at the start of the second lap yourself.
Triforce Cup Courses
Wario's Gold Mine (Wii)
Wario's plundering paradise has been given a facelift worthy of the bulbous yellow-clad character himself. The huge peaks and troughs in the track serve little purpose for a mine, but are excellent to drive a kart on. You'll see many familiar scenes such as the shortcut that takes you literally off the track, as well as the underground portion just before it. This has been changed into an anti-gravity section, and for good reason, as now you can slam into mine carts that are also travelling along the track and gain a boost as though they were another player. Overall Wario's Gold Mine is still a brilliant track, but not much has been fiddled with, so purists should be pleased by the update.
Rainbow Road (SNES)
The classic 16-bit track was the first to bear its title, and Nintendo has been careful to keep as true to the original as possible, whilst providing the compulsory HD upgrade we'd expect. The track is a little wider than before to accommodate twelve racers simultaneously, and also retains the infamous electrified Thwomps of the original. Once one of these Thwomps comes down, they'll send ripples through the track that's in proximity to them in a similar manner to the ones that the Chain Chomps make in the N64's version of Rainbow Road, but move much more rapidly. Otherwise very little has been changed, although the upgrade in graphics has made it look better than it ever has. Just don't expect to stay on the track for the entire time!
Ice Ice Outpost
Being the only other new track that isn't themed around another game (alongside Dragon Driftway), Ice Ice Outpost is one of the slightly more mundane of the courses in this DLC pack. The course consists of two differently coloured tracks that intertwine around one another for the length of the entire course. You're given opportunities to switch from one track to another, but the difference in length between one another is so nominal that it's not going to be a deciding factor in most races. The theme means that most of the background that you'll see may as well just be white, as you're mainly focused on the track you're trying to stay on. None of this is to say that Ice Ice Outpost is a bad course, it's just a little uninspiring compared to the enormous lengths Nintendo has gone to make the others so fresh and unique from all other courses. Overall it feels like this course is just a missed opportunity, and really has nothing that makes it stand out in any real way.
One of the most highly anticipated courses, Hyrule Circuit is nothing short of excellent. The Zelda theme of the track is one of the biggest draws, of course, but even stripped of all its Hylian finery this is an extremely enjoyable track to play — Nintendo has managed to take two franchises and blend them together nigh-on seamlessly, and the result is wonderful. There's even a shortcut you can open if you manage to hit all three switches as you pass into Hyrule Castle, allowing you to jump over the pedestal that holds the Master Sword and avoid a corner completely. Coins are replaced by Rupees (even the icon on the HUD), Piranha Plants by Deku Babas, and whenever you hit an item box you're given a sound much closer to the sound that plays when opening a chest in the Zelda series than the standard Mario Kart affair. These little details all add up to an experience that is only marginally behind that of Mute City, but considering Zelda has almost nothing to do with racing, Nintendo's done an excellent job.
You'd be hard pushed to find a reason not to download this DLC pack if you enjoy Mario Kart 8. The characters could have been a bit more inspired in some places, but the rest of the pack is simply outstanding. The courses all feel just as well-made and meticulously designed as the courses included on the disc, and the new unique elements in a handful of the tracks really help to spice up the gameplay. The value for money alone should be enough to entice you into making that purchase, but if that's not enough, take it from us that this is well worth a download; we can only hope to see much more of this after the second pack comes out in 2015.
This DLC Pack is available on 13th November 2014 for £7.00/$7.99/€7.99. Remember that you can buy both DLC packs in advance for a special price of £11.00/$11.99/€11.99.
Which one of the courses has really piqued your interest? Be sure to vote in the poll below and let us know with a comment below whether or not you'll be downloading this fantastic DLC pack!
Which track are you most looking forward to? (472 votes)
Yoshi Circuit (GCN)
Wario's Gold Mine (Wii)
Rainbow Road (SNES)
Ice Ice Outpost
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