Coming back to Mario Kart 8 after several months away, I found myself at home instantly as I began my adventures with the new DLC. Within two laps I had re-mastered the controls, and after the third consecutive race ended with me yelling and screaming in triumph as I won a race by a hair’s breadth, I remembered just why this game is so awesome, as well as what makes the DLC for the game so special. The first round of additional content last Autumn introduced even better course designs than ever, new characters and karts/bikes to help flesh out the experience, and even expanded the concept of what Mario Kart could be and where it could go. Pack 2 does it all again – even if it isn’t quite as exciting this time.
Like last time, the course designs are utterly marvelous, pitting players against each other in exceedingly exciting arenas, some with little complexity and others with many hazards to avoid. Both the new and remade courses are brilliant as ever, though I did not find them quite as exciting to race on as the previous 8 tracks. That’s not saying much, though; Nintendo continues to show an unparalleled understanding of how to create engaging courses with just the right amount of challenge required to stay on the course while still encouraging plenty of player interaction.
The courses would have been enough, but new karts and characters were added as well. Getting back a lost character in Dry Bowser is pretty fantastic, and the Animal Crossing characters are even better – as we’ll get to. The karts are good as always and fit right into the main game. It is just awesome to not have these additions as separate DLC from the courses; they really help to expand the game and increase both the DLC and the original game’s value tremendously.
The visuals live up to the main game, which is no small compliment. Every course is stunning in their own way – Wild Woods being a particular highlight – and the characters are as great as ever. The music also lives up to the established precedent, with the fantastic jazzy sounds simply being a joy to listen to.
Of course, this DLC also includes Animal Crossing and F-Zero characters/courses, which means that Mario Kart 8 is once again expanding into non-Mario characters. It’s an exciting proposition, though one that just isn’t quite as exciting with Animal Crossing as it was with Zelda, if only because of diminishing returns. Still – it bodes well for the future, and it’s an extremely fun addition that, right now, could only be done through DLC like this.
There is still the same problem with the original DLC, which is mainly centered on playing the new tracks online. Specifically, it is impossible to ONLY choose between the new DLC tracks when in random matches, which would have been nice to have in these early days after release. It is also somewhat disappointing that they are adding so much, yet keep Battle Mode in its lackluster state. But these are hardly worth complaining about when there is so much to praise.
It is also worth examining the free 200cc class here, despite it technically begin separate from the new DLC. Put simply, it is pretty awesome. While it may be just a bit too fast, it is definitely going to be a fun thing to master. Right now there’s a bit too much running into walls and off into pits thanks to the extreme speed, and it’s unclear if this even possible to avoid in some cases, but learning to master every course with this speed will doubtless be plenty of fun, especially for masochists. Either way, 200cc is an exhilarating and fun experience, and I sincerely hope it returns for the next game after Mario Kart 8.
It’s impossible not to be impressed with the second round of DLC: in every way, it either lives up to or even surpasses even the original game, gives tons of content, and does so all while expanding the possibilities of Mario Kart for the future. And it is just eight dollars; less than that if you got the combo pack. Truly, this is a phenomenal example of what DLC should be, and it brings Mario Kart 8 to ever increasing heights.