We are not big fans of DLC, particularly considering the outrageous pricing structures that many publishers have chosen to adopt in recent years. This additional content is perceived by many players (including us) as intentionally held back from an otherwise complete game, deliberately introduced to extract additional income from a game for a longer period of time. Nevertheless, some publishers seem to have distanced themselves from this shameless practice of milking their most loyal consumers. Nintendo, for example, has always preferred to avoid the use (and misuse) of DLC, because that business choice didn't run with their corporate philosophy.
It is for this reason that, a few months ago, we were very surprised by the announcement of two premium DLC packs for Mario Kart 8, the latest chapter of the longrunning racing series, which enjoyed a strong critical and commercial reception when it was launched last May. An unexpected move, which almost immediately had left us with a bitter taste in our mouth, making us think that Nintendo, in the end, had decided to give in to the "dark side" of the business. That bitterness has, however, completely vanished and turned into enthusiasm, after we had got our hands on the first of the two DLC packs - The Legend of Zelda - available from November 13 on Nintendo's eShop. After chewing up the asphalt on the eight tracks included in this expansion, we can finally offer our verdict. Get the cars out of the garage: you're about to race like crazy once again!
We already had very positive things to say about the base version of Mario Kart 8 if you recall our review from last May. It's guaranteed fun from Nintendo, the original racer features characters taken from many classic games, and it always offered plenty of challenge, both in single-player and multiplayer (locally or online). The arrival of the first of two sets adds to the already substantial content of the base game with two new cups. Now we're challenging for the Egg Cup (including Yoshi's Ciruit, Exitebike Arena, Wall of the Dragon, Mute City) and the Triforce Cup (Wario's Gold Mine, SNES Rainbow Road, Polar Circuit and Hyrule), as well as three new racers (Link, Tanooki Mario and Cat Peach), and four new vehicles. In total we have eight new tracks.
Alongside a couple of tracks we've already seen in previous instalments of the series (but nevertheless modified with the inclusion of some anti-gravitational sectors - the big new feature of Mario Kart 8 - and with a fantastic visual upgrade), the brand new tracks add even greater challenges for racers to overcome and a greater sense of reward, thanks to increasingly tight curves, higher maximum speeds, and some incredible jumps. Notable among them is Wall of the Dragon, which is based on the anti-gravity feature, and offers a fascinating roller coaster effect. Then there is our favourite in the Egg Trophy, Mute City (based on F-Zero), entirely built around various accelerators scattered across the circuit. Here we're racing at full speed, experience thrilling and unique moments. The Excitebike-themed track where we race inside the arena in which the original NES game is set is another exciting addition, as we're jumping between sand dunes in an attempt to dodge puddles of mud, strategically placed in the corners.
There were moments of nostalgia when we raced through a completely new version of the legendary Rainbow Road from the SNES version of the game, probably one of the chapters of the series to which we are most emotionally connected. Always exciting and full of furious Thwomps who will do anything to prevent our advance toward the finish line, the new version of the Rainbow circuit is most certainly one of the best tracks of all time, keeping us in suspense as we drift around every corner and with each leaping Thwomp that changes the dynamic of the race.
Last but not least, the centrepiece of the entire collection is undoubtedly the Circuit of Hyrule, the last track of the Triforce Trophy. It's fantasy theme makes it something of an outsider at least when compared to the realms of the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario & Co. And the Hyrule setting is pure magic. The whole track is one long tribute to the world of The Legend of Zelda, where the coins are rupees, the sounds and music are all inspired by the classic RPG series. And that's not mentioning a tribute to the Master Sword, however we won't reveal further details on that front.
Among the interesting additions that appear in this collection, there is the introduction of three new characters and four new vehicles. Being big fans of speed, we loved the B Dasher (a highly anticipated return), as well as the Blue Falcon. We didn't enjoy the Tanooki Kart or Peach Cat, perhaps the least interesting version of the legendary Princess. For those who buy the Season Pass, there is finally the possibility of choosing between 9 different colours to customise Yoshi and Shy Guy, plus the ability to use - when available - the Amiibos to customise our Mii in suits based on the Amiibo we own.
We admit that we weren't convinced when Nintendo announced the two DLC packs. But thankfully it seems we had nothing to worry about, since the first of the two content drops for Mario Kart 8 contains some great additional content for an already excellent game. The new tracks, characters and Karts will add many hours of fun to a title that has already had us glued to our screens on many occasions. Bearing in mind the low price and the level of quality of the included content, we can only recommend that you purchase this DLC.
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