When Mario Kart 8 first launched on the Wii U, the game was an excellent update of the franchise formula. Great kart racing, some of the best Mario characters, and the addition of course-bending anti-gravity added up to a game I truly loved. Unfortunately, there was a misstep in the game's creation: Battle Mode played out on the racing tracks instead of specialized arenas. It felt like an afterthought.
With Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Switch, Nintendo is looking to rectify this problem. Today at PAX East, I got the chance to play the new Battle Modes. Yes, plural.
The first mode I had a chance to play was the classic Balloon Battle. This mode takes its ruleset from Mario Kart Wii instead of the classic game: you begin with five balloons and you have to pop opponents' balloons to win. Players don't drop out when they lose all of their balloons though. Instead, all tht matters is your balloon kill count. I utterly failed on this, because I was playing old Mario Kart style, trying to avoid folks to keep my full count of balloons. Seeing myself in last place was sad, but being able to play the match on a revamped version of Battle Course 1 made the entire thing worth it.
Next up was Renegade Roundup, a brand new mode appearing in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the first time. We played this move on a new lunar-themed Battle Mode map with low gravity. In Renegade Roundup, half of the available players are the law, while the other half are the renegades. The law have Pirahna Plants attached to the front of their karts, plants that eat up any renegades in front of them. A consumed renegade ends up in jail. Renegades can free their caged brethern by hitting a button near the jail. Renegades merely have to survive until the timer is over, while the law has to cpature all the renegades. I was pretty bad at this mode, despite trying to be a good renegade hunter.
Then there was Shine Thief. In this mode, one player tries to hold on to the Shine for 20 seconds. If you ram into a player or hit them with an item, they drop the Shine, giving you a chance to take it for yourself. I won this mode, with my chosen Waluigi cackling maniacally on the Mario Kart 8 raceway battle course.
Finally, we tackled Coin Runners, a Battle Mode from Mario Kart Wii. In this mode, players collect coins strewn about the map and the winner is determined by the person with the most coins. I ended up winning this mode by being the one player that no one else ran into. Attacking a player makes them drop coins, so by avoiding others, I was able to retain most of my coins, for a 9 coin lead.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is just a port of the Wii U title, but Nintendo has taken the time to add 5 Battle Modes, 8 Battle Mode maps, new items (the Feather is back!), and new characters including Inkling Girl, Inkling Boy, King Boo, Dry Bones and Bowser Jr. That's all in addition to every bit of content released for Mario Kart 8, including Link, the Animal Crossing characters, and the Excitebike track.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a port, but the extensive additions to Battle Mode make it almost worth the new asking price. As with the Switch itself, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is quite malleable: you can play with up to 4 players on a single screen, 8 players in local multiplayer, or with up to 12 players in online or LAN play via any mix of 1-2 players per Switch.
The truth is, for $59.99, Deluxe is still a bit of hard sell for owners of Mario Kart 8. This is a game for the folks that never played the Wii U version, a second chance for Mario Kart 8 with a brand-new audience. If you're not one of those folks, then Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a hard choice to make, one I can't make for you. What I can say is that Nintendo is trying its best to make Deluxe worth your while.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is coming to Nintendo Switch on April 28, 2017.