This Week in Games - Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

by Dustin Bailey,
I've spent the past week on one of my nerdiest projects yet—rebuilding a Windows 98 PC for the express purpose of playing old video games. Wildly unnecessary? Heck yeah. But also super fun and the only way I'm going to be able to play SimCopter these days so I'm going to call it an ultimate success. DOSBox is a terrific emulator for a big swath of early PC games, but mid-90s Windows stuff can be a lot trickier, since even if you can get old games there are lots of old titles that can't run properly on modern CPUs. Plus, messing around with hardware in 98 gives you a serious appreciation for how much easier it is to deal with drivers these days.

One of those early Switch rumors has come around again, thanks to Kotaku. Apparently that Mario/Rabbids crossover game is real, tentatively titled Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. It looks to be a co-op turn-based RPG, and regardless of how bizarre this whole combination is I'm still pretty interested in it. The early Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi titles are among my favorite games ever, and both of those series have fallen off a cliff in the past few years. (Ugh, just thinking about the dull, plodding mess that was Dream Team is getting me mad all over again.) Ubisoft is developing this one, and we'll probably hear more soon. Probably. I mean, there's a reason I'm mentioning it here instead of news.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

I think—between Zelda, Puyo Puyo Tetris, and the indies—the Switch officially has what can be called a library, putting it one step ahead of the Wii U. (Hey oh!) But I don't mean to put down Nintendo's previous platform too badly, since it did play host to some of the best games the company's ever made, which includes Mario Kart 8, a strong contender for the title “greatest kart racing game of all time.” Everyone has their own particular pocket of Mario Kart nostalgia (mine centers on the game for the original DS) but screw nostalgia—MK8 is the best game in the series.

And lo, the Switch version of the game has come along to make the definitive kart racer even better. It's tough to say anything original about it—you've probably played some form of Mario Kart in your life and this is, at best, a more refined version of it. Boom, review done, go out and buy it. But really, this is a terrific package. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe brings together the original game, all of its DLC, and a handful of extra features, and if you're in any position other than having played a ton of the Wii U version, it's a no-brainer.

“Handful of new features” might undersell the game's biggest addition on the Switch, which is a completely revamped battle mode, replacing the repurposed racetracks made up the original game's only major disappointment. Deluxe adds original arenas built for battle mode—a few from past games, and many all-new ones—along with five different game modes. Traditional battles are slightly different, giving you five balloons to defend and giving you points based on how many you've popped. Bob-omb Blast is the same, except all your items are explosive little buddies.

But then there's Renegade Roundup, which divides you into cops and robbers teams, one of which attempts to jail enemies with an always-active Piranha Plant, while the other tries to stay free and bust out captured buddies. Coin Runners has you trying to hang onto maximum money, and Shine Thief is a hot potato mode that has you trying to hang onto a shine for a specific amount of time. They're all fun, and a tremendous improvement over the original game's limited battle options. Online rotates through all five modes, and offers the same simple “compete forever” loop that racing did—and still does—though you're still free to create custom tournaments with individual rankings and custom rules.

All the Wii U version's DLC is here too, from the 16 excellent add-on tracks to the extra characters and vehicle parts, along with all the free updates like Amiibo support and the 200cc engine class. Every character and course is open from the start, and the only unlocking process you'll have to go through is collecting coins to get new vehicle parts. Beyond that, you can now also hold a second item, and there's a third tier of mini-boost for when you get an extra-good drift going. Boos and short-range Feather attacks also join the item rotation. Plus there are a handful of new characters, including King Boo, Dry Bones, and some Inklings from Splatoon.

It's tough not to just run down Mario Kart 8 Deluxe as a list of new features, because that's really what it is—a marginal improvement on an already excellent game. The Switch version has a visual edge, slightly sharper than the original game, but most of the new features are things you wouldn't recognize unless you were playing MK8, like, yesterday. You do have the advantage of portable and wireless play on the new platform, though.

But that original game came out on a console that sold very poorly, so statistically there's a pretty good chance you don't already own MK8. Nintendo's going to be well-served to do more of this, porting the Wii U's excellent software to a platform that's already displayed far more potential than its predecessor. Mario Kart, Mario Maker, Captain Toad... Heck, I never did get a chance to play Tokyo Mirage Sessions.

NEWS

DARKSIDERS IS A REAL GAME THAT WILL EXIST IN 2018

Darksiders was one of the weirder, more interesting franchises that got itself started last generation. Built by an internal studio at THQ, it took the over-the-top tone of mid-90s fantasy comics and combined big brooding angels and demons with a Zelda-like action-adventure. Its sequel was okay, but decidedly less interesting, ignoring the cliffhanger that ended the original and restructuring the adventure into something a bit more loot-driven and Diablo-esque. Things never really got the chance to turn around following THQ's bankruptcy.

But hey, Nordic Games picked up the THQ name and most of their games, rebranded to THQ Nordic, and now Darksiders 3 is a real thing that's apparently in production and scheduled to ship in 2018. This one once again runs parallel to the events of the original game, so apparently we're all going to be old and grey before that first ending ever pays off. Darksiders 3 focuses on the third horseman, Fury, who has all the not-quite-dominatrix qualities you associate with comic book heroines.

Mostly I'm glad that Darksiders has found life again—even if this announcement did come as a result of a leaked Amazon listing. Oops! It's being built by Gunfire Games, which in turn is made up of a handful of original Darksiders team members who recently made the remastered versions of the originals and a selection of VR games. Look for the adventures of Fury some time in the far flung future of next year.

WEAPONIZED LESBIANS ARE HEADING TO PC

Hey, look! Another smutty action game is coming to PC! From the makers of Senran Kagura, it's Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni, a brawler starring weaponized lesbians powered by pleasure. If that sounds familiar it's because this game released in the West last year on the Vita, and while it was mostly unremarkable it did introduce “weaponized lesbians” into the vernacular so I guess it's not all bad.

Now it's coming to PC, and based on the fantastic quality of the Estival Versus port this should be a great version, especially now that it can be played on big screens at native resolutions. You know, assuming you've worked through your feelings regarding consent as it relates to anime girls.

THE 3DS STILL ISN'T DEAD

I loved the 3DS. It was a great platform filled with great games, and despite being saddled with the unfortunate, gracelessly aged gimmick that was stereoscopic 3D it evolved into an excellent console. But now, Nintendo, you've gotta kill this thing. You've got a new bit of hardware that also serves the handheld market, and continuing to keep the 3DS alive is only going to keep the userbase fragmented between two different software libraries and—you're making a new one, aren't you?

Yes, friends, say hello to the New Nintendo 2DS XL, the ultimate culmination of all the hardware revisions the platform has gone through. We've got the original clamshell design, the larger size of the XL, the improved performance of the New, and the budget-minded 3D removal of the 2DS. It releases in July for $150, in contrast to the 2DS's $80, the New 3DS XL's $200, and the Switch's $300.

It's the expected thing. The 3DS has been quite successful, and it's Nintendo's prerogative to release a last, budget-minded version of a console at the end of it's life. But really, it serves as a reminder of the last few 3DS games—Ever Oasis, Miitopia, and others—which could be filling out the library of the Switch rather than heading to an aged, handheld-only console. Not to be down on the 3DS, but I'm more than ready to retire it to retro status now.

NEXT WEEK'S RELEASES

BIRTHDAYS THE BEGINNING
Developer: Arc System Works / Toybox
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: PlayStation 4 / PC
Release Date: May 9
MSRP: $39.99

Birthdays the Beginning seems tailored to every specific, weird interest of mine. It's from the creator of Harvest Moon, and it's an experimental exploration of biological development that bears a resemblance to Maxis projects from SimLife to Spore. It's also got dinosaurs. Basically, you shape a sandbox world into a form conducive to attract, sustain, and evolve life and I'm the particular brand of nerd who finds that incredibly exciting.

PREY
Developer: Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platform: PlayStation 4 / Xbox One / PC
Release Date: May 5
MSRP: $59.99

Remember Prey, the 360 launch-era shooter that had some neat ideas and pre-Portal portals which ultimately turned into the butt of everyone's mediocre video games jokes? Well, forget all about it, because this is Prey, a game whose only connection to the original is a first-person focus on aliens. This one is built by the Dishonored developers at Arkane Studios, and their lineage in player-driven “immersive simulation” shows here—it's all about big, open levels with player-driven paths to success. It's a strange timeline we live in where “games like Deus Ex and System Shock” is a fully-fledged, prolific AAA genre, but I'm not complaining.

ALSO AVAILABLE:
We've got a pair of old games getting ports this week, as LocoRoco Remastered brings its adorable action to the PlayStation 4, and Minecraft continues its path of global domination by coming to the Nintendo Switch.


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