Monday, November 17, 2014

The Legend of Zelda x Mario Kart 8 (Review)

Link driving on the Master Cycle on Hyrule Circuit

This review was originally published on ZeldaChronicles (formerly known as ZeldaEurope) and got translated for this blog in 2021 by the same author.

Have you ever imagined what a "Zelda Kart" would be like? Well, the new pack of DLC for Mario Kart 8 might give you an idea – in there you'll ride as Link on the Master Cycle over the Hyrule Circuit. So, let's take a look how this has turned out...


DLC is still an undiscovered country for Nintendo. After the overpriced course packs for New Super Mario Bros. 2, the company banks on a new model for Hyrule Warriors and Mario Kart 8, where the DLC seems to more worth it from a price point and can also be pre-ordered. Already since end of August, you can get the two packs: "The Legend of Zelda x Mario Kart 8", which has been released last Thursday, as well as "Animal Crossing x Mario Kart 8", which is scheduled for release next May.

Each DLC pack comes with three new drivers, four new karts and eight new tracks (split into two cups) and costs 8€ on its own. Combined they'll only cost 12€, saving you 25%. This is a fair price, especially if you consider that the total of 32 tracks from the main game gets increased by 50% here. This will add a lot of fresh air and more variety to the game.

If you pre-order both DLC packs, you'll also get different colors for Yoshi and Shy Guy, similar to the Dark Link outfit in Hyrule Warriors. It's kind of cheap that this gets withheld from all other players, since these are just colored reskins, but it's a nice bonus nonetheless.

Otherwise this is all content that clearly was made after the main game got finished. So, nothing was held back to make more money, where instead this is a serious expansion for an already content-rich title, which got released at the end of May.

In general Mario Kart is one of Nintendo's best suited series for DLC. You could always keep adding to the game with new courses, drivers and vehicle parts. In the following you get a complete list of all the content in the "The Legend of Zelda x Mario Kart 8" DLC pack.


New Drivers:

  • Tanooki Mario
  • Cat Peach
  • Link

New Vehicle Parts:

  • Blue Falcon
  • Tanooki Kart
  • B Dasher
  • Master Cycle
  • Triforce Tires
  • Hyrule Kite

New Courses:

  • GCN Yoshi Circuit
  • Excitebike Arena
  • Dragon Driftway
  • Mute City
  • Wii Wario's Gold Mine
  • SNES Rainbow Road
  • Ice Ice Outpost
  • Hyrule Circuit

Link, the Racer

Apart from the Super Smash Bros. series, it's actually quite rare that our hero Link gets a cameo appearance in other games. After he has done well in SoulCalibur II eleven years ago, Link now finds himself on the racetracks of Mario Kart 8, where it's up to the fantasies of the players how he got there. Maybe he asked the Triforce to have some fun with many beautiful princesses? Kart racing is probably not what he had in mind there, but the Triforce has its own way of fulfilling wishes, as you all know...

But such questions aren't of importance in Mario Kart anyway. What's really important is how well Link got integrated into the game and here you could say that he looks absolutely ridiculous. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing. There's a certain humor to it how Link squeezes himself into a tiny kart with a serious look on his face, just to then celebrate a victory in joy like a child. If you perform stunts, he will either swing his sword or hold up the Triforce, which feels a little bit more dynamic than with most other characters.

Link's design is based on the one from Skyward Sword, which fits Mario Kart 8 rather well and makes him look more friendly than in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS / Wii U. He's a heavyweight driver, sharing the same class with Donkey Kong, Waluigi, Roy and Rosalina. If you like any of these drivers, he could be an interesting alternative and in general Link has a certain charm to him, which probably will make him a popular pick overall. So, it shouldn't be of surprise that Link is currently outranking Rosalina online. The hero of Hyrule is everywhere.

Link on the new Master Cycle

Also, Link gets the "Master Cycle" as a new toy – a fancy bike in the shape of a horse. The Hylian Shield as decors are a nice detail and in addition there are the "Triforce Tires" and the "Hylian Kite", which you can use in combination with any other vehicle, if you want.


Hyrule, the Racetrack

Link as a driver is certainly great, but the new courses are what you really want out of the DLC. And there's something for Zelda enthusiasts in here as well with the "Hyrule Circuit", where you drive around and through Hyrule Castle. Nintendo managed to capture the overall charm of The Legend of Zelda in a relatively compact way and came up with some special features for this track.

For starters, you don't collect the usual Coins, but Rupees, which already makes this course more fun for Zelda fans. Also, if you get an item from an Item Box, it plays a quick version of the classic treasure chest jingle. And next to the usual Toads, you'll find some Hyrule Soldiers in the audience, which are similar to the ones from Spirit Tracks, meaning that they all wear Link's green garments. The last section of the course also has some Deku Babas and Keese as classic enemies from the Zelda universe.

Hyrule Circuit from above

The real ingenuity is found inside Hyrule Castle, however, where for the first time there is a puzzle waiting for you in Mario Kart. There are three anti-gravity boost pillars in the form of Crystal Switches and if you activate them all in a row, this will make a boost ramp appear right in front of the Master Sword for an impressive short cut. Hitting all three switches on your own isn't exactly easy, which adds an interesting component to the track. Sometimes other drivers might activate the switches that you've missed, so that there is still a chance for you to make that shortcut.

All in all the Hyrule Circuit is well-made and a worthy representation for the world of The Legend of Zelda inside Mario Kart in one compact course.


Nintendo Kart

While Link is the only guest driver (for now), there are some trips into other Nintendo universes via the new racetracks as well. One is the "Excitebike Arena", where you simply go in circles, but the track elements are different with each race. There are ramps, mud spots and such, where their order, height and so on vary each time you play the course.

Another highlight is "Mute City" from F-Zero, a turbulent track with the classic music, which whets your appetite for a new F-Zero game on the Wii U. As a special gimmick there are "pit areas", which will fill your coins while driving over them. In addition, there is the Blue Falcon as a new kart waiting for you to be used here or anywhere.

Mario in the Blue Falcon on Mute City, leaving Wario behind

The DLC pack might be named "The Legend of Zelda x Mario Kart 8", but all of these things show that this is not just a simple crossover, where shows a lot of potential. The idea of a "Nintendo Kart" isn't exactly new and this DLC is a first, small step in that direction, probably to see how the fans are going to like it.

Overall this is already quite nice, but Nintendo certainly could have gotten more out of this idea already. Like, the only new drivers next to Link are "Tanooki Mario" and "Cat Peach". While they might be cute, veterans like Diddy Kong are still nowhere to be found. And why not also add Zelda or maybe even the legendary Captain Falcon himself?

More Courses, More Fun

Next to the three courses based on other Nintendo games, there are also three classic courses and two entirely new courses in this DLC pack. Among the retro tracks is "Yoshi's Circuit" from Mario Kart: Double Dash!! on the GameCube, where its only gimmick are the many curves, which take a good amount of driving skills for you to score first place. This course also already re-appeared in Mario Kart DS, so this is actually the third time you can race here.

For the "SNES Rainbow Road" it's even the fourth time, where it was available in Mario Kart: Super Circuit and Mario Kart 7 as well. This marks also the first Mario Kart game, which has three different Rainbow Roads to offer. But there is no denying that this course has a special appeal, especially for long drifts, where this remaster looks incredible. But it's mainly a visual overhaul, where gameplay-wise it's not much different from the Nintendo 3DS version.

SNES Rainbow Road looking real shiny with a full moon in the background

The new version of "Wario's Gold Mine" on the other hand makes good use of the anti-gravity feature, where you now might want to collide with the mine carts instead of avoiding them. This way this track is more fun than it used to be in Mario Kart Wii.

One of the completely new course is the "Dragon Driftway", offering some East Asian flair, which is rare for Mario games (the Chai Kingdom from Super Mario Land comes to mind). And there is also the "Ice Ice Outpost", where you have two differently colored roads running in parallel. A similar idea can be found on other courses already, like the "Sweet Sweet Canyon", but this time this concept has been expanded to the entirety of the course.

Aside from some of the new gimmicks, these additional courses are actually quite basic. Yoshi's Circuit, the Excitebike Arena and the SNES Rainbow Road don't employ any special methods of racing at all. The other courses mainly use the anti-gravity feature and only two of them have short glider sections, so you won't see that new Hyrule Kite very often. None of the new courses have underwater segments whatsoever. But this doesn't necessarily harm the new cups, quite the opposite. It's a collection of some really well-made courses, maybe even some of the best racetracks in Mario Kart 8.

What's completely missing, however, are any additions to the lackluster Battle Mode, which doesn't seem to get any love in the DLC either... In the very least some of the new courses, like the SNES Rainbow Road, could have worked there as well, but there is nothing. And that's a shame for everyone who likes to pop some balloons.



Even though Nintendo could have made more out of the entire concept, Mario Kart 8 now offers a successful first guest appearance of Link and Hyrule with the "The Legend of Zelda x Mario Kart 8" Pack. And there is some good new content in addition, breathing new life into the game, scratching on the surface of a potential "Nintendo Kart" by including Excitebike and F-Zero as well. If you already own Mario Kart 8, then getting the DLC should be a no-brainer. And it might even get some Zelda fans interested in the game...

The only downside is that there are no additions or improvements to the Battle Mode and that the selection of new drivers leaves quite a bit to desire.

No comments: