Monday, August 8, 2022

Booster Course Pass: More Leaks and Speculation

start of Kalimari Destert with a sign saying "Mario Kart"

Bear with me, but I'm just having too much fun thinking about what courses all could still make it into Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Since last time there has been another leak in addition to the retro labels, where they have found a couple unused music pre-fetches in the files. See here. Plus, the data-mined retro labels have proven to be correct. With this we can already construct a pretty good picture of what's coming next via the Booster Course Pass:

It seems that the courses without a retro label, like Ninja Hideaway or Sky-High Sundae, are either new courses from Mario Kart Tour, which aren't a city tour, or simply new courses. But Merry Mountain may fall into this category.

Here is what courses Mario Kart Tour has still to offer that haven't been covered above and weren't already included in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe in some form, 30 in total:

Of course we're not limited to these. Coconut Mall and Sky Gardens have shown that new courses for Mario Kart Tour may come to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe first. But it still makes the tracks in this list likely candidates, where you can already try to fill the gaps in the first list. Mix in some other fan favorites and you can try to paint a pretty picture.

Here is what's not yet included in Mario Kart Tour, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, or the above leak already, 49 in total:

Out of all these 79 courses, which haven't been data-mined yet, only nine more will make it into the Booster Course Pass. Based on all the data we have, here is which ones I would pick or expect to fill those gaps:

  • SNES Vanilla Lake 1 or 2
  • GBA Cheep-Cheep Island
  • GCN Daisy Cruiser
  • GCN DK Mountain or Bowser's Castle
  • GCN Dino Dino Jungle
  • DS Airship Fortress or Luigi's Mansion
  • Wii DK Summit
  • Wii Koopa Cape
  • Wii Bowser's Castle or Rainbow Road

Well, there are some tough choices to make. Right now it seems that we will either be getting Luigi's Mansion or Airship Fortress from Mario Kart DS, but not both. I personally prefer the latter, it's one of my favorite race tracks, but they are both great courses. One of the remaining GameCube courses could be really any of them, where there are many good choices, like Mushroom Bridge, Peach Beach, or Wario Colosseum. I went with DK Mountain, because I loved this one in Mario Kart Wii, my first Mario Kart game, but Bowser's Castle would be great, too, since we haven't gotten any other of those yet.

And even with what's still be going into the Booster Course Pass, there will be around 70 old courses left, more than enough to fill a second Booster Course Pass. I still think that they should port over all the remaining courses from Mario Kart 7, both original and retro, where most of them are already in Mario Kart Tour anyway. They are all great, especially since they would offer more on the front of gliding and under-water gameplay.

The other Mario Kart games will also have some excellent courses that probably won't make it in, like Dry Dry Ruins or Toad's Factory from Mario Kart Wii. Yes, we can't have it all, but there is a lot of potential here. Sure, we don't really need all those Mario Circuits and Luigi Raceways, but some of the older Bowser Castles would be cool and they could potentially have all Rainbow Roads united in one Mario Kart, which would be amazing.

So, I'm hoping that this will continue in a second Booster Course Pass, which has all of this covered. Make Mario Kart 8 Deluxe the ultimate Mario Kart, before they move on to the next game, which most likely will be more focused on crossovers with other Nintendo franchises, like The Legend of Zelda.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Booster Course Pass: Wave 2 Impressions

Pink Gold Peach on the Master Cycle Zero with the Hot Monster tires at the start of the Kalimari Desert

I would say that more time spent on the Master Cycle Zero is always a good time, but getting new Mario Kart 8 Deluxe tracks is a piece of work at first... This is a pure "me problem", however. Since I've 100% completed the base game with three stars on all cups, I feel compelled to do the same with the new cups in the Booster Course Pass, but I'm never having tall too much fun doing that, save for maybe 200cc. It's great to have more courses, I enjoy playing the game with friends, and I like getting better at Time Trials, but completing the singleplayer Grand Prix stuff comes with its fair share of shenanigans.

First of all, you have to do it three times over with 150cc, Mirror Mode, and 200cc. Those all play differently, of course, but there is still some repetition. And no matter how much you've practiced the new tracks in Time Trials, there is always a harsh random component to all of it, where you might get screwed over, sometimes even at the end of the fourth course, because the AI decided that it's finally your time to lose. This creates quite some frustration for me, because now I have to do the entire cup all over again. 200cc is the exception here, because the cups are over so quickly that I don't mind it as much.

Well, I'm generally not the biggest fan of when a game punishes you with repetition. But when other games do this, there is usually a learning curve. You get better and master going through what came before faster. That's not necessarily true with Mario Kart, however, because there is so much up to chance. Plus, the AI cheats in many different ways, especially in 200cc, where they simply drive on rails. You can get better on the individual tracks and achieve a level of consistency, but there is no guarantee that you will win just because you're good at driving and managing your items.

It wouldn't be an issue if this was simply about getting first place in a cup, because then there would be some leeway. Actually, it would be a lot more fun if it were like that, but thanks to the three star system there is no room for imperfection. Scoring second place or less even once will invalidate all previous won races during the cup. Well, to be fair, it used to be much harder with Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart Wii, where I didn't even bother with completing those games. But since three-starring became much more possible with Mario Kart 7, I like to go for it, because it really looks great to have everything filled in the menu. Also, it's not really that hard to do, just sometimes annoying and quite repetitive.

Luckily, with the Booster Course Pass it's only two cups at a time, where this feels like a tolerable pacing to me, all things considered. I know that some people would love to get more courses at once or maybe even all at once, but I generally like getting these smaller packages. And here is what the two new cups have to offer...


Turnip Cup:

  • Tour New York Minute
  • SNES Mario Circuit 3
  • N64 Kalimari Desert
  • DS Waluigi Pinball


Propeller Cup:

  • Tour Sydney Sprint
  • GBA Snow Land
  • Wii Mushroom Gorge
  • Sky-High Sundae


Like the first wave, the cups are starting with city tours, where this is seemingly true for the entire Booster Course Pass. In Paris Promenade it felt quite special that you were going a part of the track in reverse during the last lap. And Tokyo Tour made you go through different routes on each lap. Now, both New York Minute and Sydney Sprint go all crazy with these gimmicks, where you go different routes on each lap and during one part you will also go in reverse. Though, the latter doesn't feel as spectacular as it did on Paris Promenade, because you won't really run into oncoming traffic, unless they practically stood still.

A part of the track in Sydney also has trick ramps, where it's nice how all the different variants from Mario Kart Tour are coming together in one. There most of the city tour courses have multiple versions with different routes. Each of these versions then can also have reversed variants, as well as a trick variants with additional ramps and obstacles. The tracks in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe now become an amalgamation of all those variants, which is a really good solution and also makes these new tracks quite dynamic and rich in variety.

This is also true for Kalimari Desert, by far the most prominent course from Mario Kart 64, which was combined with Kalimari Desert 2 from Mario Kart Tour, where you are primarily driving through the train tunnels. However, it's somewhat forced here, because in the N64 original you could just freely go through the tunnel as you seemed fit with some risk to it, even though it didn't count as a lap (unless you were using a Star). Here it funnels you onto the train tracks via a track ramp during lap 2 and otherwise it's out of bounds, like it was on the 3DS. And Lakitu can be a real b***h on the new courses, where he grabs if you so much as look at those artificial borders. At least it's still better than the Nintendo 3DS version, where you couldn't go through the tunnels at all.

They probably should have done some mixing with Mario Circuit 3 as well, because this track is as flat and simple as it gets. Compared to similar courses from the base game, like SNES Donut Plains 3, the difference is appalling. It still looks better than the Wii version, you have to give them that, but not by much...

a pinguin sliding on ice in Snow Land, promotional image

They've done a much better job with Snow Land, which has some more depth to it and looks quite fantastic here. Kalimari Desert also looks really good, where these two new tracks come quite close to the base game quality. But this can't be said about all of the tracks, where for example Sydney Sprint uses something similar to the ugly road texture from Sky Gardens and has the Opera House filled with a sprite-based audience moving at five frames per second, as if this was a Nintendo 64 title. To be fair, the base game also does things like that here and there, but it's a lot more apparent with the Booster Course Pass, which is also true for the oversized objects and audiences at the sidelines.

Overall, wave 2 feels more like a mixed bag, both visually and acoustically. Wave 1 was consistently bad with the visuals, but had some really good new remixes from the band for all courses. In wave 2 the visuals are all over the place and the band only seems to be back in action for a couple of courses, while others only seem to get some slight remixes of classic music tracks. One of the highlights is easily the music from Sydney Sprint, which might even be one of the best soundtracks in the entire game. It's a banger.

The music of Mushroom Gorge on the other hands sounds very similar to the Wii original, which makes the course feel like one of the more underwhelming additions at first. But it manages to put the three different previous versions of this track together quite nicely, where we finally have the shortcut right at the beginning from Mario Kart Wii back, while it puts the blue glider mushroom from Mario Kart 7 on a third middle path in the giant cave, so that the two bouncy mushroom paths from the original are back as well. It's another well done amalgamation and clearly the best version of this course so far.

Waluigi Pinball simply re-uses the music from Wario Stadium, but that's fair, because both tracks used to have the same music back in Mario Kart DS. Still, they could have tried something different here. In addition, this course needs a gigantic epilepsy warning right at the start, where you are going through that flashy pinball launcher, which probably already has caused some seizures out there. Even as someone who usually doesn't have much issues with flashing lights this is very uncomfortable to look at.

And this may be a controversial opinion, but I generally don't like this course as much. It's a fan favorite and one of the most memorable race tracks from Mario Kart DS, so I don't mind its addition to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, but that part before the end is just way too random for me. Even if you manage to dodge all the bumpers or go around the sides, you still might get sniped by the giant metal pinballs from an angle where you don't see it coming. You have to be lucky to get through there unharmed... And that's not nice for the final course in any cup. 

It's one of the examples where they could tried incorporating anti-gravity and make the bumpers something that you want to hit. This course would be a lot more interesting in that case. But I love the way downwards and the course is quite some fun in 200cc, especially since the pinballs don't get in your way during the first lap.

Some other courses in wave 2 are much more enjoyable in 200cc as well, mainly Mario Circuit 3, Snow Land, and Kalimari Desert. Even Mushroom Gorge works surprisingly well in the higher speed, which I did not expect at all. Drifting around the long curve going into the cave even works better there...

ice cream shop at the start of Sky-High Sundae

Anyway, the same can't be said for Sky-High Sundae, the "new" track. Well, Ninja Hideaway still isn't labeled as "Tour", where maybe they will only give this to the city tracks, but in this case it really made its debut in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and is the only course in the DLC so far that makes use of anti-gravity. But it still looks like this was made for Fall Guys Mario Kart Tour. (Update: the course got announced for Mario Kart Tour the day wave 2 dropped, so this was probably made for the mobile game first, like every other track in the DLC. There is no use of anti-gravity in this version.)

It's one of the worst tracks in the DLC so far, however. It's just a loop, which in itself isn't a terrible thing, but there are quite some leap of faiths here. You are jumping blind in more than one occasion and the track is too narrow for all the anti-gravity boosting, where the hand rails act as bumpers for some reason. It's especially annoying in 200cc. The ice cream theme also isn't all too exciting, when there have been other food-themed courses in the game, like Sweet Sweet Canyon, with less of a Fall Guys aesthetic to it. Plus, did you see that oversized jukebox that they've brought in from Animal Crossing?

Still, compared to the first wave, the second wave of the Booster Course Pass looks a bit better overall, so the visuals have improved slightly, but it's still miles away from the base game quality. I keep reading the theory that they are limiting the graphics so much that the game will still fit an 8GB Nintendo Switch cartridge in case they want to release a "Definitive Edition" of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with the Booster Course Pass included one day. And I wouldn't be surprised if this turned out to be true, because that sounds a lot like Nintendo. Still, they aren't completely deaf to feedback and have seemingly been trying a bit harder with wave 2.

They've also updated the courses from wave 1, where the biggest change is that the cars in Coconut Mall now finally move again, even doing some doughnuts, which is hilarious. This change only applies to Grand Prix and Versus modes, however, to not interfere with your records and ghosts in Time Trials. And they've reduced the speed of the bots in 200cc for these courses, which makes completing this mode easier and more enjoyable now than it was before. But it's still tough in the Lucky Cat Cup...