Saturday, March 11, 2023

Booster Course Pass: Wave 4 Impressions

Birdo (Green) on the Master Cycle Zero at the start of Riverside Park

On Wednesday we got the third DLC Pack for Fire Emblem Engage and one day later the fourth wave of the Booster Course Pass, where this certainly going to be a busy weekend for Nintendo fans. Overall Nintendo shows a steady output at the moment, where even little things like new DLC are good to keep us entertained / distracted until Tears of the Kingdom (though, it prevents me from replaying Breath of the Wild, which is probably what I should be doing right now).

Anyway, eight more courses have been released and the quality is about the same level as the excellent third wave. I personally liked wave 3 better, but that's just how I feel towards the selection of courses, because the visual and gameplay quality is pretty similar. There is one course that stands above everything else made so far, but also some stuff that doesn't look as good.

Anti-gravity is once more mostly absent this time, where only one course briefly makes use of it, but they have been creating some more underwater sections, where this has been a rarity in the DLC. In fact, only GBA Boo Lake from the last time had some underwater gameplay and that's it, even if you include the DLC courses from the Wii U. This wave we have two more courses we you are driving underwater and that's nice to see, even if it never was the most exciting mechanic.

However, this wave also brings completely new enemies to Mario Kart, which hasn't happened so far in the Booster Course Pass, and a new character: Birdo in eight colors. Like always, let's take a look at the list of course first...

Fruit Cup:

  • Tour Amsterdam Drift
  • GBA Riverside Park
  • Wii DK Summit / DK's Snowboard Cross
  • Yoshi's Island


Boomerang Cup:

  • Tour Bangkok Rush
  • DS Mario Circuit
  • GCN Waluigi Stadium
  • Tour Singapore Speedway

There are three city tours in this, instead of the usual two, and one completely new course, which hasn't been in Mario Kart Tour yet, but will most likely appear there in the future. So, if you don't play the mobile game, then half of the content here will be new to you. And two of the tracks have been overhauled quite significantly, so it feels like the freshest wave so far in terms of content.

promotional screenshot with the windmills in the background, Daiys and Luigi at the front

Things start with Amsterdam Drift, where the flight section towards the windmills makes me want 3DS Daisy Hills back more than anything, because this city is a mess for driving. The constantly changing routes were a novelty in the early Booster Course Pass, but by now it's getting frustrating, because these cluttered cities lack the necessary visual clarity. There is so much going on and there are so many hard-to-see turns that you need to memorize these tracks from start to finish. Even though you can spot the directional arrows usually from a distance, it's still sometimes hard to see where exactly you need to go, where in one case you even have to take a near 180° turn. Amsterdam is a nightmare in 200cc, at least at first.

On the bright side, it has a lot of variety and the longest underwater part of any DLC course so far, where you are going through some channels. This also would have been a great idea for Venedig, which may even happen in the future...

There is also a boat channel in Bangkok Rush, where you can use the paddles as ramps, which is a nice idea, but probably the most memorable part about the course. There is like this huge section with a crossing above you, where I keep running into the pillars below, and here it's also hard to get a good overview of where you need to go. Not quite as bad as Amsterdam, but still bad and this part lacks any real scenery. The staircases, which lead up and down, should you opt for the upper route, are also a bit too narrow.

Rosalina driving on the Master Cycle Zero through a pool on a rooftop in Singapore

The highlight of the new city courses is easily Singapore Speedway, which is probably why it was put at the end of the wave. Even though each lap takes you through different parts, it's a lot more straight-forward and it focuses more on the spectacle. The decadence is seemingly strong with this city, which makes you wonder if they will add Dubai next. But it's a lot of fun to drive through swimming pools on top of skyscrapers, where Goombas are having a good time.

Off to a much more basic course, we have another excellent translation of a track from Mario Kart: Super Circuit into 3D with GBA Riverside Park. I personally found all GBA courses in the Booster Course Pass so far very enjoyable and this one is no exception. It looks absolutely beautiful with the new lighting and it has some really nice textures, which makes you wonder why some other courses in the pass look like they are from an entirely different game. It's also a breeze even in 200cc and offers a good time overall.

For this version they've also added Ptooies, the walking Piranha Plants, which are spitting up items and drop them if they get hit or rammed. They are wandering up the waterfall cave like Lemmings, which is quite funny. But this is the first time these enemies have appeared in Mario Kart to make this basic course a bit more interesting.

Equally basic is DS Mario Circuit, which now has reappeared both in Mario Kart Tour and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the first time ever. Like 3DS Toad Circuit from the first wave, this has sparked some controversy, because we already know that this was going to be the last course from Mario Kart DS. So, if you were hoping for Luigi's Mansion or Airship Fortress, which were both already playable in Tour and therefore a likely candidate, you are probably now disappointed, especially since this is now the fourth Mario Circuit in the game...

Nonetheless it's a good conversion. I personally found the original to be quite dull and forgettable, but this new version adds some more verticality and variety, where there is now a forest section after the tunnel guarded by the fire-spitting Piranha Plants. During the last lap there is even a giant Wiggler, who is crossing the road. They've probably made the best out of this course, but this won't change the fact that it's very basic and certainly no Airship Fortress.

start of Waluigi Stadium with Wario, Walugi, Luigi, Peach, and Rosalina

If you want more action, then GCN Waluigi Stadium will probably have you covered. It's the first track from Double Dash!! in the Booster Course Pass and it used to be one of my favorite classic courses in Mario Kart Wii, but they've completely butchered this version in my humble opinion. My main problem is the new mud texture, which looks super ugly and is quite hard on the eyes. It's like the wood in Maple Treeway, except that it's absolutely everywhere here. It also seems like they've made the course more slippery with it, which makes sense, but isn't much fun either.

The second half of the course has the only anti-gravity sections in this pass, which come in form of grate ways above the usual track, which can be accessed via the half-pipes. There doesn't seem to be a big advantage to them, especially since they've made the off-road section near the end much smaller, so you can just boost through there without any effort. In past versions this used to be another viable shortcut...

They've also altered the part with the mechanical Piranha Plants quite a bit, where they've made it almost too trivial. Two of them are now facing each other, but are angled up by 45°, so you can simply drive through them. The numbers of rotating fire bars was also reduced and it now seems completely trivial to just go through the middle of this obstacle course, even though they've added some tires as a nuisance. On the Wii I used to stick to one of the half-pipes to avoid all the things, but it seems harder to do now and may not be worth the trouble outside of Time Trials.

promotional screenshot of a Shuy Guy doing a stunt on the piste with another Shy Guy on the ski lift in the background

This is also true for Wii DK Summit (or DK's Snowboard Cross in the UK), but otherwise this course is as good as I remember it from the Wii. You can even go for the quite risky shortcut in the middle, where you jump over the holes, though I've heard that there is a bug where you may keep falling for a while. It is a nice course overall, which is of course similar to Mount Wario in theme, but this one is much shorter and makes you go up the mountain with each lap for some repeated downhill fun. And the half-pipes add something different to this idea as well. Now all it needs is Funky Kong, but we'll get to that...

The highlight of this wave and probably of the entire Booster Course Pass so far is without a doubt Yoshi's Island. It's a completely new course, where there is no sign of it yet in Mario Kart Tour (but this may change soon). It's based upon the beloved SNES classic, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, and it's a delight!

This is on a similar level to the crossover courses from the Wii U DLC, like Hyrule Circuit or Animal Crossing. There is a unique banner for the goal line. You have new fanfares at the start and finish of the race. You collect "Yoshi Coins" with a special sound effect (where it makes you wish that 3DS DK Jungle had Banana Coins). And there are some new enemies here, like Shy Guys on stilts or "Huffin Puffins", with a lot more entities to spot in the background, like Poochy. They've put a lot of effort into this.

It's also lovely how the course goes through all over Yoshi's Island and its different worlds. You start at the grasslands, then dive under water and go through a castle, emerge into a cave, race up a volcano, take a turn on a cloud island, and finally glide down back to the start. It's like a whole Mario game – or Yoshi game in this case – concentrated to a single course.

There is another special mechanic near the end, where you can try to hit a winged cloud in the air to create a significant shortcut. It's not so easy to hit, but someone else behind you might still be able to do it, where this feels similar to the Master Sword shortcut on Hyrule Circuit.

Graphically the course still looks more like it was made for Mario Kart Tour, with rather cartoony visuals, and the smaller sections may give you the feeling like you've seen it all before from other courses. But with all the attention to detail and the many new things it's still one of the best, if not the best addition from the Booster Course Pass so far.

Birdo flying through the skies of Yoshi's Island

And there is more... starting with wave 4 we're also getting new characters, for which they've added a new column to the character select screen, with five question marks for upcoming additions. So, waves 5 and 6 will likely offer multiple characters each, unless they are doing one wave with four characters at once. Birdo works still rather well as a single character addition, though, since she comes with nine different colors, just like Yoshi and Shy Guy before her. So, this adds more variety, since a lot of people are going to play her now for the novelty alone.

Version 2.3.0 will create some more variety in any case, since it has buffed a number of characters and vehicle parts with increased speed and/or mini-turbo stats. Essentially this has affected everything and everyone not already in the established top tier, like the infamous Waluigi Wiggler combo. Ultimately this will just lead to a different meta, where apparently Link has now joined the top as well (sharing a class with Rosalina). But it's overall a very good approach for balancing this game: just make everything else a little bit better. And this will hopefully add more viable options for those who really care.

1 comment:

Raul said...

Yeah the fact that the course is like a theme park tour through the Yoshi's Island map is pretty neat.

If Zelda got another course wouldn't mind a BotW one where you briefly go through areas based on Zora Domain, Eldin Volcano, Gerudo Desert, Rito Village, and Hyrule Castle. Background enemies can include most of them since BotW doesn't have huge amount of unique enemies.