Saturday, November 11, 2023

Booster Course Pass: Wave 6 Impressions

Pauline posing on the Master Cycle Zero in Madrid

It's over. The final wave of the Booster Course Pass for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was released this week and all 48 new courses are now available after two years of updates. It has the most additional content of any wave with four new characters and 17 Mii racing suits, but also comes with some of the best courses in the DLC.

Acorn Cup:

  • Tour Rome Avanti
  • GCN DK Mountain
  • Wii Daisy Circuit
  • Piranha Plant Cove


Spiny Cup:

  • Tour Madrid Drive
  • 3DS Rosalina's Ice World
  • SNES Bowser Castle 3
  • Wii Rainbow Road

The biggest surprise in the end was the omission of Piranha Plant Pipeline, also known as "Pipe Canyon", the only exclusive course left in Mario Kart Tour, besides the RMX tracks, which didn't make the cut. This was certainly unexpected, despite the fact that its English name is way too similar to the existing Piranha Plant Cove in Wave 6, but there was the idea that the Booster Course Pass would preserve all 21 original courses from Tour, where it falls only one short...

Rosalina on the Master Cycle Zero presenting the finish line of her Ice World

It was replaced by 3DS Rosalina's Ice World (or potentially even Wii Moonview Highway from the previous wave), so let's talk about that one first. There are actually quite a number of 3DS courses left in Mario Kart Tour, as well as tracks with a snow / ice theme, where they have picked the overlap of both for something that feels very seasonal, basically this year's Merry Mountain.

Like many 3DS courses, this one comes with an underwater section, something that was heavily underutilized before the fifth wave. It's also the only course in existence to Rosalina's name, so it's a decent choice overall.

Rosalina letting go of the Master Cycle Zero above an ice lake

I personally always liked this course in Mario Kart 7, mainly because of its comforting music, and it looks absolutely gorgeous in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. As with GBA Snow Land, they are nailing the ice visuals. The part where you go around the large hole after the start can be a bit annoying with the camera angle, however, and for some reason you can now land and drive on the plateau above the ice there. But it's off-road, so you don't really want to get up there... They've also added the Wii half-pipes to the section afterwards and a shortcut near the end, where both of this is not even present in Tour, so they've put quite some work into this one.

The second course that rarely anyone saw coming for the final wave is Wii Daisy Circuit. It's another track that I personally found very comforting in the past, and it has a beautiful evening theme. They only thing that stands out visually is that they've reused the brick road texture from GBA Sky Gardens yet again for the part around the fountains. Sydney Sprint also has this texture everywhere, for example, and it stands out quite a bit.

promotional picture of the fountain area from Wii Daisy Circuit

Otherwise, the only thing you can say against this is that there already have been too many Wii courses in the Booster Course Pass and that they could have balanced things out a bit more. But with Wii Daisy Circuit there is now a circuit track from every single Mario Kart game in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe:

  • SNES Mario Circuit 3
  • N64 Royal Raceway
  • GBA Mario Circuit
  • GCN Yoshi Circuit
  • DS Mario Circuit
  • Wii Daisy Circuit
  • 3DS Toad Circuit

So, this inclusion was probably very much intentional and we have to blame some of the other Wii courses for the overabundance. But not Wii Rainbow Road, because this is another step of getting every Rainbow Road into Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, where this is the fifth one. And it's absolutely gorgeous.

Rosalina near the finish line of Wii Rainbow Road

This has always been my favorite Rainbow Road and I love that it's back. They even brought back the meteor effect whenever you fall down, which is a great attention to detail. It's also clearly themed around Super Mario Galaxy, where together with Rosalina's Ice World the Spiny Cup will make fans of that game and Rosalina very happy.

The only complaint here is that this course is very long, probably the longest course in the entire game, where I keep thinking that the race is over after the 2nd lap. And maybe it should be.

bright rainbow tiles

Overall this is just a fantastic finale for the Booster Course Pass, they couldn't have possibly chosen a better (retro) course from Mario Kart Tour to end things, considering that everything in the pass comes from the mobile game. And even if we had the full selection of every remaining Mario Kart course available, this still would have been my pick in the end. (But I also wouldn't mind getting more DLC with some of the other Rainbow Roads.)

Funky with the Paraglider shooting up DK Mountain

Another course that I personally always loved to play in Mario Kart Wii, even though it was part of its retro selection, was GCN DK Mountain. There is just something special about being shot with a barrel cannon up to a volcano and then driving downhill into the jungle. With the re-introduction of Diddy and Funky Kong this was the best choice from the remaining Double Dash!! courses and they really made this course glow, it looks very bright and joyful.

They also added a couple of DK barrels, so the course feels a lot more like something from a Donkey Kong Country game, and they've brought back the "DK" logo on the barrel cannon, which was missing in Mario Kart Tour. You can still do the shortcut near the end where you jump over the chasm, so that's great. The only complaint is that it can be quite hard to trick on the wiggling bridge on the end. At least I'm feeling like playing Mario Kart Wii again when I shake the controller like crazy during this part of the track...

Pauline making a laser stunt with a volcano in the background and lots of lava

There is one more classic course to talk about with SNES Bowser Castle 3 and this one is fire. After SNES Mario Circuit 3 had stayed very, very faithful to the flat and simple design of the original Super Mario Kart courses, this remake is absolutely wild, like the complete opposite. You can still recognize the original layout, but it's just a lot more vertical. The whole track is set on a lavafall and makes great use of anti-gravity when going up there. The walls between the three lanes before the U-turn now are very high and you can even drive on top of them, though it's quite tricky to do so.

This remake was already fantastic in Mario Kart Tour, but they really outdid themselves with the visuals in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, where it looks a lot grittier. The version in Tour was a lot cleaner, but now it's what you would imagine a diabolical lava castle to look like.

Sadly, this is the only classic Bowser Castle that we ever got in Mario Kart 8 (Deluxe), where there also would have been others available in Mario Kart Tour, but they've picked the most interesting candidate from that selection. It's a short and intense course, similar to GBA Boo Lake, but those can be a lot of fun.

promotional shot of Rome Avanti and the Colosseu

All roads lead to Rome, and with that saying in mind Tour Rome Avanti should have been in the Spiny Cup, instead of Madrid. Originally, it was in one cup together with Athens Dash, the Feathers Cup, but they probably had to reshuffle things. Maybe it was because it comes with a couple of new elements, the Fuzzies and the Rocky Wrenches, which needed some extra work (and cartridge space, where only the first five waves made it onto one), we probably won't ever know.

The highlight of Rome is without a doubt the Colosseum, where you drive around the inside of the walls to its top in the first lap and then right through the arena in the final lap, where two Chain Chomps are gnawing through the floor. It's quite memorable, but the rest of the course not so much.

There are a lot of tight streets and things can get very chaotic if you haven't learned the course and its routes yet. This is true for many of the city tours, but this is one of the worst offenders. In one part it gives you these red directional arrow fields to the left, only for the course to take a right turn immediately, which is super confusing. Rome also puts you into incoming traffic of other players, where the front-runners will meet the guys in the back, which is rare and a lot more surprising here than in some of the other city courses.

Peachette wiggling her legs on the Master Cycle Zero while driving through a soccer field

Tour Madrid Drive on the other hand feels almost straight-forward in comparison and is not all that spectacular, save for its excellent music. It was the last city tour finished for Mario Kart Tour, so that's most likely why it ended up in the final wave, but you may question the positioning in the final cup. It seems like this was purely done because the course ends on a soccer field, where you drive through the goal, because soccer / football is super popular in Europe and Japan, so this will get a lot of people excited (but not me).

It's a nice idea, though, and the Shoe Goombas playing with gigantic soccer balls are funny to see. There is also a Wiggler sleeping on the Plaza Mayor during the first lap, which then wakes up for the second lap, which is also quite entertaining. In this area you can also find Yoshis and Toads sitting at outdoor restaurant tables and you can drive right through them for a nice shortcut, but they are absolutely gigantic, as always... The art gallery is lovely, but otherwise there isn't much to say about this track.

promotional screenshot of some underwater ruins

Last but not least, we have the Piranha Plant Cove, which is the only "new" course in the Booster Course Pass to consist of three different routes, like most of the city tours. In Mario Kart Tour all these routes are separate tracks, so you also have Piranha Plant Cove 2 and 3 in that game, but it's all merged together into one for the Booster Course Pass, which is also true for all the cities.

And this works really well for Piranha Plant Cove, where it has become a wonderful journey through some underwater ruins, filled with giant eels, floating Toads, and lots of Petey Piranha Statues, but also a shipwreck and more. It's a beautiful course, which gives you a lot to look at, but also gives you the time to look at everything, because it's very wide and long. At least this makes it work really well in 200cc.

The majority of the course also takes place underwater, which is an absolute rarity and makes up for the lack of this mechanic in the early DLC. During the sections where you go on land you can also spot some Piantas, the folks from Super Mario Sunshine, but also some actual Piranha Plants. It's more of a "Petey Piranha Cove" otherwise. And the music is catchy as well.

The Drivers

We already knew since the last Nintendo Direct what characters we are getting with this wave as something to look forward to, because we now got half of the characters in the Booster Course Pass all at once:

  • Diddy Kong
  • Funky Kong
  • Pauline
  • Peachette

The only oddball here is Peachette, who by herself isn't the most terrible idea for a new character. She looks really cute, especially in her biker outfit, and is  more creative than Pink Gold Peach. But given that this is (probably) the final DLC character there are far more interesting characters still left in Mario Kart Tour, basically begging to be ported over into the fun.

Peachette blasting through SNES Bowser Castle 3

For example, if they wanted another female character, they could have gone with Dixie Kong instead, who would have fit right in with the rest in this wave, for a Donkey Kong family reunion. Or if they wanted a character from a modern 2D Mario game, then they could have picked Nabbit, who also appears in Super Mario Bros. Wonder. But instead we got this weird fusion of Peach and Toadette. Maybe they did it for the memes, because that Super Crown power-up really gave people quite some ideas...

It doesn't really matter now, we can't change it and Nintendo won't change it, unless they are planning more DLC, in which case the inclusion of Peachette will be totally fine. In any case, prepare to see her quite often, because she ended up in the same weight class as Peach, Daisy, Yoshi, and Birdo, which means that she is hitting that current sweet spot in the meta.

Diddy driving up DK Mountain next to a Burning DK Sports Drink sign

What matters more is that we finally got Diddy Kong back after more than nine years of Mario Kart 8. He first appeared in Mario Kart: Double Dash!! as a partner for Donkey Kong and then returned in Mario Kart Wii, but for some reason got kicked off the roster with Mario Kart 7. He was the most glaring omission and a lot of people will be happy that he's finally back.

Funky Kong chilling on his surfboard

And he brought his distant cousin along with him, the star of Mario Kart Wii, the one and only Funky Kong. He's as fun as he has always been, where he's doing some cool tricks now with his surfboard and offers some of the most energetic voice lines in the entire game. With him everyone from Mario Kart Wii returns, making this the only Mario Kart game since Super Circuit that has all of its characters present in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

Though, there is now always only one character missing for the rest of the games: Donkey Kong Jr. from Super Mario Kart, the Paratroopa from Double Dash!!, R.O.B. from Mario Kart DS, and the Honey Queen from Mario Kart 7. Otherwise, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has it all, if you ignore the plethora of characters in Mario Kart Tour.

Pauline with a banana on Madrid Drive

Speaking of, one more character who was introduced in the mobile game to the Mario Kart universe also made the cut: Pauline. Her horn offers a nice reference to her very first appearance, in the arcade classic of Donkey Kong. Since then she has mainly made a name for herself as the mayor of New Donk City in Super Mario Odyssey, where she has become the rising star of the Super Mario franchise afterwards, appearing in all the latest sports games. So, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe shall be no exception and it's good to have her.

Her stunt animations are phenomenal – she's pulling out her microphone and even doing a laser show in one of them. She's in the same weight class as the Links and Rosalina, which is what I like to use the most, so she has quickly become a new favorite of mine. She also looks really good in her biker suit, which is super shiny and lets her wear her hair in a lush ponytail.

promotional art of the new Mii racing suits

But that's not all... Out of nowhere Nintendo decided to also add 18 new Mii racing suits, making the usage of the Mii racer a lot more interesting and fun. So far we only had the costumes that can be unlocked via amiibo, but 17 of the new suits are unlocked right away as part of the Booster Course Pass and most of them are quite creative.

The ? Block, for example, is very catchy. Or the Dolphin Suit will make fans of the Dolphin Dasher a bit happier. There is a Goomba, a Blooper, and a Chain Chomp if you ever wanted to play as these monsters, where their faces are painted to the back of the helmet, so you and the players behind you can always see them. And all of these suits come with different animations for the stunts, where it's almost like getting 17 new characters.

As everything else in the Booster Course Pass, these Mii racing outfits come from Mario Kart Tour, where they've ported over less than half of them. Curiously, they've added a bunch of outfits based on the new characters in the Booster Course Pass with Birdo, Wiggler, and Petey Piranha. The latter looks even quite similar to the real deal from behind. At the same time they've avoided costumes of any playable characters that didn't make the cut, like Nabbit or King Bob-omb, where those could have acted as consolation prices. But maybe that's exactly what they didn't want to offer with this...

There is also one new Mii racing suit unlocked via amiibo with Daisy, which is also curious, because they could have done the exact same thing for Waluigi, who also has a Mii costume in Mario Kart Tour and an amiibo available, but they chose not to. The conspiracy theorist in me wants to believe that they are saving some stuff for later, but we'll get to this in a separate post.

The Daisy Suit came as part of the version 3.0.0 update, so you don't have to purchase the Booster Course Pass for this, but you will need her amiibo. And this leads us right to the last topic...

Version 3.0.0

For the final wave of the Booster Course Pass Nintendo decided to release a major update of the game, instead of making version 2.5.0 for some reason. Maybe it's because they've released a physical version of the game in Japan that comes with the DLC, but only with the first five waves, where this is now going beyond what's on the cartridge. The update itself doesn't necessarily justify this jump, where there is only one big addition and that's the new music player:

music player menu playing 3DS Rainbow Road

Here you can listen to the soundtrack of all the courses, including the Battle Mode courses. Now the controls for switching between the base game and DLC courses with the L and R button finally make more sense when there's a third page for the Battle Mode stuff.

For those course where the music alters in certain sections, you can change between the tracks via the Y button at any time. For the Animal Crossing course this lets you listen to the different soundtracks for the four seasonal variants, but it will start over from the beginning in this case. Sadly, there doesn't seem to be a way of changing to the front-running versions of each music track, where this is the only complaint about this excellent new feature.

current character select screen with Pauline on the Master Cycle Zero selected

The character select screen has been updated as well to make space for four more characters, instead of just two. For this they have put both Villagers back into one slot, like it used to be on the Wii U. And then they've done the same thing for the Inklings, reducing the presence of guest characters quite a bit.

For characters that have multiple variants, like Link, the Inklings, characters in different colors, and now also the Villager, it remembers and displays the variant that you've used last on the roster, which is new. As you can see above, I have used the Green Birdo and White Yoshi at some point (probably months ago), and this is now how they are shown, which is neat.

As already mentioned, there is a new amiibo suit now with the Daisy Suit, but they've also made it easier to obtain some of the existing Mii suits by making more amiibo eligible. For example, if you want the Hylian Suit, then now you can use any The Legend of Zelda amiibo to unlock it, instead of just certain Links.

There have been slight balance changes, where they've increased the invincibility stat of a variety of drivers and kart parts, but nothing that will change the current meta of Yoshis on Teddy Buggies everywhere. At least the current meta comes in many different colors...

What might drastically change in the competitive scene of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the strategy of "bagging". This got nerfed quite substantially, to quote the patch notes:

Made it so that you can’t acquire strong items when taking an Item Box by stopping or driving in reverse, or taking an Item Box that is in same location multiple times during a race.

This affects entire item box rows, not just single item boxes, so you can't drive continuously through one set any longer in order to obtain that Bullet Bill Star combo that you want so badly. Of course bagging is still possible, but it becomes a lot more risky than it already was. I personally never liked to do it on purpose anyway, so nothing much changes for me, but time will tell how this changes online and competitive play from now on.

If you prefer playing online in self-made lobbies, then you can now share a code, so that people can enter them without being on your friend list, which is certainly useful. It's basically like the arenas in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate now.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

And finally, there are new credits for the Booster Course Pass, which show up once you've got a trophy in all of the DLC cups. You can also see them again afterwards by beating either the Moon Cup or the Spiny Cup, the two new cups that end on a Rainbow Road. If you don't have the Booster Course Pass, you can still watch them after having played the new courses online or in wireless play 100 times and then beat any Grand Prix, so that's why this is part of the free update. And that's actually quite considerate.

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