This review deals only with the contents of the Animal Crossing x Mario Kart 8 DLC Pack 2. For our review of the original game click here and for the review of the first DLC pack click here. As the new content launched the other day along alongside the free update to version 4.0 which includes the new 200cc mode, we will deal with both below.
After having sampled the well-crafted first DLC pack for Mario Kart 8 late last year, it was only natural that there would be high expectations for this, the second. Simply put, the amount of content offered herein justifies the price of purchasing this pack, the last, or even both together.
Across both DLC you're getting four new cups (which is half the number included in the base game), an exclusive series of characters like Link and the Villager, as well as new vehicles and parts. But it's not just an impressive injection of content, the second pack also surprised us with its originality and impressive track design.
Starting with Crossing Cup, the rules are already being challenged. Baby Park, originally seen on Gamecube years ago, is much more than an adorable oval-shaped track. It's deliberately short and that means that everything quickly descends into craziness, with the leaders easily lapping the slowest drivers and things getting very chaotic. It actually reaches a point where you don't know who's in the lead or how far you are ahead of your opponents (thus it's not that easy to finish in first), with the backdrops offering homage to the whole game.
Cheese Land, originally on GBA, has several hidden shortcuts - right up until the finish line - that can win you the race. Wild Woods is completely new and particularly beautiful; it's full of trees with hanging Shy Guys, waterfalls and streams. Oh, and you start racing up a wall. Last but not least, the Animal Crossing track will delight fans of the franchise with a multitude of characters and props from that series (including changing seasons) and, as with the Hyrule Castle track from DLC 1, it also features exclusive sound effects and icons.
DLC Pack 2 Gameplay: Full Crossing Cup
The second cup is possibly the more difficult of the two (and perhaps of the game). Bell Cup starts with the rainy Koopa City, and its narrow corners mean you'll often need some assistance from Lakitu. The Ribbon Road, also from GBA, is possibly the most elaborate track and it's full of fan-service. It's colourful and comes with many elements that you can take advantage of. It also has two of the most difficult to master shortcuts in the game, and it's fairly lengthy.
The championship closes its second half with Super Bell Subway (which can feel quite unfair if you have the misfortune to bump into trains) and Big Blue, a tribute to a legendary F-Zero circuit. The latter's inclusion means that Captain Falcon's series has two tracks in Mario Kart 8, one with each DLC. Big Blue is divided into sections (not laps, given its mind-blowing design) and although it's not as full of accelerator plates as Mute City, it reminds us more of racing in the futuristic racing franchise. You have to know how to drift properly to drive over boosters, and as you might expect you need to take care with corners.
DLC Pack 2 for Mario Kart 8 doesn't just offer new tracks, it also provides us with the occasional stroke of genius. The circuits are varied when it comes to colours, shortcuts, the type of terrain, and there are also original designs. Comparing what we have now to the original vanilla Mario Kart 8 as it came out last year, it's now a much more complete title and this is probably one of the best DLC packs the genre has seen.
DLC Pack 2 Gameplay: Full Bell Cup
The 200cc Cup
When the new cylinder capacity was recently announced along with the new content pack, it looked as if it would simply provide higher-speed races, but the end result leads to a very different experience. Those skilled in the 150cc can forget about getting all three stars in the Cups with their current vehicles or setups, since this is a true game-changer for the MK experience.
Although the karts and other vehicles now have more power, their setup hasn't changed and their weight remains the same. This means that the karts and motorcycles lose control easier. You must anticipate drifts long before each turn and think differently about jumps. Those ramps that propelled us into the air on some tracks can now become a problem... or an amazing new shortcut.
For instance, Twisted Mansion works much better now with heavier vehicles or characters. Jumps to shortcuts in Toad Harbour have become useless depending on your vehicle, and prior to the finish line in Water Park, the leap becomes a problem when having to dodge the wheel. The change means you'll have to plan for longer distances and it forces you to approach each track differently, which adds a nice new challenge.
It may mean that motorcycles start with an advantage in the new class, given their ability to perform tighter turns. They tend to take corners more closely, despite less control when drifting. However, class weight and grip present greater problems than drifting. Furthermore, although it's not something we can confirm fully yet, it seems that the enemy AI is more aggressive, a step above 150cc. It makes fewer mistakes and it is more effective with shells and bananas. It may be a result of the racing being, in itself, more chaotic, but it certainly feels as though opponents present more of a challenge.
The 200cc addition could be seen as a bit unfair by some. It's a mode that forces you to change your strategy and it's much more complicated to leave a pack of drivers behind if you're not both lucky and highly skilled. But for that very reason, for challenging even the most experienced drivers, it's a welcome addition and something to applaud. If you've not played Mario Kart 8 for some time, it's definitely worth coming back to replay in 200cc - which is a totally free update.
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