Review: Mario Kart 8 DLC Pack 2: Animal Crossing

The second DLC pack for Mario Kart 8 comes zooming in, and we tackle all the new content!

By Angela Marrujo Fornaca. Posted 04/29/2015 07:00 2 Comments     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Gorgeous visuals, creative new tracks and high-quality revamps of retro tracks, some tracks are challenging without being frustrating
Poison Mushroom for...
...nothing! I honestly can't say there's one thing I was unhappy about with this new content. Huzzah!

Almost one year after the release of Mario Kart 8 comes the game’s long-awaited second DLC pack, the Animal Crossing pack, complete with three new racers, four new vehicles, and eight new (and revamped) courses within two new cups. The Legend of Zelda DLC pack released late last year introduced a bevy of beautiful courses along with the first appearance of Link in a Mario Kart title, but somehow Nintendo managed to top itself yet again– the company seems to have a knack for doing that– with the offerings in the latest DLC pack.

I have to begin by noting how incredibly beautiful this latest set of tracks looks. Hyrule Circuit, Dragon Driftway, and Mute City stood out in the Legend of Zelda DLC pack as being especially vibrant and eye-opening visually, but it seems every course in the Animal Crossing pack is something out of a Pixar film. Everything from the lighting, to textures, to the sheer size and scope of some tracks really made an impression on me.

The Crossing Cup is one of two new cups and features Baby Park from Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, Cheese Land from Super Circuit, and two new tracks, Wild Woods and Animal Crossing. I was particularly excited about the return of Baby Park, but was worried that the frenzy brought on by having double the items littering the road in Double Dash!! would be missing from this iteration of the stage. The frenzy is still alive and well in Mario Kart 8, and makes for a particularly brutal race online. Cheese Land was the one stage I was the least excited about, but it is surprisingly difficult, with some really sharp turns and no guard rails, along with portions of road that have raised edges, causing you to sometimes crash or falter. The challenge of this stage, along with the interesting visuals (your surroundings really are made of cheese) were a nice surprise.

Wild Woods is a personal favorite of mine because I’m obsessed with Shy Guys and couldn’t believe Nintendo graced us with a second Shy Guy centric stage. It also helps that it’s one of the most beautiful and whimsical stages in the game, set in a forest replete with Shy Guy houses, Toad and his friends, streams, and lush greens, and here you start the race situated vertically using anti-grav. Animal Crossing is absolutely charming and will alternate randomly between the four seasons; the first time I played, it was summer in the village, with a bright, clear sky and buzzing cicadas, the next time was winter, with snow and Christmas lights glowing in the evening, and the third time I played the cherry blossoms were blooming in spring and the petals were fluttering by (still haven’t seen fall yet!). I especially liked the items boxes floating on red balloons on one stretch of road– no slingshot needed to collect these floating packages!

The Bell Cup brings back Neo Bowser City from Mario Kart 7 as well as Ribbon Road from Super Circuit, and introduces Big Blue and Super Bell Subway. Neo Bowser City is one of the most graphically impressive stages in the entire game, with glowing neon set against a dark, stormy sky, heavy rain that looks photorealistic as it pours down on the asphalt, and the added detail of hydroplaning on the slick road. This is also, in my humble opinion, the toughest track yet, due not only to the aforementioned hydroplaning but to the very narrow road and an incredibly windy track with some wicked curves in places. But for all of New Bowser City’s glitz, Ribbon Road takes the cake for being the most revamped course, and for the better. Set in a child’s bedroom, the racers have been shrunk down to the size of toys on a toy racetrack, with some serious Nintendo fan service everywhere you look: Mecha Koopas wandering the raceway, Bowser Copter Jack-in-the-Boxes swaying back and forth to block your path, Woolly Yoshi plushies laying around the bedroom, and even a movie poster on the wall for “Dragon Driftway The Movie” starring “Kung Fu Lakitu” in the same pose as Kung Fu Panda, with a release date of spring 2015. When I said that the courses for this DLC pack look nearly as good as something out of a Pixar film, this is the stage that comes to mind in particular. While not as difficult of a race as some of the other tracks, it’s a feast for the eyes.

Big Blue is the second F-Zero track we’ve seen in the DLC packs, which makes me wonder whether or not this is a hint that a new F-Zero game is in the works. Big Blue is a continuous track rather than one you race three times around, floating amidst lush forest with rushing water running through parts of the track. While admittedly the F-Zero courses aren’t my favorites because I don’t find them as interesting to race on (hardly any hazards, pretty straight-forward track), again, there’s no denying how good everything looks and how detailed the road itself is. Super Bell Subway is another of my favorite tracks this time around, set in a bustling subway where you zoom through turnstiles and race alongside commuter trains in subway tunnels on the tracks. Being a daily train commuter myself, I found this stage particularly fun and adrenaline-filled, imagining the Mario Kart shenanigans taking place on my commute, and I also liked that Nintendo kept with the theme of disrupting the flow of everyday traffic and activities seen in courses like Sunshine Airport and Toad’s Turnpike.

Villager and Isabelle are fun additions to the racing roster (Isabelle is especially adorable behind the wheel of a kart), and feel light and easy to control, whereas Dry Bowser is as heavy and tough to maneuver as you would expect, though his glowing shell and eyes are really awesome.

And what about the 200cc mode, you ask?

IT’S INSANE! I thought that perhaps Nintendo was exaggerating a bit with the mode description stating that breaking was essential, but breaking is absolutely essential. You’ll definitely find yourself flying off ledges and crashing into walls the first few times until you start utilizing your breaks in ways that perhaps you’ve never done before 200cc mode. The increase in speed is generous, and the CPU will catch up to you much faster (obviously) than in the other modes, and I also noticed them crashing into walls as well, which was a nice bit of authenticity added on Nintendo’s part to make racing the CPU not only fairer, but more comparative to racing human players. Bear in mind, however, that 200cc mode isn’t part of the DLC pack but is available by doing the latest software update, and for the mode to appear after the update you have to have unlocked Mirror Mode.

I genuinely have no complaints about the Animal Crossing DLC for Mario Kart 8 and highly recommend getting this content, as well as the first pack if you haven’t yet, to expand on your Mario Kart experience. The DLC is quality, not a poorly thrown together cash-grab, and offers courses that are even better than some of the standard ones. The visuals are outstanding and the courses are varied and feel challenging without being frustrating. Nintendo, you’ve done it again.

2 Responses to “Review: Mario Kart 8 DLC Pack 2: Animal Crossing”

  • 156 points
    excaliburguy says...

    One thing that wasn’t mentioned is the music on these new tracks. To put it simply, the new music is incredible. Especially Big Blue. It’s always been a favorite of mine, and this jazz remix… it’s… it’s byotiful. 10/10 forev’s. Er, I mean… it’s really good.

    I really hope Ninty continues this trend of more jazz-oriented music in their Wii U games. It really gives these games more of an identity.

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