Mario Kart 8 Director Talks DLC, Hyrule Circuit Secrets, and More -- Interview

Q&A: We talk with Mario Kart 8's director Kosuke Yabuki about the game's recently released expansion.

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Mario Kart 8 welcomed its first expansion last week, introducing new characters, vehicles, and courses to the acclaimed Wii U racing game. To go deeper into the DLC, we caught up with Mario Kart 8 game director Kosuke Yabuki for an interview. Check out our full chat below, which touches on topics like why Nintendo chose the tracks it did, secret shortcuts, feedback for the game so far, and lots more.

You can buy Mario Kart 8's first DLC expansion today for $8 as an individual download. You can also buy the game's DLC pass for $12, which entitles you to the next expansion and other goodies.

There are a few tracks based on classic Nintendo franchises in this DLC. Can you tell us about why you selected the ones you did? What were the criteria that you were looking at?

"We wanted people to keep playing Mario Kart 8 for a long time, and releasing DLC is a very effective way of achieving this. If we're going to make DLC, we wanted it to be something fresh and special. That's what brought us to the idea to borrow characters, vehicles, and courses from sources outside of the Mario universe.

"We needed to choose themes that, when rearranged for Mario Kart, would allow us to retain the game's balance" -- Yabuki

We needed to choose themes that, when rearranged for Mario Kart, would allow us to retain the game's balance. F-Zero, Excitebike, and The Legend of Zelda all lived up to that standard, and more than that, I figured they would lead to courses with really unique characteristics."

Obviously each track based on specific franchises features the iconography from the series. But have you also tried to instill a specific "feel" based on what game the tracks are focused on? Is Mute City all about speed, for example? Is the Zelda track filled with new paths to explore?

"Mute City has two key elements: 'speed' and 'anti-gravity.' You have a winding race course with lots of dash plates, leading to extreme, high-speed races. Some of the dash plates are set up to change position every time you race. The gravity also isn't as heavy as in other courses, leading to longer jumps and a unique kind of floating feeling.

The jumps and dirt patches change in the Excitebike Arena every time you race. There are actually over 200 patterns. Still, I think it's best to not worry too much about it and just enjoy zooming around the course, taking jumps when you can. I think the course lends itself well to new race situations unfolding as you play, something not seen in previous Mario Kart games.

For Hyrule Circuit, we wanted to take the feel of riding Epona across the beautiful Hyrule countryside and bring it into the race. The course quickly changes between plains, castle, town, and trail areas. The castle includes some classic Zelda references, and there are monsters waiting for you in the trails as well."

There are some lovely touches all the way through these new tracks (such as rupees in place of coins in the Zelda track). Can you talk a little about some of the more subtle touches and references within each that fans should look out for? What's your favorite reference?

"My favorite reference is the Master Sword inside Hyrule Castle. There are three switches, and activating all of them opens a path to the Master Sword, giving you access to a shortcut. It's tough for a single racer to open this road up, but when multiple players are in the area, it's a snap to get it open. I think that stretch provides a nice strategic element during online play.

Also, pay attention to the sound in this course. The Hyrule Circuit tune features an assortment of Legend of Zelda themes folded into each other. We also focused on the smaller details, like the Zelda sound effect that plays when you obtain an item."

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What's your favorite track out of the new ones in the DLC pack? Why?

"In the end, I have to pick Hyrule Circuit. I myself was part of the Legend of Zelda development team in the past, so I suppose I have a special fondness for the course."

Now that we have Link in the game, can we eventually expect to see a Mario Kart game that has various Nintendo mascots in it (as in Super Smash Bros.)?

"For now, this DLC is unique and special in the way it transcends the boundaries of the Mario Kart franchise. I hope that people around the world enjoy it."

The game has been out for several months now. What have fans been telling you about the game? Are there any tweaks or balances we should expect in the near future?

"For this update, we made just a minor tweak to the way two players deflect when they collide with each other. Up until now, when two players collided, the more lightweight racers would get knocked too far away. That, combined with other overall elements we considered, made us conclude that the lighter racers were at a bit of a disadvantage. If you like Toad or Shy Guy and feel like you can't win at all, go ahead and give them another try after applying the update. Also note that this tweak doesn't have any effect on Time Trials when playing solo."

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