Why Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has me worried
Is Nintendo spinning its wheels?
I've been playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe a whole bunch over the past few days, and will be bringing you the full PG review ahead of its April 28 release.
Suffice to say your pre-order is (probably) a safe bet.
But there are a couple of related points that I wanted to bring out before we get to that. You see, while I'm greatly enjoying Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, it also has me a little worried.
I'll get into why after a spot of scene-setting.Deluxe edition
As anyone who owned a Wii U (all 12 of us) or can read and understand a game title will realise, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe isn't a new game. It's a spruced up, lightly expanded version of 2014's Mario Kart 8.
That expansion includes the addition of a proper battle mode - which many felt was the one true weakness of the original - and a handful of new characters and karts. The game also runs at a higher resolution and a more consistent 60fps.
But anyone who's spent significant time with Mario Kart 8 should be under no illusion that they're getting a 'new' game here. You're not. And I can't help but feel the teeniest bit deflated by that.Straying off the racing line
There have been eight Mario Kart entries prior to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. That might sound obvious given its name, but it's worth spelling that out a little more precisely.
Since 1992's Super Mario Kart for the SNES, there has been a brand new Mario Kart game created for each major new Nintendo console and handheld. No more, no less.
There have been no re-releases of older Mario Kart games on newer console - aside from cut-price, digital-only Virtual Console/eShop re-releases, which is a standard practice of Nintendo's.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, as a physically released and full-priced 'director's cut' of the pre-existing title, notably breaks that pattern. And as accomplished as the package is, it's tough to spin this as a wholly positive move.Driving sales
Mario Kart has been a consistent system seller, and in that regard Nintendo's seminal kart racer has tended to lead from the front. As I've already mentioned, Super Mario Kart first introduced us to the series back in 1992, which was the very same year the SNES console hit the UK (though SMK itself wouldn't land here until January 1993).
Mario Kart 64 hit the West in 1997, very soon after the launch of the Nintendo 64 console itself. Meanwhile the first portable entry, Mario Kart: Super Circuit, landed in 2001 - the very same year the Game Boy Advance landed on the market.
Essentially, it's customary for a new Mario Kart game to be released within a year or so of a new Nintendo console's release. This tells you that Mario Kart is considered to be a flagship game for any Nintendo machine.
What does it say, then, that for the very first time a new Nintendo console - and one that carries the combined weight of the company's handheld and console expectations - doesn't have an original Mario Kart game in its opening salvo? It hardly inspires a great deal of confidence.Mario Kart 9
What this all boils down to, of course, is that I'm peeved there's no Mario Kart 9 in sight for the Nintendo Switch. Many are assuming that a distinct iteration will arrive later in the console's life, but there's no guarantee of that fact. Remember what we discussed above - one full Mario Kart release per new Nintendo console is the norm.
Even if Mario Kart 9 is in the pipeline (which I'm still hopeful is the case), I would imagine it's going to be at least a couple of years away from release. It's not going to be of any use during these vital early days for the Switch. Nor, I would guess, will it play a part in the console's first two Christmas periods. How costly will that prove for Nintendo?
It's impossible to say for sure. I might well be concerned about nothing. Mario Kart 9 could be closer than I thought. After all, Nintendo has been surprising us and breaking with its traditions quite a lot recently, with Super Mario Run and the Nintendo Switch itself just two of the positive results.
But as a I hare around Thwomp Ruins for the umpteenth time - albeit in full 1080p - I can't help but feel a twinge of regret in amongst all the power-sliding joy.
What do you think? Has Nintendo blundered in not prioritising Mario Kart 9 for the Switch, or am I being a bit of a grump? Share your thoughts in the comments below.