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Nintendo Direct headlined by Mario Kart 8’s 48 new upcoming racetracks


Promotional image for upcoming video game.
Enlarge / What better way to celebrate 43.3 million copies sold than to add some paid DLC?

Nintendo fans who watched the game maker’s latest announcement-filled Nintendo Direct video may have hoped to see reveals of previously announced Switch sequels like Metroid Prime 4 or the sequel to Breath of the Wild. Sadly, those long-awaited games failed to emerge once again, but Nintendo still delivered a few Switch surprises in its Wednesday presentation.

In a move we didn’t necessarily see coming, Nintendo finally gave the whopping 43.3 million owners of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe something to look forward to: the Booster Course Pass. This gargantuan 48-racetrack collection will retail for $24.99, and it contains remastered versions of tracks from every prior Mario Kart game, along with the mobile-only Mario Kart Tour. Its contents will drop as six separate collections of eight tracks each, with the first pack landing on March 18.

Time for your wildest <em>Mario Kart</em> racetrack predictions and requests.
Enlarge / Time for your wildest Mario Kart racetrack predictions and requests.

Nintendo

Interestingly, the Booster Course Pass will come at no additional cost to anyone who subscribes to the $49.99 Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack. The expansion pack appears to be Nintendo’s response to complaints about this newer service tier’s otherwise lean content.

Nintendo Switch Sports reveal.

The presentation’s other massive first-party surprise came in the form of Nintendo Switch Sports. This sequel includes a full visual refresh of Wii Sports‘ bowling and tennis modes, and Wii Sports Resort‘s sword-fighting (chambara), along with three new mini-games not seen in the megaton Wii Sports series: soccer, badminton, and volleyball. Though the game continues to leverage Nintendo’s long-running “Mii” series of customized characters, they’re now attached to fully articulated bodies. Despite this visual update, however, the games will continue to use incredibly limited controls, where players auto-run in their respective sports instead of requiring joystick control. Nintendo suggests a patch will arrive after Switch Sports‘ launch to add joystick control options—but only to the soccer mode. In better news, a free patch will arrive “this fall” to add Wii Sports‘ golfing mode.

Should you wish to try Nintendo Switch Sports before its April 29 launch date, Nintendo will launch a free two-day demo version on February 18-20 for current Switch Online subscribers. The demo is intended to test Switch Sports‘ online functionality. Our expectations for this online test are low, however, considering Nintendo’s other judder-filled online games on Switch.

<em>Earthbound</em>, finally on Nintendo Switch.
Enlarge / Earthbound, finally on Nintendo Switch.

Nintendo

Hours after social media platforms exploded with teases about the Earthbound series, Nintendo today confirmed that its beloved JRPG series’ first two games will land on NSO’s NES and SNES game collections. These appear to be identical to the versions that launched on Virtual Console near the end of the Wii U’s lifespan, and both require a subscription to NSO’s base $19.99/year tier or the aforementioned Expansion Pack tier.

Nintendo’s long-dormant Mario Strikers arcade-soccer series also got a surprising announcement. The franchise will land on Switch June 10 with a sequel dubbed MS: Battle League, and first impressions suggest a faithful update to the series’ 2007 entry on Wii. Battle League looks like it will add a Mario Kart 8-like system of ability-modifying outfits and a new charge-up system that can be activated with a Smash Bros.-like item pickup on the soccer field. These touch-ups—combined with a jump to four-player teams, a local four-versus-four maximum, and a new online “club” mode for higher-level competitions—have us optimistic about this sequel’s launch this June.

Portal: Companion Collection trailer.

Valve led a series of didn’t-see-that-coming third-party announcements for new Switch games, as the developer confirmed its first-ever game launch on a Nintendo platform in the form of Portal: Companion Collection. This collaboration with Nvidia Lightspeed Studios will include the series’ two games and will support both local and online co-op modes in Portal 2. I just wish we knew when in “2022” it will launch.

Square Enix followed this news by announcing the first-ever English version of Live A Live. In this complicated JRPG, players control various characters from different historical eras whose storylines eventually overlap. This re-release looks particularly ambitious thanks to its adoption of the “2.5-dimensional” aesthetic popularized in recent games like Octopath Traveler. Live A Live will land on Nintendo Switch systems worldwide on July 22.

If that’s not enough surprise Square Enix JRPG remasters for you, Chrono Cross‘ previously leaked remaster project was finally confirmed. While the remaster mostly resembles the PS1 original, it will leverage the same AI-upscaling tech that fueled Final Fantasy VIII‘s most recent re-release, along with options to toggle a remastered soundtrack and disable random battle encounters (thank you). Chrono Cross launches April 7.



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