Hello, Master Malstrom!
Like you’ve said many times, people buy different games to fulfill different jobs. Taking this reasonable theory further, different people don’t buy each game to complete the same exact job. For example, a game that features both a singleplayer and a multiplayer component could be bought exclusively for either of these two parts and both perspectives would be valid.
When it comes to Mario Kart, I’ve made an interesting observation over the years of reading forums. Quite a few Americans seem to love battle mode while almost all Europeans consider it merely a nice option or, more commonly, outright irrelevant. As a European myself, I was surprised to learn that there are actually people who like battle mode in Mario Kart. While this may sound stereotypical, I think this difference between American and European gamers can be traced back to the cultures themselves. Americans kinda obsess over weapons, so putting them on cars seems a logical conclusion. The European mentality strongly gravitates towards racing. Hence why a car combat series like Twisted Metal (PS1, PS2, PS3, PSP) found success in North America but not in Europe, despite an about equal distribution of PlayStation consoles between both continents. Twisted Metal (and battle mode in Mario Kart) serve a job that isn’t in demand everywhere in the world.
The point that I am trying to make in this e-mail is that battle mode in Mario Kart only matters to a minority. This minority is not wrong for liking battle mode, but whatever battle mode is in Mario Kart 8, it won’t make or break the game. This also explains why battle mode got so little attention in many reviews. Simply put, it’s the least important part of the package for most people who play Mario Kart and many do not touch it at all beyond the initial curiousity. As such, Mario Kart 8’s ability to fulfill its job isn’t lessened by the most recent battle mode decisions of Nintendo (unless you belong to the aforementioned minority; Chris Kohler obviously does and the attacks on him may be in part because he puts so much emphasis on a part of the game that matters so little to many).
I’ll try to remember to send you my Mario Kart 8 impressions in a good two weeks.
It might be going too far to use the broad stroke of ‘cultures’ of why battle mode isn’t seen as a job more.
One major change in Mario Kart is that the races are flooded with items. In Super Mario Kart, you had about one item per lap and that is if you ran over the question block. There would be other question blocks scattered about like on secret passageways. You held on to the items to fire them at the right time. The red shell could miss and hit a wall instead. The green shell or banana peel could be placed in the optimum part where people roam by. In modern Mario Karts, people get endless items. They get three red shells, fire them all at once, get another item, use it, another, use it, and it can be like half a dozen items per lap.
It feels like over time, Race Mode and Battle Mode are being combined. For someone used to the earlier Mario Karts, today’s Mario Kart feels like crappy racing (too many items everywhere) and crappy Battle Mode (too much racing in battle mode).
Mario Kart 64 and Double Dash is where the battle modes were more fun than the racing. I don’t think it is due to cultural reasons but more that the N64 and Gamecube mostly sold in the US. The SNES also sold more in Japan and US while Europe was Sega land for that generation.