Forgive me, for just a moment, as I mimic Mario's "oh no" voice and despair, ever so slightly, at a bad move on the part of Nintendo. I know, I know. I'll keep it brief, promise.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is out imminently for the Switch. A bigger, brighter, better version of the Wii U original that came out in 2014, it is, for my money, the finest entry in its series to date. With its added (or, I suppose, reinstated) battle courses, an expanded driver roster incorporating a couple of Splatoon inklings (who I've immediately adopted as this game's "me") beside some older Mario favorites, and beginner-level steering assistance giving my kids the chance to race beside me, it's the definitive Mario Kart in my house, at the very least.
I love it. Truly, I do. I put too many hours into the Wii U version, online and off, and I'm having a great time unlocking vehicles, wheels and gliders in 8's new and improved port. But there's this one thing. This small thing. An irritation. You might not even notice it. But, for me, for how I interact with Mario Kart 8, it matters. Just a wee bit.
Trophies are a funny thing with Nintendo. Their games don't reward players with achievements, as Xbox and PlayStation users receive for ticking off activities on an in-game to-do list. The Switch doesn't ping you a notification in Breath of the Wild when you finally take down Ganon: "Hyrule Saved, 100G." Nothing like that. (TBH it barely does anything, but that's a whole other story.)
But Mario Kart 8 is full of them. At the end of every Grand Prix series, you receive a cup—assuming you've ranked in the top three, anyway (I think you get a well done for trying message, otherwise). There it is, beside the final standings, slowly turning around, anticlockwise from the top. On the Switch you can use the left stick to tilt it ever so slightly. Barely at all. Which is a thing, I guess.
But on the Wii U, on the GamePad, you could go to town on that shiny trinket, thumbing it into a terrific spin, around and around and around, upside down and back again, until you felt sick from the motion. So satisfying. The kids used to love it. They'd take turns to send it into a whirl. It was part of the ritual of Mario Kart 8—daddy's got a trophy, let's see if we can break it.
And more than that, it was part of my own little ritual—I'd always give it a couple of spins, before progressing to the main menu. Just the two, like it was something committed to muscle memory, an unconscious action. I've been doing it on the Switch, too—instinctively stretching my right thumb out, from the red Joy-Con to the screen, touching it, and…
…The game skips back to the main menu. No spinning. Using the touchscreen simply advances things, just like pressing the A button. How. Disappointing.
Like I say, this is a tiny annoyance. If it's even that. It's not really getting me down. Really! (OK, a bit.) But, again, this game is great. So, so great. But it's a funny thing to change, isn't it? Especially on a system with touchscreen functionality. And it reminds me that we probably all have our little gaming rituals, things we do when we're not really playing at all. Perhaps without even properly noticing.
That might be the order in which we select our same-every-time load-out in a multiplayer shooter, or the exact moment of a title screen's musical theme where we quite deliberately skip ahead to the next menu. Just on that note. All the things we do around these playthings when we're not properly focusing on them at all, that have no meaningful impact on results.
Mine was setting a trophy going like a spinning top. And that I can't do that now makes me feel like something's weirdly missing from a game that's as complete as it's ever been.