Mario Kart 7
: Nintendo EAD, Retro Studios
: Nintendo 3DS
: December 4, 2011
The seventh installment in the highly popular Mario Kart series has made its very first appearance on the Nintendo 3DS. A treat for Mario Kart fans racing solo or with friends, Mario Kart 7 is one to pick up for a great time regardless the way you play. If you require something new for your Nintendo 3DS, give the ever pleasing gameplay of Mario Kart 7 a spin!
Thereís not really a story to be had here in Mario Kart 7. Mario, his brother, Luigi, Princess Peach, his greatest adversary, Bowser, and a wide cast of both friends and foes join the mustachioed plumber in some good natured racing action. Mario and friends will travel throughout the Mushroom Kingdomís various raceways competing to be the one to come in first place and the recipient of the Gold trophies in each Cup. Itís always been the same formula for the Mario Kart games. For that reason, youíre expected to choose your favorite character, hop in a kart, and go crazy.
Mario Kart 7 looks great on the 3DS game system. In fact, Mario Kart veterans may notice the resemblance it shares with Mario Kart Wii. The 3DS continues to show us what its graphical capabilities can reach, and Mario Kart 7 is no exception. The race tracks are wonderfully detailed and have a terrific color palette. The tracks inspired by Mario Kart games of the past are a treat to experience with the 3D feature enabled. Green shells, red shells, and banana peels whiz right before your eyes as you race to come in first place. The blooperís (squid) ink also appears to blind you like never before. The feature is handled very cleverly and should not be neglected. If your eyes can handle the 3D effect, I suggest giving it a try.
Everything that makes a Mario game sound like a Mario game is jam packed into that small 3DS cartridge. All your favorite characters' whimsical sound effects, including their victory and defeat gestures, havenít lost their touch. Itís to be expected from a Mario Kart game, of course, but itís all part of the complete package.
Players will be treated to a variety of the best Mario Kart tunes from games past, as well as a collection of new material inspired by the latest Mario games. Even a tune and race track inspired by Donkey Kong Country Returns can be spotted.
If you have plenty of experience with the Mario Kart games you should be able to pick up on Mario Kart 7ís learning curve without any difficulty. Newcomers to the series should have an easy time getting familiarized with the controls as well. A cool new feature in Mario Kart 7 is its first-person mode. Pushing up on the cross pad puts players directly behind the steering wheel of their kart. Additionally, this first-person mode also enables the use of the gyro controls. With a good amount of free space you can tilt and turn the 3DS as you would a steering wheel. The feature is easy to use and is a welcome change of gameplay for those who wish to try something new. While in the first-person view you can also use the control stick to drive, or a combination of it with your bodyís movement. You can easily switch back to the third-person view by pressing up again on the cross pad.
Whatís a Mario Kart game without its items? Fan favorites such as the Green shell, Red shell, the game changing Spiny shell, Mushrooms, Bob-ombs, Super Star, and more, return to the race track. Mario Kart 7 has introduced three new items exclusive to the 3DS game. The Fire Flower allows the player to throw multiple fireballs at their opponents to make them spin out of control. The Super Leaf, which gave Mario his raccoon powers in Super Mario Bros. 3, gives your kart a raccoon tail that can deflect incoming enemy projectiles and knock your opponents away from you. Finally, thereís the Lucky 7 item which grants you with seven items to use, than the standard allotment of one item.
Some other new features to Mario Kart 7 are the hang-glider attachment and the ability to drive underwater. Their use is occasionally seen throughout the various tracks. However, itís the hang-glider that is the most useful new feature. You can adjust the velocity and rate at which you ascend or descend to get to otherwise unreachable areas, or to put yourself ahead of your opponents by swooping down in front of them. Another useful technique is hopping while driving over a ramp or bump in the road for a quick burst of speed. Drifting on wide turns for an extended period of time also rewards you with a burst of speed.
There are 32 race tracks to dominate, which means eight different Cups in total. There are three race options (difficulties) to choose from, 50cc, 100cc, and 150cc. Youíll notice that the CPU will get faster and smarter as you move up the gameís difficulties. There are 16 new tracks, and 16 tracks compiled from previous Mario Kart games. Bring a box of tissue as you race to the finish line on the hardest difficulty because youíll find yourself the victim, time and time again, of some of the most ridiculous use of items by the CPU. Iíve found myself just a few feet away from the finish line when Iíve been attacked by the CPU, then by another, or knocked to the side, and wind up in fifth place. It can be so frustrating, especially when youíre trying to unlock the hidden characters, which can only be done by getting first place overall on the 150cc tracks . It was an issue in Mario Kart Wii, and itís is again in Mario Kart 7. You've been warned, so try not to throw your 3DS across the room.
To help overcome the staggering difficulty you can create the ultimate race kart by designing a vehicle to your liking. For the racing enthusiast, you can improve factors such as mobility, acceleration, weight, and handling by swapping out different parts. Whether youíre one for speed or power, or if you prefer a good balance, you can mix and match to your heartís content to find something that works. Itís a really fun feature, and I found my racing skills improved by taking the time to design an effective kart.
Generally, Mario Kart games were instant pleasures in the past, and perhaps the best when played with friends on the same TV screen. However, Mario Kart 7 has features worth coming back for, and thereís plenty to keep you busy for hours and hours.
First, unlockable characters. You start out with eight characters, but there are many more to be unlocked by coming in first place in each Cup in the 150cc difficulty. Fans may be disappointed that characters like Waluigi, Dry Bones, Petey Piranha, Baby Mario, Baby Luigi, Baby Peach, and Baby Daisy, among others, are absent in Mario Kart 7. New playable characters not seen in a Mario Kart game before have taken their places. I wonít spoil the characters for you, so youíll have to see who can be unlocked by winning the gold in your races.
A fan favorite, Balloon Battle, has returned not only for multiplayer, but single player as well. Balloon Battle pits you against your opponents with the goal of popping other racers' balloons for points. The racer with the most balloons popped is the winner, and all of the gameís items can be used at your disposal.
Coin Runners, a mode first seen in Mario Kart Wii, is also present. The goal here is to collect as many coins as possible before the time limit runs out, and the racer with the highest amount of coins comes out the victor.
The best way to experience Mario Kart 7 is taking it online solo or with a group of friends. For those who have friends who donít own the game, a single game cartridge can be used to all play together locally via Download Play. Playing online with your friends also provides for a great time. While waiting in the lobby for the race to start, you and your friends Miis can chat with each other by sending/receiving premade messages. You can also look at each otherís statistics and past race experience. When playing with players youíve never met, your own skill level is matched with others for balancing your races. Iíve taken the game online with several friends and each race had no lag whatsoever, a great sign that the gameís online mode has plenty to come back for.
Communities are another online feature of the game. You can join or create a community where play styles of other racers match your own and you can adjust the rules of a race to your liking. For example, you can mix and match various race tracks, enable Mirror-Mode, and more.
Finally, there is the Mario Kart Channel, which is coupled with the 3DSís StreetPass and SpotPass features. With StreetPass enabled you can exchange community information and ghosts of the players you tag in public, who also own Mario Kart 7. With SpotPass enabled you can receive ghost data as well as recommended communities to join from players all over the world, provided that you have a Wi-Fi connection.
Mario Kart 7 brings back a lot of the old and a whole lot of the new. Players, old and new, should also find themselves enjoying the game for hours on end. While the game could use work on the item balance, which is its greatest flaw, thereís so much to look forward to in this game. The best way to go about playing Mario Kart 7 is to take it online with friends, or entirely new players. Hidden characters and hidden parts to create your ideal kart is always a pleasure for this racing game. In fact, Mario Kart 7ís online functionality should be a reference for other 3DS games to take notice to. Mario Kart has always been a household name, thereís no reason why Mario Kart 7 shouldn't be either.