Mario Kart 7ESRB:
Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Category: 3D Gaming, 3DS, Racing
2-8 Players Local Play (VS/Co-op)
2-4 Players Download Play (VS/Co-op)
2-8 Players Online Play (VS/Co-op)
Playable in 2D or 3D mode
With every Nintendo system comes a Mario Kart game, and the 3DS is no different in this manner as it gets Nintendo’s leading kart racer. What is different however, about Mario Kart 7, is that this is one of the most feature rich Mario Karts that we have seen on any of Nintendo’s handheld machines. Due to release to store shelves right away, we’ve had the chance to play Mario Kart 7, and we have to say that the game is darn right addicting.
Visually, Mario Kart 7 is a very strong game. It has a really great stable of holiday releases to follow this year such as Mario 3D Land and Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, but alas it really does hold its own. This is a Nintendo developed game plain and simple, and the bright colours and creativity further proves this point. You’ll find solid character models, great animations, and some really enjoyable views. The environments are also very well created, from the 16 new tracks such as Rainbow World, New Bowser City, Cheep Cheep Lagoon, and my favourite Wuhu Loop (fron Wii Sports Resort). They all employ some great colours, great-animated backgrounds, and even some fancy special effects such as water or lighting effects. The updated tracks from previous versions also receive visual upgrades as you will find yourself driving underwater or flying through the sky, something you did not do in any of these updated tracks on their original respective platforms.
In regards to the 3D effects, once again Nintendo shows they know their way around the 3DS hardware. Although the 3D is not over bearing, it is very noticeable and you’ll find depth on the tracks like you have never seen before. Even the updated tracks take on depth that was not possible when they were originally created. Kudos to Nintendo for showing that their venerable kart game looks great on the 3DS when utilizing the 3D effects.
Anyone who knows my writing knows that when I review a Nintendo game that unless something went horribly sideways, the best way to describe the music is “Nintendo-esque”. Mario Kart 7 meets this standard and more. The music is great and really adds to each track you race on. As for the character noises, they seem a little more noisy this time around as they comment, or at least make some sort of noise, at specific times and events (e.g. you hit someone with your power up or do a power jump and spin in the air). Yoshi sounds adorable by the way. Finally, you’ll notice some great sound effects too, such as screeching wheels as you powerslide around a corner, the sound of bumping of another player’s kart, or the splashing of water as you go power through a stream. Overall players should wholly enjoy what is offered in the sound department.
Mario Kart has long been known to take Nintendo’s iconic figures, strap them into some karts, and let gamers race to their hearts content. Well, nothing has changed in this manner in Mario Kart 7, as the game keeps to its’ tried and true formula. There are three levels of racing in the games career-like mode called Grand Prix. You’ll race in the 50cc, 100cc, and 150cc classes. The lower the number, the easier the challenge is, and I do mean easier. Once you start to race in the 150cc class, you’ll soon learn that you’ll have to fight for your right to stand atop of the podium.
You start off with eight characters to choose from, including Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, Bowser, Donkey Kong, Toad, and Koopa Troopa. As you make your way through the game’s various classes and challenges, you’ll eventually open up more characters for a grand total of 17 characters. Now I am not one to ruin a good surprise, so I won’t tell you who they all are, but I can say that not all of them are my first choice for inclusion into the roster. I guess that I could only hope that one day we see DLC for 3DS games, as adding more characters would be a nice treat.
There are a total of 32 tracks to race across, 16 new ones and 16 tracks from previous Mario Kart games. You’ll challenge the AI in eight different cups (trophies) that contain four tracks per cup. I have to say that the new tracks are a delight, while the various updated tracks from previous games are a treat too. In terms of the updated ones, you’ll find tracks from the SNES, GameCube, GBA, DS and Wii versions.
New to the world of Mario Kart is the ability to hang glide and drive under water through various parts of each track. It adds a few new twists and turns this time around as some of these segments are for your own choosing (fly or go underwater). The interesting part about this is that the new hang gliding and underwater driving segments are not just for the newly designed tracks either, as you will find the same ability on some of previous tracks from other Mario Kart games that are included in Mario Kart 7. It is this kind of attention to detail in the gameplay that makes Nintendo such a great developer.
New to Mario Kart on a handheld system is the return of coins. Yep, you can collect coins on each track. If you grab 10 of them it increases your maximum speed allowing for you to get a bit of a boost; however, keeping a maximum of 10 coins is no easy task, as you are always at risk for being hit by another racers power-up such as a green/red/blue shell or lightning. Getting hit by a power-up causes you to lose a couple of coins and you’ll have to collect new ones to max-out again.
Not only does collecting coins allow you to keep at max-speed, but it also allows new kart parts for your choosing when deciding what kind of kart you want to take into a specific cup (e.g. wheels, glider or kart frame). Choosing your right options can be an important task given that it allows you some specific attributes in specific areas (e.g. speed, acceleration, weight, handling and off-road ability). It’s a nice little touch and seeing your pimped out kart is pretty cool.
A final new feature to Mario Kart 7 is the addition of a first person mode. By pressing up on the d-pad you will see what the beloved Mario characters have been seeing in this racing series. You’ll view the track and racing action from the seat of your favourite kart. I have to say that was skeptical at first, but after racing around for a while in this view it was pretty neat to say the least. For those that desire, you also have the ability to steer when in this view using the 3DS’s gyroscope by tilting the system side to side. Although I didn’t find myself using this control scheme too often, I was somewhat surprised with how well the game controlled using it. I think that a lot of Mario Kart fans will be happy with this new gameplay addition as it literally brings you into the seat of the action and does so quite well.
Of course what would Mario Kart be without the traditional power-ups? Along with the customary shells, speed mushrooms, bombs and stars, are a few new ones, such as the Fire Flower, Tanooki Tail and Lucky 7. The Fire Flower allows you to throw fireballs at your fellow racers while the Tanooki Tail adds the Tanooki Suit’s raccoon tail for you to whack other racers. The Lucky 7 is by far the most interesting power-up, as it gives you a set of seven power-up items to use at your will (e.g. red shell, speed mushroom, a blooper, etc), but don’t get too comfortable with it as should you hit a banana or get bumped from one of your opponents, these all disappear. It’s a nice power-up to get, but you better use these seven items quickly cause they won’t be around for long, especially when racing online or in the 150cc class.
For those looking for something different then just racing, there is Balloon Battle and Coin Runners. Balloon Battle has you taking out as many balloons (popping them) of your opponents before the timer runs out. Coin Runners is a timed race where you basically run amok trying to gather up as many coins as you can. Both of these modes are a nice diversion from the standard racing and something a lot of people should enjoy.
If there is one complaint I have about the single player gameplay, and it is most evident in the Grand Prix mode, it is just how unbalanced this game can be. A lot of racing games, especially those that are arcade based, employ a rubber band AI to keep the computer racers from losing. In Mario Kart you’ll get something quite similar, but in this case it is all about what power-ups those behind you seem to get. I can’t count how many times I was leading the pack only to get barraged by red and blue shells, and hit by lightening that basically stopped me in my tracks. It is so frustrating how this happens, and it seems to be a staple Mario Kart feature. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind a challenge, but wait until you feel the wrath of the computer AI launching uber power-ups in droves, then you will see what I mean.
Mario Kart 7 features a bevy of multiplayer options, both local and online. You have the ability to play races via download, local Wi-Fi, or over the Web using the Wi-Fi feature of the 3DS. Although the download and local features are solid, this game takes the 3DS online like no other game before it. To keep things somewhat balanced, you get a VR score, and the more you win, the higher it is, the more you lose, the lower it is. This keeps things somewhat balanced, as you will race those similar to your score, so more to your skill level. You can race rival or friends and even those from your 3DS friends lists. I played a few online games when writing this review, and I played against gamers from Germany, France, USA and Japan, all without a hitch. It was smooth sailing as we raced across the track of choice.
New to the world of Mario Kart online is the ability to create communities. Here you can create custom groups and then share those groups with your own friends and those you meet online. A pretty neat feature indeed. You can also choose to custom tailor your online racing experience by setting up specific criteria for you and your opponents to race (e.g. shell only Grand Prix mirror race). It was somewhat amazing that Nintendo has grasped onto the online world more then usual, and with a Mario Kart title nonetheless.
Finally, Mario Kart 7 offers up some StreetPass functionality this time around. You can view stranger’s profiles, stats, VR rating, and even acquire ghost data for you to beat.
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