Nintendo continues to revisit successful classics on the 3DS with the newly numbered, Mario Kart 7. This hot title continues the Mario Kart legacy with new courses, 3D graphics and new air and water gameplay. But, does it hold up to the stellar record of past games in the series, or will it get slammed with a blue turtle shell 10 feet short of the finish line?
Like past Mario Karts, seven makes no attempt on a story or plot and instead focuses on the racing and getting you started as quickly as possible. New to the series is customizing your kart with variant components to tweak the look and performance of your vehicle with new tires, bodies and air control. More components are unlocked when you collect coins during races for a maximum of 10 per course. The custom karts are a welcomed addition that adds another layer of controlling how you play as well as expanding the replayablity.
Most of the game should seem very familiar to anyone who has played a Mario Kart game, there are 3 motor classes, 4 new cups, 4 retro cups each featuring 4 course and the battle mode. The new courses are the best in series history, really highlighting the best of the game and the 3DS hardware with sprawling graphics and great 3D effects. That being said; the revisted retro tracks are also well chosen and have been tweaked to fit right in with the new features of the game. These two new gameplay components I keep speaking of is the air and water control, one works really well and the other falls short of expectations.
Air controls in Mario Kart 7 activate by catching huge air through a ramp or cannon. When you are in the air, you control your pitch and roll of your kart to either speed back down to the ground or lose speed and stay in the air to reach a risky shortcut or skip a turn or obstacles. You can even pitch up and use a mushroom to launch yourself higher and stay in the air longer. In short, the air controls add a much needed layer of skill, strategy, and real risk in a game that is known to lean heavily on luck. The underwater controls on the other hand only serve to slow the race. It is basically there to either slow all the racers down uniformly allowing for players with mushrooms to cut ahead much faster than usual, or to act as a punishment for missing or messing up a shortcut. It wouldn’t feel so limiting if your kart didn’t sink to the bottom like a stone and instead handled like a submarine giving you a level of vertical control. The fact is, underwater just doesn’t add to the fun like flying through the air or on the road. The Mario Kart Wii additions also make a return providing the option to perform timed tricks for boost (which can be combined with the flying) whenever you catch air and tweaked drift controls that eliminate snaking (via IGN) for better or worse. The improved variety in the races overall adds a new shine to a old game that Nintendo could have just as easily phoned and cashed in.
The final new element to Mario Kart 7 is the community features online. It is easy to form and join kart communities, get into races with friends and play ghost trials. This all makes Mario Kart 7 Nintendo‘s best online offering yet! If only Nintendo would offer DLC track (since every DS has internal memory, it should be easy) and offer item settings like super smash bros (no serious gamer likes the blue shell Nintendo!) I would dare say that the online offering would be perfect. Even without all that, this fantastic suite of online features will keep you racing your karts months for months on in.
As you could probably guess, I enjoyed my time with Mario Kart 7, its a full featured game with smart design, welcomed customization, and the best tracks in the series. Retro Studios has done a great job adding to a winning formula and making a worthy successor to the stellar Mario Kart DS. This is the must have racing game for every 3DS owner.
Release Date: December 4, 2011