a NintendoFuse game review by Steve (hattrick)
Game – Mario Kart 7 (Rated E for Everyone)
Version – Nintendo 3DS
Obtained – Review copy from Nintendo of America
When one thinks of racing video games, certain titles come to mind — Need for Speed, Gran Turismo, Forza, and Mario Kart. The arcade-y kart racer has been around since the SNES. Since then, every system has had its own version. Taking a turn away from the subtitles typically present, the beloved franchise got its newest installment on the Nintendo 3DS in Mario Kart 7. Does it hold up to the hype or is seven an unlucky number for kart racing fans?
Story & Plot
Mario Kart has never been much for a story or plot. This version is no different, and that is a good thing. One positive is that Nintendo has never felt the need to stick an unwanted or forced plot into their racer. Instead, we just assume that members of the Mushroom Kingdom and their friends (and enemies) get together to have some fun races.
One new element in this version is the ability to customize your kart. Gone are the days when your character determines your weight, speed, and acceleration. Instead, you will choose among three kart pieces (frame, wheels, glider) that come together for your stats. No matter what character you use, your kart will always be the same. Of those characters, you will see a couple new ones added to the list. Wiggler, Lakitu, Honey Queen, and Metal Mario all join the list to make a total of 16 available characters.
You will progress through the main game by completing each cup or set of four races/tracks. There are a total of eight cups. Among them are four cups of brand new tracks and four cups of tracks from past Mario Kart games, adding together for a total of 32 tracks. This follows in cue from the past couple titles. It makes for a solid list of never-before-seen tracks and classics. In similar fashion to Mario Kart Wii, this version also tweaks the retro tracks just a bit to accommodate for new features.
Gameplay & Controls
As you progress through the eight cups, you once again have the option of choosing from three different speeds/difficulties: 50cc, 100cc, and 150cc. If you are new to the Mario Kart scene, it might be helpful to start with 50cc in order to learn the ropes. However, you will eventually move onto 150cc. In fact, there are many unlockable characters and kart pieces in Mario Kart 7. If you want to unlock them all, you will need to get that top rank in every cup. Be ready, though. The spiky blue shell is coming for you, and usually, it does not have any mercy when you are about to cross the finish line. It will strike, and you will get upset.
Speaking of items, there are several new ones in Mario Kart 7. Fireballs make a return from Double Dash, but now anyone can have them. The tanooki tail from Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario 3D Land is also available for hitting opponents. The final new item is a “Lucky 7” that gives you seven items at once. You can use them all, but if someone runs into you, they will steal one of the items. Some missing items include the upside-down question block, POW block, mega mushroom, and lightning cloud.
Another new component of Mario Kart 7 is the ability to drive underwater or to glide through the air. Both offer new elements that insist a change in strategy. Some tracks even offer multiple avenues, which will have players choosing to go to the air or water. Overall, this is a welcome addition to the game, and it does not take long to get use to it. The only problem is going back to older versions and expecting to drive through the water.
If I had one complaint about early Mario Kart games, it would be that their controls were awful. Granted, they were about as good as they could be for the time, but they do not hold up to today’s standards. Mario Kart 7 does not make huge strides in the control side of things, but instead, sticks with a system that works. In fact, if you have played Mario Kart Wii, you will notice very little change. This also goes for your slide that powers up with time as to prevent “snaking” (i.e. Double Dash and DS). The noticeable difference between 7 and Wii is the trick system, as you do not have to shake your 3DS. You will just press the R button.
In addition to Circle Pad (analog stick) controls, you can also switch to a first-person gyro-controlled mode. This is more for those who enjoyed the motion-controls in the Wii version. However, the view and the control go hand-in-hand. For example, you cannot use motion with third-person. Also, you will want to turn off the 3D when using motion control, as it is tough to keep in the “sweet spot” when moving around. Motion control does work well, but I highly recommend sticking with the Circle Pad.
Graphics & Sound
One of the biggest additions to Mario Kart on the 3DS is the obvious third dimension. Sure, you can turn it off, or even tone it down, but it is something to consider. The question is: does it help the graphics or gameplay? Honestly, it does not help that much. While it add something and it looks cool, it is definitely something that you do not need to enjoy Mario Kart 7 to its fullest. In fact, after some time, especially when playing online, I forgot to turn on the 3D and it did not change the game one bit.
With that being said, the graphics are a big update from the DS version, but not much of a change from Wii. However, this is actually a good thing. To see a Wii-like appearance on a Nintendo handheld is a welcome thing. With a consistent 60 frames per second, the game looks as smooth as it feels. You will not find any realistic graphics here, but when you think about it, is that what you really want in a Mario Kart game?
The music of Mario Kart 7 is solid, but you will not necessarily be humming these tunes later in the day. While the sounds and tunes are great, they do not seem to have that lasting appeal that past games put forth. The sound effects, though, have not changed much. Again, they have not messed with a good thing.
Multiplayer & Online
Nintendo seems to have taken a cue from other game companies when they put together their online system for Mario Kart 7. In addition to the seamless worldwide and play-with-a-friend multiplayer that has no visible sign of lag in most cases, they have developed a community room system. Anyone can create a community, which has an assigned number. That way, if you want to play online with a group of people, everyone just heads to that particular room. Better yet, that room sticks around forever, so you can keep using it over and over. In addition, you can join in with a friend straight from your 3DS friends list, which is a great feature.
The online system is lacking in some areas, though. For some reason, Nintendo has decided to leave out voice chat. Even though they have included it on recent Pokemon games, they have left it out of Mario Kart 7. Instead, you are stuck with a pre-determined list of one-liners to send to others in the community lobby. On top of that, they left out any way of booting people out of the lobby or group. This is unfortunate when you have someone who is exploiting a track’s glitch (only one at this point) or starting the race too quick before others show up.
Local multiplayer works similarly to Mario Kart DS, where you can share a cart or play with multiple carts. This comes in handy when you meet up with someone who does not own the game. That person does not have as many choices, though, but they are still able to participate.
While Mario Kart 7 does have a few flaws, the end product is solid. It does not move the series forward by leaps and bounds, but what it does do is really good. The controls are solid, and it looks great too. It is quite fun to play alone, but especially with friends. The online system has moved forward, but it could still improve much more. Even without those, Mario Kart 7 is one of the best games out for the Nintendo 3DS. Now, if Nintendo would only offer some patches to fix glitches and make online better. Then, we would have a near perfect experience.
FINAL SCORE: 4 out of 5