Off to the Races! – Mario Kart 7 Review
This game was reviewed on the Nintendo 3DS.
Move over Need for Speed, take a hike Grand Turismo, so long, Forza Motorsport; there is a new name in top-notch racing: Mario Kart 7! Nintendo’s newest baby brings to the table all the excitement of traditional racing games, but carries a casual tone and ease of play like no other. Packing in multiplayer content, Street and Spot Pass capabilities, and kart customization alongside the new additions of flight and underwater driving, this game easily becomes an instant classic (and not the old, dusty, worn out kind, but the shiny, new, amazing kind).
I am no fan of racing games unless I can blow things up, or at least hit others with the shells of misunderstood koopa. So, Mario Kart has always had a soft spot in my heart. I have played the good (Mario Kart 64), the bad (Mario Kart Wii), and the slightly mediocre (Mario Kart Double Dash) and was ready for a fresh start when I unwrapped the game and booted up my 3DS.
The title screen gives you the option of going with single player, multiplayer, or Nintendo WFC which is their Wi-Fi connection service for online play. You can also open the Kart channel at the bottom of the menu to download Street and Spot Pass data you have collected. This option lets you download ghost data for tracks, so you can challenge the best track times from all around the world. Single player is the bulk of the game; it is also where you unlock kart pieces and new characters.
50 cc is the easiest mode (100 cc and 150 cc are the normal and hardest modes respectively), where the A.I. is a little slow and it really lets you get a feel for the game. First, you pick your character, and then you are introduced to the kart creation screen. The karts are made of three pieces: the body, the wheels, and the glider. All of these parts combine to give you the speed, acceleration, handling, and weight of your vehicle. Moving the pieces may add to a certain aspect of the kart’s performance, but can also take away from other key functions. You unlock new parts by going through circuits and collecting coins while you race, and for every 50 coins you get, a new piece is unlocked. The coins also boost up your speed during the races, giving you more of a reason to collect them. Repeating tracks to get coins and perfect trophies is no problem, as the game keeps you fully engaged at every turn.
Mario Kart 7 introduces several new tracks along with many classic ones throwing all the way back to the NES. All of the levels are breathtakingly spectacular in terms of visuals for a 3DS game. The 3D makes the game pop and adds a lot of depth, which works exceedingly well with a racing game. The colors are vivid and paint the scenes in an all new light (especially the NES Rainbow Road). They have also added sections to some levels that include water, which you can now race through (a propeller pops out of the back of the kart when submerged), and ramps that launch you into the air allowing you to glide.
The controls for this game are very tight. The thumb stick on the 3DS gives you the same type of turning as you would find on a console game. This makes Mario Kart 7 easier to control than the previous Mario Kart handheld that was for the original DS. You can also switch to a first person mode that uses the gyroscope of the 3DS to allow you to steer the kart by tilting the system. This works out surprisingly well as I did not have high hopes for it. You won’t find yourself flying all over the screen, because again, the karts handling is controlled by the pieces you use to make it. So, whether you play in third person or first person view, both work equally well depending on your gameplay style.
Mario Kart 7 also adds some new items that you can use to destroy your opponents, such as the fire flower, which lets you throw flaming balls in front of you causing others to spin out. The developers also added a tanooki tail allowing you to deflect incoming shells and spin around, causing others to crash if they get too close to you. Since this is the seventh installment to the series they have used the number seven as a weapon. This new addition surrounds your kart with seven items that you can use to defend yourself. As a side note: blue shells no longer fly to the first place person; rather, they glide, hitting everyone that happens to be in their path to the lead racer. Using the weapons against A.I. foes is fun, but it seemed more enjoyable against real people, so I switched out of single player and hopped online for some multiplayer mayhem.
Online multiplayer is very entertaining. I played several matches getting first in almost all of them. The game does a great job of matching you with people near your skill level by giving players point values. These points go up or down depending on how you place in different races. The system makes sure you never go against anyone radically better than you. Online also adds communities that allow you to share data with people and set up custom matches to challenge yourself and others.
Mario Kart 7 is like a fresh breath of air in a system that needed a pick-me-up. With its stunning visuals, great controls, and a myriad of unlockables, the replay value is off the charts. It can be enjoyed by any age or skill level and by die-hard racing fans and casual gamers alike. With the ability to link up with friends and race together, Nintendo is sure to sell record numbers thanks to their new title. I hope this game speaks to what is coming up for the platform; if it does, I will be making many purchases for my 3DS in the future.
Mario Kart 7 takes home the gold with a 5.0/5.0
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