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Monday, 16 January, 2012 11:22 AM
'Mario Kart 7': Best Mario Kart Yet?
I'm glad they called this game Mario Kart 7 to save me the pain of looking up how many there have been up until now, though, at the same time isn't it REALLY weird that this is called Mario Kart 7 when there's never even been a Mario Kart 2? Anyway...every iteration of Mario Kart has added some new value or improvement, but none have really pulled all that value together into one Kart game up until now.
The SNES game gave us our start of wacky Kart racing. The N64 gave us 4 screen local play (which is still amazingly fun to this day). Gamecube gave us character specific items/strategy. The GBA version was the first handheld Mario Kart and had the most tracks of all. The DS gave us our first online play experience (which was terrible). And the Wii gave us online play that worked very well along with...*sigh* Bikes.
But now we finally have a game with great online play, no bikes, no snaking (though I liked that), and the mild addition of gliding and underwater racing. The game is as it's been for years but now it's accessible, portable, and fine tuned with the advancements of years of progress.
The Mario Kart gameplay hasn't really changed since the N64 games where they added drift boosting. And really that was the last actual innovation to the driving mechanics of the game. Otherwise, new items were added to this game though not nearly as awesome as previous games. The raccoon tail item was added here...and it feels like the worst item in the game. It basically allows you to swing wildly and smack nearby karts. The problem with it is often hard to get that close to others, and it stays in your item block while it's in use, which means you can't get a standby item while you have it and it stays out pretty long too resulting in missed opportunities for more items.
The other item they added is lucky seven, which gives you seven items to use. This is pretty cool, but it has some flaws. The star and the mushroom can actually be stolen by opponents that run into those items as they swirl around you. Not as lucky as you'd hope!
The tracks are where the meat of the game lie though, and like previous Mario Kart games all the tracks are fun and interesting. There are a few fresh ideas in here too like the musical note track and the shifting tracks where each lap the track becomes something different. Also, with the addition of the underwater and gliding options some old tracks provide new ways to traverse them.
Speaking of the gliding and underwater stuff it doesn't really add a ton to the gameplay, however it gives a certain freshness to the gameplay. Also, no longer fearing the dreaded water is pretty cool. In some levels the gliding lets you take a different course on the track which is fun, but overall the gliding is kind of unfortunate. In older Karts we were accustomed to getting blindsided by the lightning attack just before a large jump and falling into a ravine. Never before has this been more apparent than in Mario Kart 7 gliding over large pitfalls. What's worse yet is now shells follow you into the sky to ruin your day, especially the blue shell. The gliding soon becomes more of a detriment than anything else.
Kart customization is also enjoyable in this version. In previous games some Karts would be vastly overpowered (tank in DS, Funky Kong Bike Wii) but here there appears to be no apparent Kart juggernaut that is heads and tails above the rest. The game is still early in it's life to be fair so not too many exploits have been found yet, but it really seems like the balance is solid. I've played a good 50 matches online so far with the very first Kart available and normally get either first or second place, if not bungling entirely and getting near to last on rare occasions. But that's Mario Kart, and that's the way it's supposed to be.
The only downside is the lack of characters in this game. No Waluigi or Diddy Kong, but that's not really that big of a deal. The core of the game was rarely measured by how many characters the game had, but it also doesn't feel like Nintendo couldn't have added more characters without much effort either.
Probably the best looking game on the 3DS thus far. The 3D works very well as expected and everything modeled nicely. I guess the water effects could look better though. I would have liked to see water effects akin to Mario Golf on the Gamecube. i know that's an obscure reference, but that game had some of the best looking water ever!
Classic Mario Kart tunes and some new ones. They are great as always and I guess that could be a complaint too. The music at times feels so familiar that often I forget I'm hearing a new track as opposed to some I've heard for years in previous games.
This section shouldn't even be allowed here for this game. So I'm ignoring it now...
I rarely do a section on multiplayer but I'll make an exception with this game. On the Nintendo DS gamers were for the very first time introduced to what a Nintendo experience online could be like. Boy were we disappointed! Sure the game ran alright, not much lag, and the game was fun enough but the way it was handled was so atrocious. You could only have four people at a time, finding games took forever, and you were forced to race in 4 straight races like a cup from single player. The problem there is when other racers were mathematically going to lose, they would drop out. It was NIGH impossible to actually finish a four game set.
Thankfully, Nintendo has learned a lot since then and now each race is it's own race and you are given points for your placements. There is no tournaments or cups, just one race after another. I guess the addition of a "cup" mode would have been fun though. I haven't tried out the battle mode online yet but I imagine it's as good as the Wii one. Though from forum posts I've read the battle mode in this game is not very good...Not sure how they could mess it up.
If you have a 3DS there is little choice but to get this game. Considering the severe lack of games on the system at the moment there aren't many other titles to give you the kind of extensive amount of fun that this game can give. With endless online enjoyment and two sets of four cups to compete in, there is a lot of Karting to be had here.
*Gets hit by blue shell*
Release Date: December 4, 2011 / Platform: Nintendo 3DS / Rated: Everyone
Photo credit: Nintendo
Mario Kart 7 box art
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