You’re feeling good in first place as you enter the final turn of the last lap. Suddenly, the all too familiar siren of a red turtle shell hunting you rings out. Bowser is trying to take you down, but being the ace you are, you’re two steps ahead of the big baddie. You held on to your last banana peel for this moment. As you approach the finish line, you gingerly drop the banana peel behind you and deny the red shell to a first place victory.
The good times continue as Mario and the gang return to make their much anticipated debut on Nintendo 3DS.
There are two things I noticed right off the bat as I began playing Mario Kart 7. First of all, it looks fantastic. The sharp detail and the beautiful colors are a feast of eye candy and the 3D adds a new depth to the classic Mario art style. Secondly the gameplay is very familiar, which for some may be a downside but personally, I can’t get enough of a great thing. Much like the previous Mario Kart games, there are multiple single player modes to be found. These range from Grand Prix, Time Trial, Balloon Battle, and Coin Runners along with Local and Online multiplayer. Although this is familiar stuff for Mario Kart veterans, MK7 shines with how tight all of these game modes are.
Single player is a blast with 3 classes to play through: 50cc 100cc and 150cc, the latter of the three providing the most challenge. Local multiplayer allows 2-8 players using only one MK7 cartridge, while online multiplayer is also 2-8 players, with an option of playing with friends or i races worldwide. There is also a nice “Communities” option that allows you to create and name a community or grand prix for racers to join. Putting it through its paces, I’m thrilled to say that online gameplay is just as seamless as single player. Not once did I have issues connecting and playing with friends or other random competitors around the globe.
As far as tracks are concerned, there is a blend of new tracks, old classics and modern classics, with 32 in total to be found. All are great, with stunning visuals and secret routes to get the best of your loud mouthed opponent. Tracks vary from metropolis inner cities, snowy mountain peaks to vibrant rainbow roads, and everything in between. In addition to standard Mario Kart power ups, you get three new items to play with.
A “fire flower”, which allows you to shoot fire balls for a short amount of time, a “super leaf” that lets you grow a “tanooki tail” that can skillfully deflect enemy projectiles and a “lucky seven” that surrounds your kart with seven items for a little sweet revenge. Also new are the underwater and gliding segments of the races that have players soaring through the air and diving deep underwater.
Unlike previous titles in the series, you can now not only select a kart, but customize your wheels and glider (different options provide different stat boosts -acceleration, handling, weight etc.) Collecting coins during the race will afford you the ability to unlock different kart customizations. Selecting your kart setup to fit the style of the track is the difference between a silver place finish and a gold place finish.
The crafty drifting & turbo gameplay returns, which means knowing exactly when to release your drift into a corner for a turbo boost is essential. Character choice is now tougher with 16 characters to choose from, eight being available from the get go and the other eight are un-lockable by winning races. Sadly however, Waluigi is M.I.A. this time around.
Even though it doesn’t re-invent or innovate the kart racing genre, Mario Kart 7’s greatest strength remains its ability to be fun. It’s a fantastic pick up and play game for a casual player or a deeply skilled kart racer. It’s been a tough start since the launch of Nintendo 3DS, but as we roll in to 2012, it seems as though the 3DS is finding its legs. If you own a 3DS it’s a no brainer- get this game.
It’s a tried and true winning formula and I can’t think of another handheld racing game that offers the level of good times the Mario Kart has always and continues offer. Time and time again Nintendo cooks up some gaming magic that makes me remember why I love video games in the first place and Mario Kart 7 is no exception. Chalked full of frustrating times and glorious moments, it’s another must own Mario Kart game.
Title: Mario Kart 7
Release Date: December 4th 2011
Platform Reviewed: Nintendo 3DS
Game provided for review