As well as the usual gifts of jazzy ties, plentiful piles of socks and sugary treats, this Christmas I got a copy of Mario Kart 7. Being a casual Mario Kart fan since Super Mario Kart on the SNES, I was pleased I could finally get some extended hands on time with the new game. I have always preferred the arcade style of racing games over the more realistic car simulators, for example I never got on with the likes for Forza Motor sport or Gran Terismo as they seem to realistic for me. I have always favoured the ‘Race to the finish line using any means necessary,’ approach to racing games and Mario Kart 7 fits nicely into this genre.
Mario Kart 7 has a good selection of single player modes to choose from. Classic Grand Prix mode pits you against several AI Karts in a four race ‘no holds barred’ battle to become King or Queen of the road. In Time Trial mode you have to beat a course of your choice in the fastest time possible. There is also Balloon Battle, where you are thrown into an arena littered with weapons to pop you opponents balloons before they pop yours. Finally there is Coin Battle where you have to pick up as many coins as possible in the allotted time. All of these modes are fun to play in both single player and in multiplayer, however for me Grand Prix and Time Trial mode have always outshone the rest.
The racing mechanics of Mario Kart 7 are what fans have come to expect. This game is fast and really easy to pick up, making it a great game for new comers as well as experienced pro’s. It also fits in well with the portable gaming style of the 3DS. The power sliding technique is back, however this time round they have made it a little easier. Taking a page from Mario Kart Wii, Mario Kart 7 doesn’t require you to wiggle the circle pad from side to side while power sliding to gain a mini turbo boost. While this is a good idea to stop people from snaking (Constantly power sliding to get a turbo boost) in my opinion it has toned down the skill of the game slightly.
This is the first Mario Kart game to come out for the Nintendo 3DS system and I must say graphically the game looks really good both in 2D and 3D modes. Just by looking at it you can tell that Nintendo have really invested a decent amount of time into making the game look good on the 3D hand held device. The sounds that have become synonymous with Mario Kart and indeed the Mario Franchise make a welcome return to Mario Kart 7, making Nintendo fans such as myself feel at home when playing this game.
There are thirty two tracks to choose from including sixteen brand new tracks and sixteen tracks from previous Mario Kart titles. In my opinion there is a great selection of classic tracks such as Mario Circuit 2 from the original Super Mario Kart on the SNES, Kooper Beach from the N64 and Waluigi Pinball from Mario Kart DS. All of the tracks have been slightly re-imagined for Mario Kart 7 to make them fit in perfectly with the newer elements of the game. Don’t forget about the new tracks though, as they are also brilliantly made and worth a race too. Most tracks have elements that are new to the Mario Kart Franchise. These elements include underwater sections where a propeller sticks out the back of your kart as you motor under the water and massive ramps which turn you kart into a mini glider. Personally I feel the underwater sections aren’t that great as they slow your kart down a little too much, but the glider sections do add a great skill element as you try and balance height with speed to gain a lead on your adversaries.
Much like previous titles in the series, Mario Kart 7 brings a fantastic arsenal of weapons and power ups to aid you in your battle to the finish line. Fan favourites such as the heat seeking red shell, the speed boosting mushroom and the slippery banana make a welcome return. There have also been new additions that in my opinion add more skill to the game. The Tanooki tail can smack opponents off of the track as well as flick bananas and mushrooms away. The fire flower has also been added so that you can throw fireballs at anyone who tries to get in your way. There is also the lucky 7 which gives you the a collection of weapons and power-ups to use including a Banana, a Green Shell, a Red Shell, a Bob-omb, a Super Star, a Mushroom and a Blooper. Be careful though, as with the Lucky 7 opponents can steal power-ups from you and if you are hit by a passing Bob-omb you can lose your entire Lucky 7 arsenal. Game balancing power-ups such as the Spiny Blue Shell and Bullet Bill also make a comeback, but I feel these are a bit overpowered this time round. There have been countless times when I have been in first place and have been Blue Shelled just before the finish line, which then lands me finishing the race in 5th. I also find that Bullet Bill pretty much always puts the player into first place which it never seemed to do in Mario Kart DS.
Coins also make a welcome return to the Mario Kart franchise increasing your top speed as soon as you have collected ten. They also go towards unlocking new elements to the game such as new parts to customize your Kart. This brings a great sub-objective to the game which some of the later titles were unfortunately lacking.
Mario kart 7 brings a great collection of characters for players to choose from. You have Nintendo fan favourites such as Yoshi, Toad, Koopa Troopa and Princess Peach, but you also have some great new additions such as Rosalina from Mario Galaxy and Latiku the cloud surfing Mario Kart race officiator. In true Mario Kart fashion all these characters have their own stats and attributes which effect how you race. There is a total of eight characters to unlock in Grand Prix mode and you also have the opportunity to unlock you Mii as a driver.
Mario Kart 7 also brings vehicle customisation to the table. Here you can mix and match wheels, Kart bodies and gliders to make your perfect Kart. For me this is a great element to add to the Mario Kart franchise, but I feel it could have been taken a step further maybe with colour customisation and fine tuning you kart. Hopefully we will see more Kart customisation in future Mario Kart games.
The thing in Mario Kart 7 that has impressed me the most is the multiplayer. Mario Kart games have been infamous for their local multiplayer however Mario Kart 7 takes multiplayer to the next level with its online multiplayer option. You can now create communities online for you and your friends to join in and race. Not only that but you can also set community preferences such as what weapons will feature in your races. The multiplayer fun doesn’t stop there as you also have some great features over street and spot pass where you are able to race against your friends’ ghosts on their favourite track. The 3DS can also take the ghost data and convert it into an AI which features in your single player grand prix races. This is a huge step up for Nintendo and online multiplayer and I hope to see much more of the same kind of thing in the future.
+ Great Visuals
+ Gliding Mechanics that bring a good element of skill to the game
+ Great Re-envisioned tracks which complement the new game play elements
+ Well thought out online multiplayer
+ Kart Customisation
- Some power-ups and weapons seem overpowered
– Underwater elements slow down the races too much
– Revised Power sliding makes the game easier.
8/10 – Mario Kart 7 is a great new addition to the franchise and to the 3DS. The new game play elements such as gliding are welcome but it is a shame that some of the power-ups and weapons feel a bit too overpowered. With brilliantly thought out multiplayer options this is a must have title for any 3DS owner.