Mario Kart 7 was one of the most highly anticipated titles for the Nintendo 3DS console even before its launch was officially announced. While there was obvious disappointment that MK7 couldn’t be a “killer” title to launch alongside the 3DS, most would have conceded that it would be better to wait until the game was ready and perfected, rather than to risk a rushed release.
Mario Kart DS was one of the best games on the DS, which is saying something when there was such a solid library of titles of the 3DS predecessor. Selling over 20 million copies worldwide, it is still a title in reasonable demand for those who have recently acquired the DS hardware. The Mario Kart family has always had a solid reputation for quality, playability, and, above all, fun, and Mario Kart 7 does not disappoint. While it may not be enough to make you purchase a 3DS just to play it, anyone with a 3DS should consider it a “must-have” title for the console.
The controls in Mario Kart 7 are fairly intuitive and even first-timers should have little trouble following the quick reference control guide included with the game. For more detailed information, the manual is supplied electronically which helps save trees, I guess, and means that you are less likely to lose your manual (or at least will have no use for the manual if you lose it because you’ll have lost the game card along with it).
Motion controls have been added to Mario Kart for the first time on a handheld edition. By using the D-pad to switch to cockpit first-person view, you can now steer by tilting the 3DS side to side (much like holding the Wii-remote in Mario Kart Wii) to steer your kart. Control of your vehicle is pretty reasonable using this new mode but due to the movement of the screen it can be difficult at times to keep the 3DS in the 3D “sweet spot” if your 3D mode has been turned on. Serious racers are likely to avoid the new controls purely because it is harder to steer into the right “lines” when racing, as well as judge horizontal distances between your own kart and competitors’.
Tracks have been rendered in gorgeous 3D, and, perhaps surprisingly, are even more impressive than Mario Kart Wii. Old tracks from the GBA Mario Kart and N64 have had new life breathed into them, with vivid colours and 3D effects which are more immersive than any previous Mario Kart title. Rainbow Road, a track which has ruined many a racer, at least now looks glorious even if it still has you falling off repeatedly.
In total there are an impressive 32 tracks, new and old, and every one of them is a pleasure to race on. As always most tracks have alternative routes to discover, and a new glide mechanic which activates when a jump takes your kart high enough gives even more areas to explore on many tracks.
Grand prix events follow the old formula of four races for points, with the highest points over these races taking out the trophy. There are 8 trophies to race for, with 3 levels of difficulty which remains unchanged (50cc, 100cc, 150cc). During races you can now collect coins, which unlocks customisations for your Kart. The customisations change your Kart’s handling, speed/acceleration, and off-roading ability, as well as provide a novelty factor from the traditional karts. A total of 16 characters from the Mario universe are available in the game, with 8 unlocked from the outset.
Items and power ups feature heavily in Mario Kart, and new items in Mario Kart 7 include the Fire Flower (allows the shooting of fireballs), and the Super Leaf (your kart grows a tail which can be used to swat things nearby). Other game modes are unchanged – time trials let you race against ghost data from the fastest recorded laps, and balloon battle and coin battle return for some unknown reason.
Multiplayer is where Mario Kart is strongest, and MK7 delivers once again even if there are no real changes from previous editions. In only a matter of minutes, relatively lag-free racing can be under way with random strangers from all over the world. If you’d prefer to race with friends then you can do this as well, or you can find online “communities” to join and race with. This essentially serves as a chat room but only with lame prepared responses like “Hello!”, “I’m excited”, and “I’ll get you next time!”. Doesn’t look like Nintendo’s pedophilophobia is going out the back door any time soon.
Local multiplayer is as impressive as ever, once again only requiring 1 game card for up to 8 players with a 3DS to race together wirelessly. Players without the game can only race as Shy Guy, but nevertheless it is commendable that the feature has remained.
If there is any criticism that can levelled at Mario Kart 7 it would be that it is essentially more of the same, with very little innovation or variation. Nintendo have definitely played it safe, but in doing so have still created a game with enough attraction for old and new players of the series. At some point the Mario Kart formula may start to tire and need a serious reboot but Mario Kart 7 convinces me that this time has not yet arrived. This is a title all 3DS owners should either already own, or consider owning.