Game Review: Mario Kart 7
Developer: Nintendo EAD, Retro Studios
Available Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
Players: 1 – 8
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Last week was a pretty good week! I finally 5-starred Super Mario 3D land and Mario Kart 7, the latest version of one of my favorite franchises was released Sunday the 4th. The visuals are beautiful, the 3D graphics are smooth, and the gameplay feels very natural. The new power-ups, the glider and propeller kart additions were great. Not everything was as perfect as I hoped. But, even with some interesting omissions and funny multiplayer “glitches”, Mario Kart 7 is a great game.
Having put an extensive amount of hours into Mario Kart DS, I was hoping/expecting this to be a bit of a sequel, but it wasn’t. Rather, Mario Kart 7 is the next in the series on Nintendo’s consoles. This is made obvious in that Nintendo named this game Mario Kart 7 rather than Mario Kart 3DS.
First and foremost, the visuals are beautiful in this game, running at a smooth 60 fps. The water, the lava and the leaves blowing in the wind all look fantastic. They have that “Mario” look and feel and add so much to the new and revamped retro levels.
Speaking of tracks, the original and revamped retro tracks were fantastic! They showcase the power of the 3DS and the new glider and propeller features for the karts. The tracks are located many different environments. Some of the best tracks took place on Wuhu Island. Two of the original tracks take place on different segments of the island home to Wii Sports Resort. In fact the tracks were so long, rather than the traditional three laps, it was broken into 3 sections. By adding the propeller and glider, Nintendo really explored new ways to showcase the new tracks. The new tracks had sheer drops, sharp inclines, long glider sections and lots of water sections. Not only did the new tracks highlight the new features, the retro tracks were chosen for and modified slightly to accommodate the kart additions.
Most of the standard power-ups from previous games return, with a few exceptions (the fake item block, for one). The added power-ups of the Fire Flower, Tanooki Tail and Lucky 7 all fit in the Mushroom Kingdom. They fit so well, it was almost surprising they hadn’t made an appearance in prior games.
The kart customization also added another layer of depth and opportunity for player exploration. Unlocking and experimenting with the kart bodies, wheels, glider and characters continues to bring unique combos. They each bring definite advantages and/or disadvantages depending on the track. I enjoyed choosing the right combo of light or heavy frame, small wheels with high handling or big wheels with high off-road ratings, glider and character size. Also available was a first person mode. Using the gyroscope to steer worked surprisingly well, although I had to turn the 3D slider all the way down to race this way.
The shift has been made from single player with some multiplayer added, to a primarily multiplayer experience with a single player campaign. Like the Wii version, the Grand Prix, Time Trials, Balloon Battle and Coin Runners are all available in both Single and Multiplayer. The Battle and Coin modes appear relatively untouched with the exception of the new tracks. Admittedly, I am more of a fan of the racing than the other features in the Mario Kart series. I didn’t find the Grand Prix’s too terribly difficult, just very very fun. The Local Multiplayer was stripped of some of the options, which was very puzzling, as “customization” is part of the sales pitch for this game. You can no longer choose the number or races, or if you want to race until a player gets x number of wins. Fortunately, the Online Multiplayer is very robust and very popular. You can jump in a perpetual worldwide race and earn points in your online rating. Or, you can quickly see if your friends or anyone you’ve previously race are racing in the Friends/Opponents section. Or the final option is the Communities. These are custom crafted races made of set speeds and/or items. You can create your own, publish your community code and see how folk do under the settings you set.
Multiplayer racing is where I found most of my issues. My opponents would appear to fall off the tracks, but then pop back in front of me, both in local and online multi-player. Once in a World-wide race, my Mii was switched with one of my opponents, it didn’t affect the race, just got us mixed up for a bit. But the most confounding parts were in Local Multiplayer, it seemed clear the Online multi-player framework was applied to local multiplayer. The customizations were not as robust as in previous versions, but the oddest issue was the inability to pause a race in Local Multiplayer.
Nintendo jammed so much into this game adding so many options and customizations it could be a bit overwhelming. The game hasn’t been revolutionized, but then again, I don’t believe it needed it. With each new game something new has been added, and each time there have been the pangs of change. I know very soon, I’ll not be able to imagine racing Mario Kart any other way than on my 3DS. While not perfect, Mario Kart 7 is solid and extremely fun! Here we go!
+ Fantastic new kart features
+ Brilliant level designs and retrofits
– Glitchy multiplayer
– Customizations not as robust as previous versions