Saturday, January 14, 2012

Mario Kart 7 Review (3DS)

Mario Kart is a classic. Ever since the days of the SNES, every major Nintendo console has been graced with a version of the spinoff racing title. It was no surprise, therefore, that the new Nintendo 3DS would be receiving its own copy of Mario Kart, and fanboys and nostalgic gamers alike were enthralled. Nintendo hasn’t disappointed with its latest title, Mario Kart 7, managing to keep an old title fresh despite years of wear. Read on after the break to find out more!

Mario Kart 7 is no different than any of its brethren in concept. Pick your favorite character from Nintendo’s favorite plumber-based platformer and hit one of many tracks for wild, fast-paced gameplay. Power-ups allow you to turn the game on its head by boosting through the course, knocking out your enemies, or shielding yourself from nearby opponents. The game is simple enough to pick up and play for a novice, but has just enough depth and challenge to keep experienced players coming back for more.

In terms of what Mario Kart 7 brings to the table against its predecessors, it has a couple of great surprises. As with most of the other Mario Kart games, it sports 16 new tracks, including courses inspired by Wuhu island from Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit Plus, in addition to mainstays from old games like the original Rainbow Road and the more recent Coconut Mall. Some of the new tracks, rather than being “3-lap” courses are straight courses of 3 “sections.” This adds a huge amount of variety in racing on some of the courses and allows them to be packed with more interesting environments.

Another major advent is the additions of gliders and propellers to your karts. Propellers make underwater sections seem lighter and airier while still maintaining the feel of normal racing, and gliders allow you to fly through the air following one of the series’ classic giant jumps. New tracks are designed to showcase these- many have huge air sessions and air pipes to fuel your glider, and there are tons of underwater paths, both optional and central to the course. However, the success of these is fantastically showed in the older courses; with minor changes, the glider and propeller sections work perfectly with the existing water and cannon/jump sections in older titles. These were additions that were meant to be added to the game.

A couple of new power-ups join the game as well. The Lucky 7, bearing the title’s logo, grants the player a circling ring of a blooper, a red shell, a green shell, a star, a mushroom, a banana peel, and a bob-omb. You can use any of these as they pass the front of the kart, but it’s tough to time it right so you can effectively use most of the power-ups, having to time the power-up passing your front with the optimal window for it, such as a good boosting section or an opening to hit another player out of the race, so it usually ends up being a game of “use power-ups until something good happens”. The other is a Tanooki tail, brought back along with the power-up in the new Mario 3D Land. It essentially allows you to hit anyone who’s right next to you for as long as it lasts, but with short range and no other benefits, it’s worse than you might think.

A couple of new characters and a good kart customization system might make single player last for a while, but the main appeal after beating the main game (not as difficult as you might think) is the online play. Thankfully Nintendo’s given us a much better multiplayer capability than most of its past titles. Random online play is pretty smooth, allowing you to drop in with a friend at any point (well, you need to wait for the next race, but that’s quick enough), and local play supports download play for any 3DS user. The main problem with this, however, is one of Mario Kart’s greatest assets: its capacity for party play by putting competitors on “even ground”. Falling behind gives you access to better power-ups, and randomness makes skill less important of an asset in the hectic races of Mario Kart.

Despite there not being a huge amount of raw content in the game and online play not being as competitively satisfying as it could be, Mario Kart 7 is one of the best launch titles the 3DS has to offer- it stands out with fantastic use of the 3D graphics and fun, jump-right-in gameplay. It shouldn’t be your only game, and it’ll get boring pretty quickly you play it as consistently as you would play a game like Zelda or Mario when you first buy it, but it’s a great multiplayer title and general staple game to have in your 3DS library.


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