Mario Kart 7
One thing is certain with Mario Kart in that each version is different from the last. Mario Kart 7 comes to the Nintendo 3DS with the same familiarity as previous editions, however may as well throw the number 7 to the roadside as this is so far removed from anything Nintendo have produced in the series so far.
The standard characters: Mario, Bowser, Peach etc are together as they should be. The classes remain the same and heck, there are still 32 tracks split into 8 cups to race around. 4 of these cups hold 16 new race courses whereas the remaining cups hark back to previous instalments. This may all seem correct, but this is where Mario Kart 7 stops being a standard karting game and defines itself as the best in the series.
Quite a claim this maybe, however Nintendo have a knack with this particular franchise of filtering out the good points to a game and removing the negative to apply to the next game along. Mario Kart 7 does exactly that. The most noticeable factor is the AI. Gone are the days where Bowser can sneak up on the last lap and bombard you with Red, Green and Blue shells dropping you from first to dead last. Now, this is a more controlled and calculated battle from the word go. In the single player mode, the AI act as humans, cutting corners, aiming their green shells and timing their squids to cause the maximum disruption.
What this means is players have to fight for 1st rather than build up a great lead over two laps only to get destroyed on the last. There are less easy victories and more cursing that with half a lap to go, a blue shell assassinates you. To help fight back, Nintendo have kindly added some weapons to the course. The regulars are there as normal as well as a few new ones to spice things up. The Tanooki tail continues its resurgence to the Mario world as it can be used to swipe cars out of the way with minimal effort.
If you are dead last, which may be a possibility for some, Nintendo don’t just throw in a pointless blue shell or lightning bolt anymore, oh no. You may find yourself hitting a lucky 7 power up. This gives the driver, you guessed it, SEVEN powerups to get back into the thick of the action. They encircle the kart and you feel like a kid in a candy shop deciding which item is going up Yoshi’s tail pipe. Mario Kart 7 isn’t all about the weapons though, the courses are awash with coins, which haven’t been seen for a long time. These give you a little boost when they have been collected but more importantly help out for another reason. Customisation.
In another major change for the series, karts can now be customised to give a more unique riding experience. Previous installments only had light weighted, middle and heavy weight characters. Now, Bowser’s weight can be offset against a smaller car. This custom karting is limited to 4 factors: Racers, Chassis, Wheels & Gliders, so it keeps things simple unlike other racing games where it goes into brake pads and wheel nuts or if you wanted flame decals for whatever reason. Gliders, also a new addition, are used in some races to, well, glide a player from a high area to low and avoid any pitfalls or obstacles below.
While flying, racing under water or just rallying the kart around a track at speed, it cannot escape the attention that each course is memerable and different to the last. Each course has been beautifully crafted in such away that they are challenging to drive but enjoyable at the same time. Nintendo haven’t stopped at just a wonderfully crafted set of race courses, the dynamics of the race for some have changed. Some of the races now only have one lap. This keeps the game fresh (or if you are American – dope) as it is harder to learn the twists and turns thrown at you.
As with all Mario Kart games, Mario Kart 7 is designed for multiplayer and unlike changing the dynamics of the single player, Nintendo thought it would be best to stick to its roots.Ultimately the multiplayer remains unchanged from the Wii version. There is a choice of Grand Prix or battle modes, which can be played either on or offline. Online play has been made simpler because of the single friend code required to play against friends, it also seems to find people and join races quicker than Mario Kart Wii. Offline, there is a choice of modes dependent on how many game packs are used. If there is only one game between four then the tracks are limited.
Streetpass makes an appearance in Mario Kart 7 and this allows players to exchange racer information and Ghost data. This information can be used to battle online if each player so wishes, this does utilise the Nintendo 3DS and brings the Mario Kart community closer than it has ever been. The only issue with this is that the friend code system is a cumbersome beast and does rather unnecessarily interrupt online play.
This being said, Mario Kart 7 ticks all of the other boxes one would expect with a racing game. The welcome additions such as customisation and the mix up with the track styles all provide a challenging and more importantly fun entry to the series. The use of the 3DS’s unique features build to the experience of the game in particular the 3D effect means you can get a feel of the race and how much work you have to put in to take the lead. Nintendo’s archaic approach to online gaming does hinder the title a little but it is a vast improvement to what we have seen on the Wii. The first person control system is also a dud point as it requires the gyro sensors to move, and much like the previous game, Mario Kart 7 works best as a joypad experience.
Mario Kart 7 is without a doubt the best and most enjoyable entry for the series. It is simple, and yet challenging, it is easy to get into but has a great depth to it. It takes all the plus points from past experiences and adds its own flair to the mix. It is worth a purchase for anyone who owns a 3DS. Even if you do not like racing games. Yes, it is just that good!
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