Published on January 22nd, 2012 | by octaneblue3
Review: Mario Kart 7
Developer: Nintendo EAD, Retro Studios
Release Date: December 4, 2011
Mario and friends race their way to the Nintendo 3DS with the newest iteration of the Mario Kart franchise, Mario Kart 7. After spending plenty of hours with the game, it’s time for a review. Does Mario Kart 7 take the checkered flag, or does it have flat tires? Read on…
Mario Kart 7 looks great; it’s simple as that. This is a game that you will want to show to friends to let them see the graphical capabilities of the 3DS. Movement and animations are fluid, and races move at a good pace. The 3D feature is used to very neat effect; parts of tracks pop out, items fly right at you… it’s all really cool. It is not completely necessary to have 3D turned on, but if you leave it on, it’ll really just become second nature.
Like its predecessors, Mario Kart 7 works well in the audio department. There are delightful tunes that play during the menus, tracks, and so on. Veteran players may notice some of the songs used in the game are remixed of songs from past Mario Kart titles, or reference certain parts from the said songs. It’s a nice “wink” to those who pay attention to that kind of stuff. In what is essentially a series staple, all of the racers have their own quotes that they say during the races. If you’ve played any of the games since Mario Kart 64, you’ll know what to expect, for better or worse.
Gameplay-wise, Mario Kart 7 uses the same basic formula of its predecessors: race your opponents through courses, using items to your advantage along the way, and attempt to take the checkered flag. All of that is still here, and features such as drifting, and so on, are in the game too. The item line-up has changed a bit from previous titles; gone are items such as Fake Item Boxes, Mega Mushrooms, POW Blocks, etc. However, new items joins the fray: the Fire Flower, which allows you to shoot fireballs at your opponents, the Super Leaf, which gives you a Raccoon Tail to repel opponents or items, and the Lucky 7, which makes 7 items circle around you that you can use. Your opponents can also run into an item in the Lucky 7 and either get hit by it (like one of the Shells) or use it for themselves (i.e., Mushroom or Star). Coins, which were featured in Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart: Super Circuit, return in Mario Kart 7. They essentially serve the same purpose, which is to speed you up at maximum accumulation, which is 10 Coins here. Coins are scattered across the tracks, and will respawn after a period of time. You can also grab Coins from your rivals if they are hit by items as well; obviously, they can do the same to you too.
Mario Kart 7 features kart customization, in which you build your kart. You’ll start out with a few default parts, but you’ll unlock a new, random part as you reach a certain amount of Coins. The parts of the kart include the body, wheels, and glider. You can mix and match parts to come up with your desired kart combination, then take it to the tracks. The combinations of parts affect the stats of the kart, which includes speed, acceleration, drifting, and so forth. The mentioned glider is a new feature in Mario Kart 7; there are sections in certain courses that allow you to sprout forth a glider, which allows you to fly over gaps or sections of the course.
It’s worth noting that the AI of the CPU racers is greatly improved in this iteration. The CPU racers will actually cut across shortcuts with Mushrooms and Stars, hog Coins for themselves, plant items right near Item Boxes, and they’ll even hit the brakes and attempt to hit other drivers when faced with the Blue Shell. It’s an interesting change from the mostly standard tactics that the CPU racers used in past games. However, it can certainly get frustrating when the CPUs get crafty and throw out a Blue Shell at the worst possible moment. You can almost guarantee that if you’re doing very well, one of the CPU racers will throw out a Blue Shell to end your moment. The CPU racers also use Green Shells and Fire Flowers with extremely precise accuracy, so watch out for those. This can be very frustrating when attempting to collect Coins and get a 3-star ranking in the Cup.
In terms of game modes, for Single Player, there’s the Grand Prix (which comes in 50cc, 100cc, 150cc, and Mirror flavors), Time Trials, Balloon Battle, and Coin Runners, most of which have appeared in several of the past iterations of the series. Then there’s Local Multiplayer and Online Multiplayer. Local Multiplayer works similar to that of Mario Kart DS, where you create a room, and your nearby friends join in the room. Then you can select your courses, and so forth, and race. Single-card play is available as well, but non-owners are restricted to using Shy Guy, with standard kart parts.
Like the past couple Mario Kart games, Mario Kart 7 features both new tracks and retro ones. There are 16 new courses and 16 retro ones, bringing the track total to 32. The new tracks are really fun, and include locales such as Daisy Hills, DK Jungle, and Neo Bowser City. A new feature in this game is the long track-type, in which you’ll race from point A to point B, with no laps. Those tracks are separated in 3 sections instead. There are three courses of this type: Wuhu Loop, Maka Wuhu, and Rainbow Road. The retro track selection is nice too, with courses from the previous six Mario Kart titles making appearances. These include SNES Mario Circuit 2, N64 Koopa Beach, GBA Bowser Castle 1, GCN Dino Dino Jungle, Wii Coconut Mall, and SNES Rainbow Road. The track selection in this game as a whole is very diverse and fun.
Mario Kart 7 Official Trailer
The two previous Mario Kart titles on the DS and Wii both featured online multiplayer. The DS version featured 4 player online races only, no battles. You could chose from Friend-only, Rival, Regional, and Worldwide races. The Wii version had a rather extensive multiplayer mode with races (Friends, Regional, and Worldwide) AND battles with up to 12 players. Mario Kart Wii was actually one of the more detailed online games for the Wii, in terms of overall look, features, and ease of use. And now Mario Kart 7 sets the standard for multiplayer games on the 3DS.
For any future multiplayer games on the system, you can bet that players will measure up on how it compares to the interface, features, etc. of Mario Kart 7. Since the 3DS uses one central Friend Code for all online games, connecting online and playing with friends is even easier! You can access a list of your Friends registered on your 3DS, or anyone you’ve recently played, and join them in races. And there’s also the new Communities feature, which allows you to create a custom room with a set rule. No items? You can do that. All mirrored? That too! Creating a Community generates a code for it that you can share with Friends or anyone that sees the code.
The game has a very impressive online mode, and hopefully future titles on the 3DS and Wii U, both first and third-party, builds upon the online infrastructure of Mario Kart 7. A flaw with the online mode, however, is the lack of an option to block or ban anyone from following you. As mentioned previously, if you play with a random person on Worldwide/Regional, they can follow you in your races by simply pulling up your name on the “recently played” list. This is nice in some instances, but if that particular player is basically annoying, they can continue to follow you, and you can’t do anything about it. This includes following you to a Community; there is no way to create a closed Community, so if you’re playing with Friends, and an open spot gets taken by a random, you unfortunately cannot boot them out of the room.
Another disappointment with Mario Kart 7 is the lack of modes, at least when compared to previous titles. Mario Kart DS and Wii featured the Mission and Competition mode, respectively, where you could do certain objectives such as driving through gates in a certain section of a course, battle a boss, etc. Mario Kart 7 doesn’t feature any missions. There is also a lack of a Quick Race or Vs.-type mode, where you can individually select tracks to race on with CPU drivers, instead of going through the Grand Prix or racing alone on Time Trials.
With the Mario Kart formula we all know and love, with cool new additions and a strong multiplayer mode, it’s easily one of the best titles on the 3DS to date. Highly recommended!
+ Fun gameplay, with new additions to the series
+ Extensive online multiplayer
+ Nice track selection
– Lack of modes
– Certain aspects of online could use some work
– Sometimes cheap AI
Score: 4.5 out of 5