Mario Kart is back, as we all knew it would be when Nintendo announced it’s 3DS system last year. There was never going to be a Nintendo system without a version of Mario Kart, it just wouldn’t be right would it? So here we are again, staring at the the same old game… but wait, what’s this? It’s changed and what a change it is.
You never really expect Mario Kart to change too much, it’s a formula that works and more importantly, sells. That’s not to say that it has changed beyond all recognition of course, after all this is Nintendo we are talking about, the same company which has manage to successfully reinvent numerous franchises over countless years without straying too far from what made them so great in the first place. So here we are with Mario Kart 7, a new and improved version of everyone’s favourite fast paced kart racer.
The beauty of Mario Kart is that it’s so easy to pick up and play, even for those who have never laid a finger on the game before. My children can easily play and enjoy Mario Kart thanks to the inclusion of the 50cc and 100cc modes, while I can step up to the challenge by playing in the more difficult 150cc challenge. The premise is simple really; choose a character, win the race, all while avoiding the various obstacles which are thrown in your way, including the AI racer’s power up’s, which generally have a way of catching up with you, even if you are some distance in the lead.
There are plenty of options to get you started in Mario Kart 7. The Grand Prix sees you playing through and unlocking the eight tournaments, such as the Mushroom, Shell and Banana Cups, each of which consist of 16 old, reworked tracks from past systems and as well as 16 new one’s. New tracks include the likes of Music Park, which sees you dodging in and out of musical notes, to others such as Toad Circuit, Daisy Hills and Koopa City, all of which are fun to play and well designed, fitting in with the classics in an almost seamless fashion.
As mentioned earlier, there are quite a few changes in racing for instance, at the start you are now able to choose parts for your kart, while during the race itself you have access to a glider and underwater propeller. The glider is used by driving up a special ramp, allowing you to glide down, to fly over opponents and obstacles, while you can also opt for the fast swoop, picking up coins along the way. As for the underwater sections, these are a nice addition, allowing for a good way to find hidden the coins, which in turn are used to unlock the previously mentioned kart parts. Coins are spread throughout all of the tracks, although if you are hit you will lose some: I wonder where Nintendo got that idea from?
In addition to coins, we also have the, always present, collectable items. There are 14 different items which can be collected, some more rare than others. The most common are the Banana, which causes opponents to slip, the Dash Mushroom for a burst of speed and also the Green Shell, which you can fire at enemies in order to knock them off the road. Items of the rare variety include the invincibility granting Super Star and the new Lucky Seven pick up, which allows you to equip seven items simultaneously. Other new items include the Fire Flower and the Super Leaf, although you can fine our their effects for yourself.
Of all the changes mentioned, one of the biggest is the addition of gyroscope controls with a first person perspective. By pressing up on the D-Pad, you can control your racer by accelerating as normal and then tipping the 3DS to steer. The game actually controls surprisingly well when playing in this way, although for me at least, it rendered the 3D a little useless. I have to say that although this new gyro controlled, first person mode is a little odd when you first start playing, it’s a brilliant, innovative, addition and after playing in this way, you will suddenly discover a whole new side to Mario Kart.
Away from the Grand Prix mode, Nintendo’s included a reworked Balloon Mode, seeing you take out as many balloons as you can before the time runs out. On a similar note is Coin Runners, having you speed through a timed race grabbing as many coins as you can. While the Balloon Mode and Coin Runners Mode are a nice distraction, Time Trial mode is probably the best of the three, thanks to it allowing you to download new ghost data via Street Pass, meaning that it gives you a new challenge every time, providing you can find anyone to swap ghost data with.
As if this pretty comprehensive single player gameplay wasn’t enough, Nintendo has really outdone itself in the multiplayer stakes.
This time around you can race against friends locally or via Wi-Fi, while Download Play means your friends can also play, even if they don’t have a copy of the game; for anyone with a 3DS the latter seems unlikely.
What is most impressive to me about online, is that Nintendo has somehow managed to cram in matchmaking to the online racers. This is done by providing each player with a rating depending on past performances and when combined with the smooth, faultless online gameplay, this really is the icing on the cake. There are a million players better than me at Mario Kart, so to be placed next to people with a similar skill level is a fantastic option to have. You can also easily find players, be they someone you have previously raced against or people on your friends list. What more do you want from a handheld game?
Well how about communities? Nintendo has taken it upon themselves to allow players to create custom groups, allowing you to take part in set races with custom rules and more importantly, make friends.
On the graphics side, as you would expect the game looks absolutely fantastic, especially in 3D. Nintendo seems to be the master of creating games for it’s own system and as you would expect the 3D effect is amongst the best seen yet. This feature lends itself perfectly to all 32 tracks, while also adding a different twist to the gameplay which we all know and love.
To be honest I came into Mario Kart 7 thinking that, in general, it would be more of the same. In some respects I was right, in others though, this couldn’t be further from the truth as Mario Kart 7 is as innovative now as it was all those years ago when it first arrived on the scene. To me this one of the best games I have played on the Nintendo 3DS to date and it’s one that no-one should be without.
Rating: OutstandingReview Policy
You can order Mario Kart 7 here.