Mario Kart 7 Review

Released on Dec. 4, I bought Mario Kart 7 for the Nintendo 3DS a few days after the game came out at a Best Buy. Call me a fanboy if you want, because I would too.

Before I begin, I must say that I’ve played nearly every version of Mario Kart (except for the Japanese arcade version) spanning the SNES, Nintendo 64, Game Boy Advance, GameCube, Nintendo DS, Wii and now Nintendo 3DS.

The six previous games are: Super Mario Kart, Mario Kart 64, Mario Kart: Super Circuit, Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, Mario Kart DS, Maro Kart DS and Mario Kart Wii.

Since the original release of Super Mario Kart for the SNES in 1992, the game has remained almost without change — save for a few minor tweaks, here and there. I’ve basically been playing the same game for the last 20 years and yet, I still jump for joy at the newest iteration of the game. It’s almost like gamers who play Pok√©mon, Street Fighter, Pac-Man, Call of Duty, or any video game franchise.

As a gamer myself, I keep up with gaming news like a junkie, and yet, I still hear all this whining from my friends, my colleagues, game journalists, bloggers, and the entire Internet about how the top selling games are always sequels, how there are no original games anymore, blah blah blah.

Reviews of Mario Kart 7 started flooding the Internet weeks before the game’s U.S. release and nearly all of them resonated one thing: Mario Kart 7 is the same old Mario Kart, but with a few new race courses, a few new kart customizations and a few new items.

Still, I ordered Mario Kart 7 and picked it up in-store.

I popped in Mario Kart 7 into my 3DS and after a mandatory software update, dove right into racing. The title screen is virtually the same as every Mario Kart before it, with a choice of racing circuits ranging from 50cc, 100cc and 150cc. Each circuit has the same familiar Flower, Banana, Leaf, Mushroom, etc. cups as every other Mario Kart game. The first four cups are entirely new, each with four tracks in total. Cups four to eight are old tracks from Mario Karts of yore.

Racing is handled exactly the same as I last remember it, with gas handled by the A button, brake with the B button, jumping with the R shoulder trigger, L shoulder trigger for selecting and using power-up/attack items.

I didn’t have to learn anything new. Since I’ve played the old games, I immediately felt at home, and at ease with playing Mario Kart 7.

Graphics looks beautiful. When I first got hands-on with Mario Kart 7 at the New York Comic-Con, I was floored by the 3D. This was a game with 3D done properly. As with all 3D games, when you flip on the 3D, the quality drops, but the frame rate doesn’t seem to suffer here, which is fantastic and why Mario Kart is still the king of kart racing after all these years. Seriously, take a look at Mario Kart 7, squint real hard, and you’ll be hard pressed it’s not pushing Wii-quality graphics.

New for the game is a first-person mode that automatically flips your controls to gyroscope mode. You won’t be tilting your 3DS much in those mode with the 3D depth on high or you’ll get motion sickness. Of course, you can override the tilt controls with the regular controls, and I actually played a few cups in first-person mode, finishing in first, the camera view really is a gimmick.

Coins are now back in the game. Collect 10 and you get a quick boost. Collecting coins is essential to Mario Kart 7 as it helps unlock more customizations.

Speaking of customizations, you can now pick more kart bodies, different kart wheels, and hang-gliders. Each have their own strengths and weaknesses, but again, kind of gimmicky. Yoshi is still the fastest of them all.

There are also a few new items. You’ll find the Super Leaf (Tanooki tail) is here and it’s sometimes effective for wagging off incoming shells, and the Fire Star that shoots fireballs is kind of fun. You’ll almost never get the Lucky Seven, which gives seven items to choose and use. Frankly, I’m a little upset that the “fake item” box is not in the game. I really loved screwing with opponents by dropping a fake item box in the middle of the road in Mario Kart DS. One more thing to note about items: why so many goddamned bananas? The ratio of bananas to other items makes the game unbelievably stale.

Sound is really where a lot of Nintendo – mainly Mario – games fail, save for the incredible Legend of Zelda series. You won’t find many new tunes here or even ones that really push the boundaries of Mario Kart. At times I almost wish Nintendo would go with a track that is more Fast and Furious and less It’s-a-me-Mario!

To wrap up, Mario Kart 7 is easily one of the best Nintendo 3DS games out right now. I haven’t played Super Mario 3D Land yet, but from what I’m hearing, these two games are literally carrying the 3DS up from an early death. The price cut back in August from $250 to $170 for a 3DS did much to help boost the handheld’s sales, but systems are sold because of great games. Mario Kart 7 is just in time to save the 3DS’s butt. Now, Nintendo needs to keep them coming.

Retro Studios, makers of the Metroid Prime series deserve a huge pat on the back. They really did Nintendo proud by not messing with the tried-and-true formula of kart racing, but still giving it that 3D depth. I highly recommend Mario Kart 7.

^ If you’ve played the old Mario Kart games, you’ll feel right at home with Mario Kart 7.

^ All the items in the game. No fake item box? Me sad.

Haven’t had time to test Mario Kart 7′s online features, but if they’re as alright as the Wii’s offerings, things shouldn’t be too terrible.

^ Mario Kart DS on the left and the new Mario Kart 7. Pretty boring cartridge design.

^ Three modes to play.

^ You can play as your own Mii like in the Wii version. Here you can see my crazy customized kart with batwings as a hang glider.

^ A few Wii tracks make it to the 3DS game.

^ More modes. I still love the Grand Prix the best.

^ Another look at the customization features.

^ First four cups are all new tracks. Last four are old tacks.

^ It’s like having a portable Wii!

Oh yes. Underwater modes automatically give your kart a propeller. You can also collect coins again!

The first-person mode. Not a huge fan, but it is usable, like the Wii Remote for the Mario Kart Wii. Hardcore players will brag that they can beat you in this mode and with gyro controls too!

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