|Dev: Nintendo/Retro Studios|
|Pub: Nintendo Studios|
|Release: December 4, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: N/A|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Mario Kart 7 is a series that stays the same as much as it changes. And for the most part, fans of the series like it that way. In fact, the only time that the series really went off the rails and switched things up was in 2003, with the release of Mario Kart 7: Double Dash. Fans didn't respond well. Mario Kart 7 Wii was a glorious return to form for the series, and won the praise of more than a few gamers when it was released early in the Wii's lifecycle.
The announcement of Mario Kart 7 for the 3DS at this years' E3 was definitely not a surprise. Mario Kart 7 DS was one of the biggest sellers on the DS, and Mario Kart 7 Wii certainly moved a lot of units as well. It just wouldn't make much sense for Nintendo to wait much longer to release one of their most well-known series for the 3DS.
We recently got our hands on this brand new Mario Kart 7 title, and for the most part, it's staying true to the legacy of the series. The game features all your favorite Nintendo heroes, has new and interesting tracks, and even has those annoying, spirit-breaking blue-shell power-ups. Of course, Nintendo can't just leave it at that, and the improvements made to Mario Kart 7 on the 3DS (which we have confirmed will simply be called "Mario Kart 7") will change the game just enough to keep things interesting, but not enough that we'll see a backlash of Double Dash proportions.
In our time with Mario Kart 7, the first thing we were able to do was customize our car using a slot-machine-like interface. We could scroll along the screen to select our vehicle's chassis, wheels, and a special power-up. We were told by a Nintendo representative that the customization will be very important to the gameplay, as bigger tires will make for slower but sturdier rides, and the selection of chassis will also help you drive more strategically. We've already seen this used to some effect in Mario Kart 7 Wii with the different vehicle classes, but the ability to blend different strategies using different car parts will certainly give this game an edge with replayability.
Once we tricked out our kart, we dove into our first race. The track was in a jungle setting, complete with caves, waterfalls, and a big lagoon area. Driving around felt the same as it always has, except for a few moments where we were able to deploy a glider to float along large water areas. We used this new glider feature successfully twice, but our focus wavered a bit during our third attempt and we had to drive underwater to get back on track. Though this did hurt our time overall, it's nice to see that there are multiple layers to the tracks. Mario Kart 7 on the 3DS is far from being multi-layered as a whole, but at least there is more than one way to get to the finish line in the track that we played.
The 3D effect in the game is done very well and works a lot like the 3D in Pilotwings Resort. Your vehicle has a certain amount of "pop" against the background, but most of the 3D effect is used to create depth on the tracks. Even putting the 3D effect aside, the visuals are quite good. Animations are extremely fluid, and characters actually have facial expressions this time around. They'll even grimace when you pass them on the track. Nintendo has done a great job of making them look more like characters rather than just avatars attached to cars.
We were able to confirm with a Nintendo representative that the final version of Mario Kart 7 would indeed support online play, ghost downloads, and SpotPass/StreetPass functionality (though they wouldn't comment on what those would be, specifically).
Though Mario Kart 7 isn't changing a whole lot for this iteration, there are enough minor changes to the formula that it feels like a fresh experience. When you add the new tracks, customization possibilities, and online features, it starts looking like you'll have a pretty awesome kart racing package coming your way this fall.
Look for more on Mario Kart 7 for the 3DS from Cheat Code Central, including details about new characters and StreetPass/SpotPass features as we move closer to its holiday release.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Senior Contributing Writer