Mario Kart 7 Review for Nintendo 3DS

Mario Kart 7 Review for Nintendo 3DS

Better Than Expected

Mario Kart is one of the few franchises that have been able to hop back and forth between handheld and home consoles without losing a whole lot in translation. Whether the last Mario Kart you played was the Wii version or the DS version, you were treated to an excellent game with plenty of tracks, characters, and multiplayer modes. Though it’s easy to gloss over handheld iterations of any major series as auxiliary, Mario Kart 7 is the best put-together Mario Kart yet. And if you think it’s because of the 3D, you’d be mistaken.

In fact, the 3D is so understated that sometimes it’s hard to notice that it’s even there. There are some decent 3D effects including sun flares and water effects, but if you are looking for a game with a lot of “pop,” you won’t find it here. It’s actually quite refreshing, as a game like Mario Kart doesn’t need flashy 3D effects. After playing in both 3D and 2D, I can confidently say that the 3D is not necessary for the game, and doesn’t come close to being a selling point.

Mario Kart 7 Screenshot

What actually is a selling point, though, is the new content. Mario Kart 7 has 16 new courses and several new characters for you to unlock, in addition to 16 “throwback” tracks taken from earlier games in the series. The new courses take advantage of a new multi-level track system that lets you take to the air with a glider or dive underwater. Although some of the places where you can use these abilities are pretty obvious, part of the fun of the game is finding secret areas where you can jump into the water or take flight to clip past your opponents. The new tracks in Mario Kart 7 are extremely detailed, and the more you play on them, the more you’ll discover about the tracks and the secrets they hold.

The throwback tracks have also been done extremely well, and all of them seem to have been given a bit of graphical polish to bring them more in line with the new levels. The retro levels also feature new underwater and aerial areas, so you can explore some new areas of these familiar courses.

Another element that comes as a bit of a throwback is the reappearance of coins. For the last few iterations of Mario Kart, in-track coins have been strangely absent. However, the coins are back, and you can collect up to ten per stage to increase your maximum speed. You can also collect coins to unlock content, so even if you max out the amount of coins for speed purposes, you’ll still want to continue collecting coins throughout each level.

Mario Kart 7 Screenshot

Aside from all the new track content, Mario Kart 7 has taken a new approach to the vehicles this time around. You start by picking a base vehicle for your character (initial offerings include a kart, buggy, and birthday car) and then outfitting it with tires specialized for speed, handling, or off-road driving. You can then pick a specialty glider and go forth with your own custom vehicle. The vehicle customization isn’t unlike that of Mario Kart Wii, though it’s taken a bit further in Mario Kart 7, and again provides some much-needed depth to a system that may otherwise have been a little too simple.

Mario Kart 7 Screenshot

There are some new power-ups as well. In addition to the various shells, mushrooms, and stars, Mario Kart 7 also includes a fire flower that lets you burn nearby enemies, a deflecting tanooki tail, and a bomb-omb that lets you blow up enemies that are a medium distance away. These power-ups are all quite useful, but there is one overstuffed power-up among the bunch that might annoy you even more than the accursed blue shell. It’s called Lucky 7 and gives you all seven of the standard power-ups, (green shell, red shell, mushroom, inky, etc.) for you to use at your discretion. Any player who is lucky enough to get this power-up basically has “God Mode” on for a few minutes, and the effects on what might have otherwise been a close game are devastating. Aside from this annoyance, however, the new power-ups are a welcome addition to the Mario Kart roster.

Another aspect that is much like Mario Kart Wii is the online mode. You can play through any of the game’s tracks with online opponents both near and far, and for the first time in the series’ history, you can play with friends registered to your console. If you don’t have any Mario-Karting friends, you can also play in specially made communities, which is a cool way to make multiplayer more personal without making it too much like another console experience. Within these communities, you can see player rankings and stats, which is a nifty feature for competitive players.

Mario Kart 7 Screenshot

If you want to keep the experience more local, the game also has a decent local multiplayer option You can play either multi-cart or via download play, but the problem with the latter is that anyone playing without their own cart is stuck playing as Shy Guy on a standard kart. The game also takes advantage of StreetPass/SpotPass, allowing you to view player stats and karts as you encounter them in real life. Even if you never touch the online mode, there is a real wealth of multiplayer content here, and it’s unlikely you will ever be bored with this game.

Visually speaking, Mario Kart 3DS is a gem. Though the 3D effects are understated, the visual detail, animation, and environments are top-notch. If Ocarina of Time 3D was Nintendo’s showpiece for what the 3DS could do with 3D technology, Mario Kart 7 could be the showpiece for games that look great without it. Mario Kart 7 also includes a first-person camera mode that allows you to see the action from a whole new perspective. Though I didn’t find much use for this viewpoint, I’m sure there are players out there who will rejoice at its inclusion in Mario Kart 7.

Mario Kart 7 isn’t a drastic departure from the series. However, it improves upon many of the facets we first saw in Mario Kart Wii, and includes enough new content and features to make it worth your while. It might be tempting to skip this one and wait for the inevitable Wii U Mario Kart, but any true Nintendo fan would be remiss to miss this one. Mario Kart 7 is a great game and one that should definitely be on the Christmas lists of 3DS owners this year.

The graphics are incredibly detailed, and 3D is used subtly. 4.4 Control
The basic controls will be familiar to longtime fans and are easy to learn for newbies. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The soundtrack features a good mix of old and new tracks. 4.5 Play Value
With a good amount of unlockable content and plenty of multiplayer options, this is a biggest and deepest Mario Kart experience yet. 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • The Mario Kart 7 franchise continues to evolve. New kart abilities add to the wild fun that the games are known for. On big jumps, a kart deploys a wing to let it glide over a track shortcut. When underwater, a propeller pops out to help the kart cruise across the sea floor.
  • Players can show their own style by customizing their vehicles with accessories that give them a competitive advantage. For instance, giant tires help a kart drive off-road, while smaller tires work best on city courses.
  • People can choose to race as one of their favorite Mushroom Kingdom characters, or even as their Mii character.
  • The game supports both SpotPass and StreetPass features.
  • Players can compete in local wireless matches or online over a broadband Internet connection.

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