Review: Mario Kart 7
The 3DS launched without its key players and Mario Kart is certainly one of these. Nintendo even admitted themselves that Mario Kart 7 was “an act of emergency.” So how does the game hold up, and perhaps more importantly, does this rush to meet the 3DS’s needs show?
Charles Martinet’s voice excitedly reminds us that this is the 7th instalment of the Mario Kart franchise as the game loads up. It’s at this point that you wonder why they decided to keep that silly name in the first place. Surely adding a seven at the end of the title provokes a sense of repetition? However, playing the game for a good few hours is when you realise the latest instalment shines like the rest. Nintendo’s usual excellent polish is present and you soon won’t be caring that it’s the seventh game in the series, (excluding the two Arcade GP games of course).
There’s 32 tracks to race on, 16 old, 16 new; arguably one of the finest track selections of the series. And did we mention that each one looks incredible in 3D? This is especially true of the newcomers like Koopa City and the latest Bowser Castle. The rush you get when first viewing Mario Kart 7 in action is one of the best experiences on the 3DS, it’s as smooth as butter. Enough said.
The online is the best we’ve seen in a Mario Kart game as well. Communities are easily the greatest addition here. The ability to join and race with a group of friends in a given community, or simply just make your own is a massive step forward for Nintendo. We experienced no connection issues either when we were racing online, which is always a welcome bonus.
StreetPass and SpotPass are also used to great effect here. Exchanging ghost times with the first of these is a breeze, and gives you the extra incentive to walk about with your 3DS. While SpotPass allows you to download and race new ghosts every day: this can be anyone from a rookie player to the Nintendo staff who made the game. Both features brilliantly extend the lifespan of the game.
We do have some negative points to talk about though. Firstly, why are the menus so dull? Where is the familiar Nintendo magic loaded with detail? And why is the unlocking of characters so uninspired? Complete every Grand Prix in 150cc to unlock the full roster. There’s hardly any challenge to this, and it just seems like they said: “Um… unlocks for characters, just stick them all in the same place.” Why is the roster so small as well? And dare I say it, Honey Queen over Waluigi anyone?
The rankings for each Grand Prix are also lacking, it’s simply you achieved nothing, or you got one star, two star, and three star. Where’s the variety? And as great as the communities are, we still can’t befriend strangers and add them as friends on our lists, instead they’re forever opponents.
Finally, where is the excellent Mission Mode from the DS version? It was a new idea that could have been greatly expanded, providing small chunks of fun out and about and extending the lifespan of the game. But it’s nowhere to be seen. All minor points I’ll agree, but ones which ever so slightly portray the nature of the game’s conception.
Still, Mario Kart 7 is Nintendo working in “an act of emergency”, yet managing to produce a delightful, and thoroughly entertaining game; it’s going to give you many, many hours of fun. We haven’t even touched on the new power ups: suffice to say, the Fire Flower, the Super Leaf and the Lucky Seven are all fantastic newcomers. And what about the new underwater and gliding sections? Well, they really don’t change the gameplay whatsoever, but instead serve as showcases for the spectacular 3D, while adding a refreshing feeling to the game as a whole. No complaints here.
The fact of the matter is that the Mario name sells very well indeed, and this injection of life from a veteran series is exactly what the 3DS needed. Sure, you can argue that Nintendo should try new IPs, but you just can’t help but be reminded of two things when playing this frantic racer. The first of these is that the Mario Kart formula is pretty much unbeatable. The second, is that you bet against Nintendo at your peril. Mario Kart’s seventh instalment reminds us why they’re still one of the finest game developers in the world. Long live the 3DS.