Mario Kart 7 has finally arrived and the Internet servers are already crowded with racers! Nintendo’s racing franchise has (in my opinion) released the best Mario Kart game (at least in certain aspects) yet.
Some of the new features include, of course, an amazing 3D effect, racing against up to seven ghosts in time trial, kart customization, coins that unlock new kart pieces littering the track, and controlling your flight off of certain jumps. Also it seems that you can now find that you are too close to the edge by hanging over the side a little and still recover instead of just tumbling into the abyss like in previous versions. Online multiplayer has also improved from the last handheld version of the game, Mario Kart DS, allowing you to play against up to seven other people in communities that only allow certain items and settings or just look for opponents across the world.
Unfortunately, there are a few things “missing” from the game, probably the worst of these is the fact that some of the characters such as Waluigi and Dry-bones are no longer in the game and you can no longer choose your favorite track in VS mode, if you want to play a certain track by itself, you race against the clock or some ghosts.
One of the new features is the ability to set up your profile. This is pretty fun, though you should wait until you have unlocked more kart pieces and played each track first. Then you can set up which Mii is used as your avatar, customize the kart he/she’ll be sitting in when he/she shows up on someone else’s 3DS (via streetpass) and set up a message that will pop up over your Mii’s head. Then you can even pick your four favorite tracks to make a custom Grand Prix cup you can then race on with anyone you meet via streetpass.
Now to take a closer look at some of the game modes provided on the game. Grand Prix is basically the same as it has always been. You compete in four races against seven AI (aka, the computer) racers and are scored 0-10 points for each race depending on your placement. After the fourth race, an overall rating is given, the highest of which is three stars. But I found that it is much easier to get three stars (perfect score) than on Mario Kart Wii, making it easier for those new to Mario Kart to jump in.
However it gets significantly harder when you move up to 100cc and beyond. It is a good idea to get to know the tracks you’ll be playing in a given cup and then customize your kart accordingly for the best chances of winning. Even if you’ve gotten three stars on every cup in 50cc, 100cc, 150cc, you can race in mirror mode, which can be insanely difficult because it is made up of tracks you know, but the turns are reversed, and the AI has no trouble knowing which way to steer every time, challenging you mightily right when you’d thought you had the game beaten. And no matter how good you get, it’s unlikely you won’t find yourself challenged in online multiplayer.
Time trials have also, in my opinion, improved a lot. Now you can make small changes to your kart and see how they improve your speed on certain tracks. When you have what you consider to be a good time for a few different tracks, you can make sure you are connected to the internet and close your 3DS, leaving it in sleep mode, and go have a snack or do some chores or something, giving your system a chance to go onto Nintendo’s servers and find other player’s records. It will pick out up to seven other ghosts with a similar time to yours, so that when you return, you can check the Mario Kart Channel for new ghost data. Within a minute or two you’ll be racing against up to seven other player’s ghosts, some of them may be faster than you, but that’s ok, there will likely be some that are slower as well. Find your place in the pack and slowly move up through the ranks! Given these changes, Time trial is now more fun than ever and opens up endless hours of self-improvement if you have the patience for it all.
Battle mode has also improved a bit, letting you customize your kart, and giving you the option of having teams (instead of making you have teams like on the Wii version) and selecting what items will be used (all items, shells only, bob-bombs only, mushrooms only, bananas only) AI difficulty, choose stage or pick randomly, etc. You get one point for each balloon you make your opponents lose. My main complaint in this department is the fact that no one is eliminated (when you run out of balloons, you lose one point and are respawned), I think you should be able to change the settings so that those that run out of balloons are eliminated if you want to. Also the battle ends two minutes after it is started, you can’t change the length of the battle, when the time is up, whoever popped the most balloons wins.
Coin runners is basically battle mode except that you do not have balloons, instead you try to collect coins. Getting hit causes you to lose three coins, so even if you make it to the maximum score of ten coins, the battle isn’t over until the time is up.
As I stated above, online play has been improved greatly. The new communities feature allows you to create your own community to play with your friends whenever they’re online. In the community settings, before you “publish” it, you can set what game mode members will be playing and what items will be used. You also name the group and can put up a two to four word message that members can see, then you can share your community code with your friends or anyone else you want to invite to your group, even if you’ve just ‘met’ them online. Unfortunately, there are a lot of options that would have made this feature better that are not present, but hey, no other Mario Kart has communities at all!
Now to look at new items. There are three new items, replacing some of the older ones. The new additions to your arsenal are fireflower, tanooki tail and lucky 7. The fire flower allows you to hurl fireballs at your opponents forward and backward, and they ricochet. Awesome, right? I think so, but there’s a catch, once activated, it will disappear after a little bit, probably between ten and twenty seconds if you don’t shoot, but if you start spraying them all over your opposition, it will only let you launch about ten fireballs. All the same, I think this is my favorite of the new items. I’ve hit up to three opposing karts with one flower, once you’ve mastered fire wielding, you’ll be delighted to see this botanical wonder pop up in your item box.
The tanooki tail is the same tail Mario used in Super Mario 3 and, much more recently, in Super Mario 3D Land. It is used to block shells from hitting you, knocking away banana peels and even opponents! It, too, is only useable for a limited amount of time, but if used timely, can be a devastating weapon.
The lucky 7 is the most unique item used in Mario Kart yet, when activated, you get seven random items that rotate around your Kart. I discovered that you can choose what you’re using by hitting the “L” shoulder button when the item you want is directly in front of your character. I heard that if someone bumps into you while your weapons eclipse you, they will steal some of your items, so watch out!
So in conclusion, I will point out that Nintendo really did an amazing job at getting an old game idea to do new things. The visuals are amazing, but if you can’t view 3D images, you will still enjoy the game. The new items are exciting to use and the online multiplayer, though at times a little rough, works better than ever before (for a Nintendo handheld, at least) and communities and the Mario Kart Channel offering new ways to play really make this game a must-buy for a 3DS owner, especially if they liked previous Mario Kart games. As an avid Mario Kart fan, and despite the lack of options, I’m giving this game a five because of it’s many possibilities and four stars just doesn’t account for the huge amount of replayability this game has.
Have you gotten this game yet or do you have any thoughts/questions? Comment below and I will do my best to answer any questions you have about the game.
Mario Kart 7 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for comic mischief.