Review by Cenedarprime
"Is 7 the lucky number for Mario's kart racing series?"
Its inevitable, really. With each new release of a Nintendo system, a version of Mario Kart is sure to follow. And after the huge commercial success of both Mario Kart DS and Wii, it was clear that Mario Kart 7 had to deliver to keep up the series' momentum. Both the future of the series, and the success of Nntendo's fledgling 3DS system, depend on this game's success. Fortunately Nintendo has once again delivered a solid, fun, addictive kart racer with smooth online functionality and a couple interesting changes in how a race goes down. And while there are a couple slight potholes in the single player road, the multiplayer mode continues to shine like the spikes on Bowser's shell. So let's drop the green flag and race, shall we?
If you played a previous Mario Kart, especially Mario Kart Wii, then you know how this game runs. 8 colorful characters from the Mushroom Kingdom hop into their own custom karts, and race three laps around a track to the finish line. All the while they can hop from the top of ramps to do "tricks" and gain boosts once touching backing down, obtain items to demolish other players or protect themselves, and, for the first time in Mario Kart history, take to the sky with a built in hang glider or the sea with a propeller system. Players can also drift around corners both wide and sharp to build up boosts as well. The items in the game continue to cause massive amounts of chaos, and you will still get stomped by a blue shell fifty feet from the finish line, but I generally found that happens far less frequently than in previous titles and the balance of items in general seems much less volatile. The drift and mini turbo system seems to emulate the Wii version of Mario Kart, as boosts build automatically, depending on how sharply you are drifting. The air sections are actually quite fun and can oftentimes be used to gain ground more quickly than driving on the ground, and while the water sections are a nice little addition, they really don't change things up apart from making your kart "floaty" and slowing it down just a pinch.
But by far, one of the biggest changes to how this game is played is the kart builder system. Characters no longer used arbitrary per-designed cars. There is a selection of frames, wheels, and gliders you can choose to construct your ideal kart for your play style. Need more top speed? Use a fast frame like the B-Dasher or wheels like the Slick wheels. Need more speed off-road as you tend to get swept off the track? Monster tires will greatly assist you. The system is simple and actually quite fun to use, I only wish there were more parts to choose from. As it is, there are only a handful of gliders to choose from, and the stat differences between them are negligible at best. Also as long as you are making custom karts, why not add in a color system to at least aesthetically change the look of your kart. And the emblem maker from Mario Kart DS also appears to have been scrapped. A minor nitpick, sure, but it will be missed. Apart from a couple aesthetic nitpicks with the kart builder, the gameplay is as solid as ever and is incredibly fun, especially when you can grab a few friends.
If you thought the menus in Mario Kart DS were bare-bones, just wait till you see Mario Kart 7. Without so much as an introductory movie you put right into the main menu. It's not a huge deal, I suppose, but for a split second I wondered if I had opened up a demo as opposed to the full game. Fortunately this jarring sparseness ends with the menus. When choosing a character and building a kart, your creation shows up in what appears to be a small garage, which is fun to look at if nothing else. But the true beauty of the game shines when you actually hit the tracks. This game's look rivals that of Mario Kart Wii, and races smoothly run at 60 fps the entire time (barring lag from online of course). The tracks themselves have rather ingenious designs this time around, that feel a lot more challenging and dynamic. This is probably helped by the fact that races have been reduced from 12 racers, like in Mario Kart Wii, back to 8 as it had been before the Wii iteration. While track designs seem simple and almost vague in the first cup or so, they quickly grow more elaborate and much prettier. Also, the selection of retro tracks from older titles have all been given a visual retooling to bring them up to snuff with the new tracks. The beauty and bright colors of the main game simply make me wonder why that quality of polish didn't extend to the menus and pre-race material.
With a couple notable exceptions, I was not overly impressed with the soundtrack of this game. In the end, background music stays in the background so it isn't much of a problem, but many songs from previous Mario Karts could get stuck in your head as you hum along merrily to them. That doesn't happen as much in this game. As for sound, well all the characters are "voiced" in that they have a couple one liners depending of if they win or lose a race, and various grunts, whoops and hollers for mid-race action. It's your standard kart racing fare here.
This is where MK7 truly begins to shine. While the single player side of this game does seem watered down from previous titles (no more single player VS mode where you can simply hop in to whatever track you want), it still contains both Grand Prix and Time Trial modes, in addition to two battle modes in Coin Runners and Balloon Battle. The multiplayer and online functionality, however, feel very fleshed out by comparison. Local multiplayer can be used to race with friends who are right there with you, using the wireless connecting capabilities of the 3DS. In this mode you have access to VS mode, Grand Prix mode and both battle modes. You can also use download play to allow players who don't have their own cartridge to join, but be aware that those who do not have their own copy will be forced to play as Shy Guy in the standard kart, wheels and glider. Online extends this game's life even more by letting you race against anyone on your friend list or even random people from across the globe. Street pass allows you to create your own ghost data and custom gran Prix to share with others. And Spotpass allows Nintendo to send new ghost data to you almost every day, should you choose to accept it. Also, in order to unlock evy kart part, you will have to play quite a lot as you will need to collect at least 5000 coins to get all the regular parts, and even more to find the coveted gold kart pieces. There are plenty of reasons to keep playing this game, so chances are you will find a mode you love.
While this game is not perfect, Mario Kart 7 is hands down one of the two must-own games for the 3DS right now, the other being Super Mario 3D Land. Whether by yourself or with friends, you will have tons of fun racing to the finish, and cursing the occasional blue shell for foiling your victory.
Game play: 10
Graphics/ Presentation: 9
Music/ Sound: 7
Replay Value: 10
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/04/12
Game Release: Mario Kart 7 (US, 12/04/11)
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