Review by Emporer_Kazbar

"Mario Kart 7 does what you expect, and more"

Another Nintendo system, another Mario Kart game. That's how it goes, right? The series has been a staple for years, so of course it was coming to the 3DS. Does it hold up to the series' general high quality? Well, let's see, shall we?

Well, for starters, this being Mario Kart, you nigh-certainly already know the basic premise, basic gameplay, etc. Mario characters race on various tracks whilst assailing each other with weaponry in an effort to finish the race in first. The racers in this one range from the obvious (Mario) to the staples (Daisy) to the downright bizarre (Honey Queen), but no one feels particularly out of place, though I'll be the first to say it's odd playing a Mario sports game without Waluigi in it.

Carts in this game are handled different than in the last few; instead of weight classes for characters determining what carts they can ride in, instead this year we find all characters being able to ride in all carts. To add to the customization, we get the ability to change the wheels of our cart for different attributes, and the gliders of our cart which are used for flying. This change works out in a good way, allowing a decent amount of individuality for each cart, and allowing you to customize them to empower your strengths or cover your weaknesses.

New to this Mario Kart are the abilities to fly through the air and drive underwater, either of which can happen in the various stages of the game. While to the Mario Kart traditionalist these may seem to be gimmicky additions, they in fact mesh in very smoothly with the standard Mario Kart gameplay, to the point where you feel like they were always there after only a few races. Players of former Mario Kart titles will probably instinctively avoid the water at first, especially in the retro stages where the water spelled doom in their original iteration. As I said, though, after a few races, it will come to pass. This ends up adding some variety to the gameplay, while at the same time avoid that gimmicky feeling and taking nothing away from the standard MK experience. Also on the track in this game, returning for the first time since Mario Kart: Super Circuit, are coins. Coins, when picked up to a maximum of ten at one time, increase the players speed in proportion to however many they are carrying. Coins also allow the player to unlock wheels and carts and gliders. This as well is welcome; it allows for different strategies while racing ("Do I pick up the coins, or take the inside track?"). Having the coins unlock things makes them even more welcome, as they serve even more purpose than in previous iterations where they appeared.

The additions and subtractions of items in Mario Kart 7 all seem to be positive ones. Gone are the fake item blocks, but these have had deteriorating use ever since they were color changed after Mario Kart 64 anyway, so they will be missed by few. New to the armory are the Tanooki Tail, which allows you swat away incoming projectiles, and the Lucky 7, which gives the player using it an arsenal of shells, bananas, mushrooms and the like to use on opponents or for themselves, item depending. These new items fit right in and feel very much balanced.

Speaking of balance, this game seems to have finally eased up on rubberbanding AI, at least to an extent. Yes, a bombardment of attacks when you're in first place is going to happen, but this feels like it's happening less frequently than in, say, Mario Kart Wii. Computer opponents, while ever challenging on the hardest difficulties, do not seem to as unshakable as in the past. There have been a decent number of races so far in my playing time that I have won by a much larger margin than would have ever been possible in some of the earlier games. In short, while the game is still very challenging on the higher difficulties, it feels like more of a fair challenge. One moment where you get hit by lightning, a blue shell, two red shells and bounced off the track by a passing opponent fifty feet from the finish line is going to come sooner or later, as in every MK title, but, again, in comparison to some of the past titles, later is the more common of the two.

So where does that leave us? Quite simply, it leaves us with what is one of the most fun Mario Kart titles in a good while. This game takes the good of Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart Wii, leaves out a majority of the bad, and adds enough new flavor that the experience feels rewarding and fresh in a way that the series hasn't in a while. To say any less is fabrication or of bad taste. If you have any interest in the title, it is most certainly worth checking out.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 01/04/12

Game Release: Mario Kart 7 (US, 12/04/11)

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