Review by StarmanJunior
"7 for the 7"
Mario Kart 7 is certainly worth vigorously playing in your local doctor's office or long busride in order to pass the time, but is it worth your time and pocket change to own? Well, let's take a closer look and then you be the judge.
Mario Kart 7 is exactly what you'd expect from a Mario Kart game...no more, and no less. That's not necessarily a bad thing. A lot of people say you shouldn't fix what isn't broken, and while the Mario Kart series certainly isn't broken, it's stuck in a sort of rut. A good rut, but still a rut. Mario Kart games really haven't changed since landing on the GameCube, taking on sort of a cartoony feel rather than the free-bird unlinear qualities of Mario Kart 64.
Mario Kart 7, while fun, doesn't really have any original ideas. There are some new ideas, but nothing really innovative. As you would expect you play through your 3 classes of speed: 50, 100, and 150, where after completion you unlock mirror mode...of course. You have your 4 cups and your 4 retro cups, ending of course with...you guessed it! Rainbow Road. With all that predictability came some excellent/infuriating playtimes, and of course Mario Kart 7 delivered in the fun department.
The course selection was okay. I wouldn't say it was the best in the series, and it certainly wasn't as good as DS or Wii's lineup. Some courses such as Rainbow Road offer 3 totally different laps, while some have alternate routes and shortcuts. There's some great stuff, but I have a difficult time thinking of courses that really stand out. I would say the dark atomosphere of Bowser's Castle and the whimsical journey through Music Park are some of the top choices. DK's Jungle gives us a journey through the world of Donkey Kong Country Returns, and Neo Bowser City is a treat for the eyes. All in all, the course design does deliver with tricky turns and super jumps, but like I said, it's not their best. The Retro Courses do their job taking us down memory lane, although I would hardly consider the DS and Wii "Retro". I would've preferred to see more from the SNES, N64, and GBA games. I wish there were some unlockable courses as well, like they did with the coin collecting challenges in Super Circuit for GBA to unlock ALL the SNES courses. I found that some choices in Mario Kart 7's Retro courses weren't the best. For example, Luigi Circuit from N64's Mario Kart 64. That course was so simple! At least pick something a little more interesting. They did, however, make some fun innovations to the courses that they chose to re-create, making jumps and little quirks to make the experience more memorable.
Characters return for a romp, and the selection was quite good, sometimes questionable. This is where I liked what Nintendo did. Wherein other reviews that I read people were complaining that they left out certain characters, I happen to love change. Someone even complained that they left out Toadette (wow!). New characters include Wiggler, Shy Guy, and Lakitu (my favourite) while adding Rosalina from Galaxy, and the...Honey Queen? Didn't see that one coming! Also they put in Metal Mario...another odd choice in my opinion, but like I said, at least they went in a little bit of a different direction. Characters are unlocked after getting gold in 150cc cups.
The new innovations include coin collecting which...I guess is an old innovation that they just brought back. Coins increase top speed and you can save them up to unlock new kart designs. Unfortunately you can only collect 10 coins per course which makes me question why they put them in at all. Also you are able to drive underwater which affects the physics of your jumps and turns, and an aerial portion of your car which upon taking certain jumps, allows you to glide through the air for a short time, picking up speed or getting to new areas. Both innovations are used frequently in courses, and are somewhat enjoyable, but like I said, not a whole lot innovative.
With coins you unlock different kart designs, which you can customize. I found it to be pretty busy, because there are so many different bodies, wheels, and gliders, I kind of lost track. I'm glad that they included it, even though it's not for me. I usually stuck with the standard kart design, as experimentation seems counter productive when you're going for the gold.
Which brings me to my next point: the challenge. I heard a lot of complaints with how unforgiving the game could be, but I thought the challenge was pretty balanced. I had no difficulty getting the gold on all the 50 and 100 cc cups, but once I got to 150cc I could not beat any of the cups. This is when the frustration set in, but it is during this point when you learn to experiment with the controls and find the little quirks that Nintendo put in. If you hold R you turn sharply, allowing you to take those sharp turns with ease, but if you turn sharp enough, you get a little boost. Similarly if you press R while taking a jump, you do a jump in the air and get another boost. When you use these controls to your advantage, you begin to gain some momentum on those seemingly uncatchable AI players. Sometimes the items got a little out of control, a la the Blue Shell. Especially when you're flying through the air, the Blue Shell and Lightning Bolts can easily screw you, but they can also work to your advantage. I found that while I was in 1st place the Blue Shell came out all too often. Despite this unbalance, the item lineup was okay. They took out the shameful hot potato cloud from the Wii version, and added in two new items: the raccoon tail and the fire flower. I didn't care for either new item. The tail you have to be right next to the players to knock them over, and the flower shoots out single balls of fire which don't always work to your advantage. On top of this, you have a chance of getting the Lucky 7 which gives you 7 items that circle you. Again, you can get screwed by this thanks to the bomb, but it usually works to an advantage point.
There wasn't a whole lot of extras. You can do battle, time trials, or coin runners. I feel that even though those extra things aren't for me, Nintendo should have at least put a little effort into making more play options. I am pretty impressed with online play. Nothing like playing against people around the world from the comfort of your bed. I've heard some complaints about sync issues, but I haven't had any issues playing online.
All in all, Mario Kart 7 definitely delivered in the fun department, swerving during those long fast tracks to race to the finish continues to keep you on the edge of your seat. Alas, it's kind of like Malibu Stacy with a new hat. There's nothing really new or innovative about this game. Is that bad? Not necessarily, but if you're expecting new and exciting play options, then you are sadly mistaking. I would say that Mario Kart DS gave me more enjoyment, but I am still satisfied having bought this game. Unfortunately there aren't too many titles out for the 3DS, so this is probably one of the better ones. I wouldn't break the bank for it, but if you've got some extra money to spend and you want to hit the tracks again, go grab it.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 03/07/12
Game Release: Mario Kart 7 (US, 12/04/11)
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