January 13, 2012
By Nick Larsen
1 Shell, 2 Shell, Red Shell, Blue Shell
With an incarnation on almost every major gaming platform to date released by Nintendo, it came as no shock when the seventh game in the classic gaming series, Mario Kart, was announced for the Nintendo 3DS. Still, a fan boy like me couldn’t help but be overjoyed and as giddy as a school girl quickly letting everyone in a 5 mile radius know that I must have this game, and then beat them in it. Well here we are my friends, the game has been in my hands for almost a week and my emotional range has reached new levels of both “Ha! This game is so easy!” and massive amounts of yelling obscene things as the computer miraculously gains the 14th Blue Shell in a single race and blows me up right before I finish in 1st leaving me in 8th. Before I lose myself in a sea of rants about why Toad is a cheating (mean words have been removed), let’s get into the game play itself.
With the introduction of customized karts, new items, underwater racing, and gliding, as the game intensifies in higher difficulties one can truly feel the difference between this game and its predecessors. For the first time in the games series the player has full control over the style of the kart down to its wheel, and gliders. Adding in the weight class of your selected driver, the new mix and matching of parts gives the player full control over what creations will work best for a given situation or to just create the fastest racer around. These parts are unlocked through the accumulation of coins while racing, when you reach certain amounts (100, 200, 300, etc.), at the end of a Cup, you are awarded with the new customization piece. One of the key components to creating your personal kart is selecting the right character to drive it. Mario Kart 7 includes classics from previous games such as Mario and Bowser, but includes 9 unlockable characters, 4 of which are completely new to the series.
Metal Mario, Lakitu, Honey Queen, and Wiggler are welcome additions to the racing scene, filling out a very robust character selection that has scene its fair share of strange racers over the years. I personally still stick with Princess Peach, Rosalina, and Shy Guy, but that’s just me. As for the weapons, this time around, we are given three new items, and one major change to a classic. The Fire Flower makes its way to the scene this year allowing racers to fire a series of fire balls either forwards or backwards for a limited amount of time. Luck 7 gives racers seven items to use in a race, similar to a triple red/green shell with the items spinning around the player. Then there’s the one item that (if I didn’t play Super Mario 3D Land), I probably wouldn’t have had as big of a problem with, the Super Leaf (Tanooki suit for cars). For those of you who read my review on the previously mentioned game, you know of my problem with everything being given a Tanooki tail (raccoon tail) or suit as of late in recent Mario games. I’ll spare you my rant and recommend you to read the article if you are still curious. As for the effect of the weapon, it gives the kart a Tanooki tail for a limited time blocking items and allowing players to spin attack other racers out of their way. As for the big change to a classic, the Blue Shell no longer flies but rather rides along the ground taking out every player along the way to reaching who ever is unlucky enough to be in first.
Moving on, the game introduces new mechanics in the underwater racing and gliding abilities. I was extremely pleased with the latter more so then I was with the former. Driving underwater plays as much as one could expect; the karts slide farther in tight turns, bounce higher off jumps, and feel slower in general. That being said the real challenge came from recovering underwater after being hit by an opponent. The recovery time also seems to take longer and acceleration time seemed to be slower as well. Gliding has to be the most impressive addition to the game, allowing a racer to soar over parts of the track and other players who were unlucky enough to miss the jump. To activate gliding, one must drive over special blue ramps that send you flying over the course. Skilled players can find extra airlifts and speed boosts that allow them to skip even further ahead, over challenging obstacles, giving them the easy lead. For the crafty player, if you have a Blue Shell, you can send the first player crashing down into a bottomless pit if timed right. The first Cup, The Mushroom Cup, does an extremely good job at casually introducing the player to both new styles of racing early on preparing them for the chaos to come. I’ll admit that when I heard about gliding I was extremely against it, believing that kart racing should be kept on the ground, but I have been proven wrong, I welcome it and hope to see it in future games.
The control scheme is pretty simple for the most part, A/Y to go, B for brake/reverse, X/L to use items, R for drifting/hoping/stunts off ramps, and analog stick to control the kart. If you should be more daring then I am and race in first person view (up on the d-pad) then you tilt the 3DS like it was a steering wheel to drive the kart. As an avid player of Mario Kart Wii, my hardest transition was to stop flicking the 3DS to perform stunts or a wheelie; which by the way has to be my biggest complaint of the whole game. I miss the motorcycles, the mach bike in particular, I would love to have them back one day, it was a sad day to find out they really were not there anymore. While on the topic on things I would have liked to see in the game, I am a fan of majority of the classic courses chosen for the game but I was saddened that Baby Park did not return. There were 7 laps (see 7 laps…Mario Kart 7…perfect match) of pure chaos, with long straight-aways and two power slides (14 in all!). This is just me being overly picky though.
If I have any legit complaint about the game, it is the response time and selectivity of the Blue Shell. In previous games, when a Blue Shell is released onto the course, a smart player in 1st place would slam on the breaks allowing someone else to pass and be hit by the shell. In this game, the Blue Shell seems to lock on to one player upon its use, no matter what place he or she may fall into to avoid it. On numerous occasions I have hit the breaks the moment I saw a Blue Shell was used on the second screen, I have even fallen all the way back to seventh, and yet it will only go after me because I was in first when it was released. Other then this one problem, and the ability of the computer always being able to catch you no matter how far ahead you are, the game is great.
Graphically it looks like its predecessor on the Wii and the classic course translates perfectly into 3D. The controls are extremely smooth allowing any player of any age to pick it up easily with little to no trouble at all. The game allows for an amazing multiplayer experience both local and online, through download play your friends do not even need to own the game itself. The online communities that can be created among friends allows for intense matches among people around the world to test their skills or even have their own tournaments and events together. I give this game an enthusiastic 4 out of 5!