Mario Kart 7 introduces a number of new features to Nintendo’s fan favourite kart racing franchise, but it still ends up playing almost identically to its predecessors. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, because Mario Kart is the kind of franchise where too much tweaking of the core mechanics mean it just isn’t Mario Kart anymore. Mario Kart 7 attempts to maintain this delicate balance, keeping enough of the game the same, but also introducing new original features to keep things fresh.
The ability to customize your kart with various different wheels, body types, and hang glider attachments adds a welcome dose of customization to the relatively simple franchise. Unfortunately, these parts do little more than alter your Kart’s appearance and don’t have much to do with actual performance. These items are unlocked by collecting points over the course of the game’s various circuits.
Mario Kart 7′s other original features, such as driving under water and hang gliding through the air, also spice up races a fair amount. At times, driving under water may seem a little over the top, but this is Mario Kart after all, the same game that lets you shoot shells at your opponents. Wacky power-ups are part of Mario Kart 7′s appeal, and these new features add a strategic element when selecting parts for your car and under different racing conditions you may want to choose specific parts.
Mario Kart 7, for the first time in the history of the series, offers the chance to race in the first person perspective. Although interesting, it doesn’t really work all that well with the usual Mario Kart mechanics. It also makes power sliding around corners rather difficult. This view is the best way to enjoy the game’s subtle 3D effect though. Other racers, shells and Donkey Kong’s giant head, all pop out at you in glorious 3D. Of course, the effect is still there in the traditional Mario Kart 7 third person mode, it’s just not as visible.
Racing in first person is fun, just not very practical.
One of my main gripes with the game is the fact that it only features 17 racers; Mario Kart for the Wiihad over 25 playable racers. All of the franchise mainstays are there, Mario, Luigi, Toad and Princess Peach, but some of the Wii title’s notable characters are absent (Funky Kong and Waluigi are gone).
On the positive side, Mario Kart 7 features a robust online multiplayer mode; possibly the most elaborate of any Nintendo title ever made. Unfortunately, it still utilizes the awkward friend code system that all online 3DS games use (very few 3DS titles actually have any kind of online features).
The game has a standard race and battle matchmaking mode that pits up to eight players, with similar in-game rankings, against other gamers from around the world. It would have been great to see the game’s coin runners (a battle mode where players collect coins) and time trial mode available through matchmaking, but unfortunately neither mode is included. A friend, recent opponents and local play option is available. The recent opponents screen is great if you’ve played a few races with some awesome people; it makes it easy to find them again and set up a new race.
The game’s community mode is where things start to get interesting and unique. It gives players the option to create their own ‘community’, give it a unique name, icon, mode and allows you to select specific items and tracks, all identified by an extremely long community number. The idea is that you distribute this number to people you want to be in your community, forming a group. Also, the players in your community don’t have to be on your 3DS’s friends list. This gives you tons of people to play with, without having to clutter your friends list . It’s also very convenient.
Apparently, Mario Kart 7’s community mode was supposed to be standard in all 3DS games at launch, but was delayed in order to rush the system to release. Hopefully, it is included in other 3DS titles as it’s a great way to navigate around the system’s complicated friend code system.
Any Miis collected through the 3DS’s Streetpass feature who have also played Mario Kart 7, will be added to the game’s Mario Kart Channel. However, communicating with these new friends is difficult as the game lacks any kind of voice chat. I found this very disappointing; voice chat should be standard even in online portable games. Without this feature, communicating with other players is next to impossible. Sending short pre-set one or two word messages doesn’t exactly work in today’s modern online gaming era.
Customizing your Kart makes it look pretty awkward sometimes.
I didn’t encounter any lag while gaming online and the title plays surprisingly smoothly. The Mario Kart formula is still as fun (and frustrating) as it was back on the Super Nintendo and the franchise’s new community feature recreates the feeling of racing karts in your best friend’s basement (without being able to talk to them of course). The blue spiked shell power-up is still amazingly frustrating. Imagine this; you’re about to cross the finish line in first place, when all of a sudden a spiked blue object appears out of nowhere, blasting your kart into the air and resulting in a last place finish. But this is Mario Kart, it isn’t a very balanced game and it’s full of wacky power-ups. So issues like this are to be expected and they are part of what make Mario Kart 7 the accessible party title many people adore so much.
Mario Kart 7 is a step in the right direction for Nintendo in the online department and I can see the game’s community feature fostering a fantastic online group of players. Hopefully, its superb community system is included in future Nintendo 3DS titles. It makes playing against other players online with specific settings an absolute breeze.
Overall Score: 9/10
Recommendation: Buy It!
-It’s the same frantic Mario Kart gameplay you’ve been playing for years
-It features a great collection of new and old tracks
-The graphics are superb
-Online features are very robust
-It features less characters than the Wii version
-The 3D effect doesn’t ‘pop’ as much as in other games.