Solid Tweaks, Cool Tracks, Same Design - Mario Kart 7 - 3DS - www.GameInformer.com
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Mario Kart 7

Solid Tweaks, Cool Tracks, Same Design

If you’ve played one Mario Kart, you haven’t played them all – but you could go directly from the SNES original to this brand-new 3DS version without missing a beat. The mechanics are almost identical, though the formula benefits from a few decades of balance tweaks and subtle improvements. The hatin’ half of the game-playing population can make as much fun of me as they want, but I can’t help but fall in love all over again with Mario Kart when Nintendo executes the classic gameplay this well.

As always, players are encouraged to find a rally-like rhythm of powerslides through the zaniest courses Nintendo could dream up while dodging gonzo power-ups and environmental hazards. Races naturally stay close as players in worse positions get better items. The occasional total screw job (for example, getting blue shelled, then lightning bolted during a jump right before the end of the race) is frustrating, but skill wins 90 percent of the races. I rarely placed poorly because of random chance rather than driver error – tough though that may be to admit.

Mario Kart is almost exactly how you remember it, but what tweaks have been made are generally positive. Powerslide-boosting (blue sparking, in the vernacular) is now dependent on the degree of the slide instead of d-pad gymnastics, meaning that boosting down straightaways is a thing of the past. Heavy characters no longer steer like drunken camels, so you can play as DK or Bowser without unintentionally activating hard mode. The much-hyped glider and underwater segments are minimal and kind of neat, and it’s cool that they adapted the retro stages to fit MK 7’s gameplay systems. I’m less convinced that the return of coins has much effect on gameplay; I think they make you go faster? If nothing else, I dig having something else to aim for during the race.

The new tracks range from good to excellent. Including races that consist of three unique sections instead of three laps is a wonderful choice that adds much-needed variety. New hazards like airships firing oversized Bullet Bills regularly show up, and alternate paths abound. As much as I adore the Double Dash tracks, this set is the new high water mark for the series. The retro tracks don’t have the same wall-to-wall quality, but I appreciate that they have a few new tricks dropped in as well as glider sections.

First-person mode surprised me. I was prepared to hate on the new perspective and its gyroscopic driving controls, just like I despise Mario Kart Wii’s motion controls, but it works well enough to win 150cc races. I’ll be sticking to the traditional method, but I can honestly recommend this to people who like first-person views or motion control.

Battle Mode is, of course, still stupid and boring. I have never understood why anyone would voluntarily spend any time in this poorly balanced, luck-of-the-draw mode that may as well assign a winner by a random die roll. I guess it’s amusing to nail a well-placed green shell shot, but you can do that and have an otherwise fun experience in a proper race.

Nintendo’s other big push for Mario Kart 7 is in online play. It seems to work as advertised, but I’m hardly inspired by racing against strangers with no persistent leagues or overall ranking structure to validate my progress. The ability to create communities of users with custom rules (no blue shells, for example) is neat, but the functionality is limited enough that I would rather just race with the default rule set. I see MK 7’s online as much more of a distraction than a destination.

Mario Kart 7 isn’t 100 percent golden, nor is it going to make believers out of anyone who wrote off the series years ago. Taken on the whole, though, this is one of the best entries in the series. As a fan, I’m thoroughly pleased.

User Reviews:

  • 9.25
    When it comes to Mario, many will point at the series repetition. While titles like New Super Mario Bros. 2 can attest to that, Mario Kart 7, along with Super Mario 3D Land, proves that these series' aren't losing steam. Mario Kart 7's new glider, underwater, and customization features open...
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  • 9.00
    Mario Kart 7 is a great game. whether is the great courses, the cheerful graphics, or the playful characters, this game should be part of your 3DS archive. After a while, though, the game starts to get a little bit boring. As long as you have some good friends to race against, or you sit on the bus for...
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  • 8.25
    The shell hell karting experience comes to the 3DS with enough small updates to make Mario Kart 7 one of the genre's best. This latest handheld entry plays a lot like a portable version of Mario Kart Wii; the visuals, handling physics, tricks and power ups are all quite similar, but the few changes...
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  • 8.25
    Mario Kart 7 is yet another installment of the popular Mario branded cart racing game from Nintendo. It has the features that anyone who has played any of the franchise's titles would expect and enjoy, but not a whole lot more is offered outside of just being a new Mario Kart game. It would be hard...
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  • 8.50
    Mario Kart has been going on for a long time now. Since the SNES we've seen a Mario Kart on every Nintendo system, although this is probably the best one since Double Dash!! If you don't know what Mario Kart is, it's a racing game where you play as Mario and co. and race around a variety...
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  • 9.00
    Mario Kart 7 Review Mario Kart is one of Nintendo’s many franchises. Ever since the first entry on the SNES it’s been on every major Nintendo platform. Of course with many long running series the same question is asked, what does this game do to make it different? The general race to race...
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