Players: 1-8 (local + online multiplayer)
Australian Release Date: December 4th, 2011
Australian Rating: G
The Mario Kart series of games spans seven home and portable consoles (almost every console released by Nintendo!), and this is the first handheld version I have played and enjoyed.
When they released a Mario Kart game for the DS, I swore I would never get a social game like the Mario Kart series on a handheld device. For me, the best times with each of the Mario Kart games have been spent playing with others. But I read about Mario Kart 7 and was so excited for its release before I realised it was on the 3DS. Needless to say, I was annoyed, but I planned on getting it anyway. What can I say? I love it.
While yes I still prefer to play comfortably in a lounge room with my friends, using a classic controller on the Wii, its portability has led to it becoming my most played game at the moment, as I can play it on the train to work. I have, however, often had to deal with hand cramps and sore hands in general from playing this game. Because you have to actively use the left and right shoulder buttons, you cannot hold the console the way you normally would (if you hold it like myself) without experiencing some mild discomfort. But all that takes is training yourself to hold it differently. You need to rest it in your hands rather than grip it “properly”.
From the moment you turn on the game, you hear the familiar music synonymous with Mario Kart, with bright, clear graphics. They are much better than the graphics on the DS Mario Kart, as you’d expect with the extra power behind the 3DS, and it looks even better in 3D. Unfortunately, being a handheld console leads to lots of movement of the device while playing (especially on the train), so I have to turn the 3D off to play. It is also difficult to see when playing in first person and using the gyro controls (I’ll discuss this more below). Also, you have to have the volume up when you play. Not only is it good for anticipating incoming attacks as you hear them come up behind you, but it’s worth it just to hear Yoshi get excited every time you jump, take the lead, successfully attack someone, or win the race (this probably won’t surprise you, but I have about 5 plush Yoshis of varying sizes, most of which can be found at Gametraders Blacktown).
Mario Kart 7 introduces quite a few new elements to the game. While you only start out with the (mostly) original 8 characters, you can unlock 9 more for a total of 17 (including your Mii), 4 of which are brand new to the series as playable characters. There are 16 tracks, all newly created, and 16 based on classic tracks from older games with the addition of the gliding and underwater gameplay, giving a total of 32 tracks. This new gameplay was the first prominent selling feature of the game to catch my eye. The second was the kart customisation. After you select your character, you have to pick your kart’s chassis, wheels and glider, each adding or subtracting from certain specifications (speed, acceleration, weight, handling and off-road). You unlock these parts by collecting coins along the tracks. Coins also increase a player’s top speed.
There are also 3 new items (with others conspicuously missing). These new items are the Fire Flower (which allows you to shoot fire balls for a short amount of time), the Tanooki Leaf (which gives your kart the famous raccoon tail and allows you to bat away incoming minor attacks, other characters and items on the track) and the Lucky 7 (I have never gotten this before, but apparently it surrounds you with seven items which you can use). There is also a new battle game. Along with the Balloon Battle, there is Coin Battle, in which you must get the most coins to win.
The last new feature is the ability to go into first person mode and control your kart/glider using the gyro controls in the 3DS. I personally don’t like it. The limited view and inability to play while lying down are my issues. The lack of peripheral vision is a hindrance, especially in the battle games, and the gyro controls aren’t nearly as precise as the button/stick controls. But hey, I’m a classic controller kind of gal. You can play in first person mode using the buttons/stick, but your view is too close to the ground. A good use of the 3DS’s features, however, is the use of the double screen to see the map, where you are, and where attacks etc. are on the map and incoming.
Despite my original lack of faith, this is a game I would highly recommend. The core gameplay and premise of classic Mario Kart games are a consistent winning feature of the series, and the new features just add that something more. My only real complaint is that if you want to play with friends, each of you must have a copy of the game, or be incredibly limited by your options. While Mario Kart: Double Dash on the Game Cube is still my favourite, this is still a good game in the series, and comes to the table with something new.
Game Play 9
Ease of Play 9