Monday, August 11, 2014

Review #139: Mario Kart 7

 I really can't think of a one-liner good enough for this one, sorry!
 Nowadays, if Nintendo releases a new console you can already expect a new entry in their long running mascot racing game franchise Mario Kart. Mario Kart 7 does away with some mechanics, tweaks some and brings back a few, while adding a couple of new ones of its own.

 In case you've been living under a rock, Mario Kart is, at its core, a racing game, but adds weapons into the mix. Sadly, bikes have been removed from the game, ironically, they felt like a gimmick but wound up being a very entertaining new gameplay mechanics. The irony lies in that the game has new mechanics that end up feeling as gimmicks in their place, underwater driving and gliding. Admittedly, when they do it right, having different parallel routes (Water, air, ground) is fun, but at times it feels as if the gliding/underwater routes where added just for the sake of having them. Annoyingly, there's one stage in which going underwater actually counts as "falling" off the stage, which is easy to forget as this game makes the other instances of water an alternate route. The other new big feature is kart customization, which ends up being very simple, but engaging. Depending on which body, tires and glider you pick, you'll get different stats on your vehicle, having a vehicle tailored to your style is a phenomenal idea, and works perfectly. Unlocking these parts isn't as fun, seeing how you can earn up to ten coins per race, and you are going to need over 10000 to unlock everything.
 They also introduced a new type of track, instead of having the racers do 3 laps around it, it's a single, long track divided in three segments. I actually liked these and would've lucked to see one or two more. Drift works similar to how it did before, where holding a drift would generate a boost after you let go of the button, with two different strengths to it depending on how long you drifted, this time it feels as if getting the faster boost is a bit harder. Since the 3DS has no motion controls(Hallelujah), to get boosts from jumps, you must press the drift/jump button after you get some air, it works just fine. A previously mentioned, coins are back and work just like they did on previous Mario Karts, allowing you to reach slightly higher speeds as you collect them, with a maximum of ten. Falling off the track or getting hit will cost you some coins though.

 As per usual, you get 16 new tracks and 16 retro karts, with 4 different classes(Speed), 50cc, 100cc, 150cc and Mirror Mode. Honestly, half of the new tracks are very forgettable, while the other eight are really good. As for the retro tracks, they made excellent choices. and the way they brought these older stages up to date was spot-on. Overall, it's a very good track roster. As for the character roster, eh... It looks as if they tried to trim the fat, removing all baby characters, or characters that felt a bit out of place, but in their place we get... Wriggler? Lakitu? Mario Galaxy's Queen Bee? It's not the best character selection Mario Kart has ever had, but at least you get a couple new faces, I guess.
 Single player is where the game suffers most. Firstly, no mission mode or nothing of the sort, you just get: Grand Prix, Battle, Coin Battle and Time Trials. Notice something? Vs CPU is gone, which I think is a huge oversight. You could argue that it's made up by having online mode, but I beg to differ. Handheld games are meant to be played on the go, you might not always have access to an online connection. Maybe you are short on time and just want to play a couple of races, maybe you just want to get random tracks... too bad, either play against your own ghosts(Up to seven!) in Time Trial or... do one of the eight cups, with their four predetermined four tracks. This also means that you can only earn up to 40 coins(Assuming you manage to avoid getting hit) for unlockables every time you play. Unlocking characters can also be a bit of a pain, since you need to get first place in each cup under the 150cc class, playing to win against the rubberband AI can be vexing, as just one blue shell on the last lap could cost you your first place. On the other hand, Online is very smooth and getting matches is a very straightforward, simple process. Coins earned Online count to your totals, so that's also a plus.

 Visually, the game is gorgeous, it looks almost as good as Mario Kart Wii. 3D on this game looks beautiful, I'd actually encourage its use and it doesn't hamper the FPS in any way, keeping the silky smooth framerate. Music, as with all Nintendo games, is always charming and pleasing to the ears, both old and new tunes. They also added a neat little touch where music will sound different when you are in first place.

 So, what do I make of Mario Kart 7? While it was fun, and the online is pretty fun.... when it comes to going away on trips or what have you, I'll actually pick Mario Kart DS over this one. Otherwise, Mario Kart 7 is a fine entry on a series known for its good, even if unfair(The unavoidable blue shell feels especially punishing in this one), games.
 8.0 out of 10.

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