Mario Kart 7 ReviewDecember 14, 2011
Mario Kart, excuse my language, was my shit! When it was first introduced on the SNES back in the day, I remember my friends and I renting it.. playing non-stop, and eventually buying or getting it as a gift and from there mastering every course, trying to beat each others best lap and course times over and over again. I think my ol’ cart still has our best times in it (unless the battery died, of course.) I still hold the top lap time on Mario Circuit with Bowser. (Eat it, everyone else!) From that point on we were hooked on Mario Kart. When the N64 version came out, it happened all over again. That version is held high as the greatest iteration of the series EVER. While other Mario Karts have come around, the N64 version is the cart to rule them all. For every system Nintendo releases, 3 things are inevitable. There will be a Zelda game, there will be a Mario game, and there will be Mario Kart! unlike the 1st two’s continued quality and balance, the Mario Kart series has lost a lot of it’s shine and steam to over simplification, over balancing, and Nintendos attempts and making the game work for absolutely everyone, from the completely mentally handicapped to the extreme addict who should be winning every race.
Does this newest entry sway the series’s trend of mediocrity and give the King of the Kart (N64 version) a run for it’s money?
The biggest change to the Kart Universe is… duh, the 3D aspect of it. Everything is in GLORIOUS “more” dimensions! That’s +1 to “seeing”. Does it actually do anything? Meh. Sure, it looks “neat”, but it adds no gameplay elements what so ever, which is really disappointing. I imagined “invisible” walls that would open up to reveal a secret path, but you could only tell it was a secret path because the 3D depth was just a little off, or new weapons that make the depth of everything to be REALLY wrong, causing a very disorienting effect to the player when hit with it. I was imagining these great things that weren’t used or even attempted. It’s boringly 3D and adds nothing to gameplay. *sad face* Is that to say it isn’t well done? No, it’s well done and isn’t disorienting at all. I just wish they used it as an extension of gameplay rather than a gimmick to sell the game with.
Aside from that, presentation is good. Menu systems are functional and quick, nothing ground breaking but you aren’t going to get confused by them. The unlocking of new items isn’t surprising or interesting, very standard and functional as well. One thing that I’m sure many people enjoy (I did as well, begrudgingly.) was that older tracks from other Mario Kart games are included. But I’m disappointed in the fact that they are half the experience of this “new” game. With real racing games including dozens of course to drive on, the fact that Mario Kart 7 reaches these same numbers by including old courses feels almost like a cheat. Obviously, if you’re a youngster who has never played the older games than it’s all new to you. But for us who have grown up with Mario Kart, it really does poke at that nostalgia button that Nintendo has fingered WAY too often these days (Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Wii, 3D, DS, anyone?!), to the point of being raw… to that excess that we pretend we get off just so they STOP. you know what I’m talking about ladies. *winks*
Well, first of all, we should talk about what has changed since his last outing which was on the Wii. I just want to point out that the most talked about and advertised of the additions seem…like stickers on a school binder. They don’t really add a whole lot. Those stickers don’t make the binder do math…do they? I’ve read a couple other reviews after having played the game for a while and I’m a little baffled at how much some of them are saying how great these new additions are. I just don’t see it, really.
One of these is the new underwater levels. And while this does add some new parts to the old courses that, in the past would have just let you drowned, now you can drive through them and find coins or items or dead bodies or whatever. Ok, it does add something new, but it takes away some of the difficulty of the game, and with the direction that Mario Kart has been heading the past few years, it really doesn’t need any more challenge removed from it. Another addition is the gliders attached to the karts. These really only add slight ability to fly ahead of other players….but when it’s automatic, requires no action from the player to activate and in all honesty is forced, than it adds nothing to strategy. This was my biggest problem with the 2 “BIG” additions to the game (nevermind the 3D) is one adds nearly nothing and the other just makes the original tracks easier to navigate. I’m a little perplexed to understand why these two items are being used to sell the game on (nevermind the 3D) when there are ACTUAL game changing features that get close to NO mention!. One of these is cockpit view. Now, you’d think that wouldn’t add much at all. But any racing fan will tell you that just changing the camera that small amount can make a game feel completely different. Throw in the fact that while in Cockpit view you can use Motion sensor controllers and “Holy shit!” it’s like Mario Kart, having backed itself away from the scary front door, backed all the way into a hot poker and ran screaming out the front door into the yard attempting to extinguish the flames! These 2 mechanics makes the game feel WAY cooler than it should. Other games have tried these. Hell, cockpit view is standard in most racing games now. It shouldn’t be this awesome to have it in Mario Kart, but it is! Another new addition is the point to point races. Instead of going 3 laps on a circular course, Mario Kart 7 introduces point to point “rally” type races. This doesn’t seem like a huge deal either, but these races add a lot of variety as well, no more “ok, the alternate path is right there, I’ll use that from now one” Nope, no lap memorization for you!. It really is refreshing to see these things in the game.
Aside from those new items, the core of the game hasn’t change all that much, and why would it? it still works. Controls are great, the way you build drifting has been neutered though (surprising, right?) instead of having to hop to start the slide and than wiggle the control pad back and forth to build power, you are given more “power” by simply turning more…. no more powersliding to build boost in straightaways, no more chaotic drifting to inch ahead. no, it’s just how far you turn gets you to boost at a quicker time than if you don’t turn a lot. Thank you Nintendo for making the game EVEN easier, that is what I was bitching about, how difficult Mario Kart had become over the years….. I can see why they did this, I mean, it didn’t work all that well in Mario Kart Wii with the motion controls, so when someone might find the gem of 1st person driving and motion controls in this version, it might be difficult. But not even having it as an advanced option for those of us who know how Mario Kart USE to be?
The 3DS is an impressive little piece of tech.. it can easily rival and surpass the PSP, and it should since it’s a lot newer. So, I was glad to see that Mario Kart 7 looked good. Especially in motion, it runs at a steady framerate. not 60fps but above 30fps constantly, never noticed an slow down and it is a very vibrant and colorful game even in the “dark” levels, the courses are displayed in such a way that you never get confused as to where you are going and it never becomes hard to see where you have to go next… This is a double edged sword though as they, for obnoxiously “damn you Nintendo” reasons, several “secret” or alternate paths are EXTREMELY well light and are sometimes just as obvious to take as the main route. Now, I understand it’s a smaller screen so, you might not want to make them too hard to find. But having a steady lighting on the main course and than a GIGANTIC spotlight on the “secret” path is just insulting.
Aside from that annoyance, Animation is top notch, modelling is impressively high for a handheld, textures are high res, although maybe a little on the simplistic side, even for a Mario Kart game. Everything is very colorful but easy on the eyes.
I wasn’t even going to put in an audio section because…it’s Mario. The only thing that changes is the quality of the sound produced. The sound effects haven’t really changed in the past several years. But I wanted to point on something I noticed frequently and I wasn’t sure if it’s the actual 3DS or the game itself. The stereo separation is REALLY good and noticeable. having an item whizz past you on either side and you can hear it clear as day coming from either the left or right. I was very much impressed with this as I played. a Kart on your tale? you can tell if it’s on your 6 or your 3 or 9. Obviously, that doesn’t extend into the 1’s and 11’s since it’s not surround, but just the use of stereo was really good and added to the overall experience.
After the ho-hum releases of Double Dash on the Gamecube and Mario Kart Wii on the Commodore 64. I started to become jaded by the series. The original Kart game was a great start, and N64 was, like many games from nintendo for it’s 64-bit system, The “This is perfection and everything after this is not.” type of mind blowing release. DoubleDash added the gimmick of having 2 people on the kart at one time, but balanced the game for the youngsters too much. Like dangling a steak just out of reach while taking away the potatoes you never appreciated. And Mario Kart Wii did this further without even so much as the gimmick to distract you…
I’ll say what all veterans of MK are thinking… Blue Shells are bullshit. People who suck will jump and go “NNOO, they make the game better for us who suck!” But you’re wrong, n00b. you’re wrong. The lightning Bolt and triple red shell is suppose to be for that. The Blue shell is used to piss of the good players. a Person in last getting a Blue Shell is NOT helping the person in last, it’s helping the person in 2nd…who will never get a Blue shell. That doesn’t make any sense. The lightning bolt makes sense, and it’s great.. it has been “nerfed” or tweaked with each game, but it was the great equalizer. Blue Shells are just stupid. This is why Mario Kart Wii failed. instead of making lightning bolts play a bigger role, it gave last place. 6th, 7th and nearly everyone under 3rd place a god damned blue shell. it wasn’t to help those you sucked, it was punishment for being better.
Now, I know this rant has almost nothing to do with Mario Kart 7.. and I don’t care, I hate blue shells…
In terms of MK7 though. I’m sad to see the series continue down the road of “the game has to be equal for everyone who just started!” and not “you wanna be awesome? Work at it, bitch!” nerfing some of the original course from my childhood and keeping the stupid blue shell around and under utilizing the Lightning Bolt. But I’m happy to see better tracks, some, might I say hidden?, features that really bring out the fun.
Final Score: 7.8
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