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Mario Kart 7 (Nintendo 3DS) Review

Review for Mario Kart 7 on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Nintendo are nothing if not consistent. Their reliance on licenced characters and franchises to sell consoles for decades has, for some, formed a list of personnel and titles that should have bit the dust long ago. For others, picking up a Nintendo unit wouldn’t be the same without the gleaming faces of Link, Mario and Bowser looking back at them. It is predictable, but it’s an inevitability tinged with the thrill of innovation and novelty. Not knowing how characters will react to the next generation of graphics or how gameplay will be affected by the different ways of interacting with your console is an endearing prospect, but also slightly worrying. If you had any concerns about how Nintendo 3DS would handle the latest iteration of the precious Mario Kart series then you shouldn’t distress, because even with the promise of upgraded graphics and gameplay, Mario Kart 7 is just another Mario Kart game.

For those with a long history with the titles, Mario Kart 7 doesn’t make too many changes to the formula, but it does do enough to keep racing just as interesting and compelling as it was nineteen years ago. Mario Kart 7 still has a familiar colourful roster of Nintendo characters and the expected three levels of difficulty: 50cc, 100cc, 150cc. All of this is combined with the similar mix of openly arduous and delicately intricate courses. Mario Kart 7 has 32 tracks to race on, with time trials, coin dashes and balloon battle modes to boot. It’s all been seen and done before, but Mario Kart 7 does seek some benefit from its rich heritage.

All of it is instantly recognisable for a start, even more so for those experienced with Mario Kart Wii. Fans of that game will be reminded, through Mario Kart 7, of its simple menu design, the snappy sound and even the lens flare as the camera pans across the competitors at the start of every race. It is good to see the quality of the Wii release come through in Mario Kart 7. Nintendo have borrowed just enough assets to make Mario Kart 7 share the overall level of excellence of the series without being too incestuous with previous versions.

Screenshot for Mario Kart 7 on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Be assured that Mario Kart 7 does deliver the Mario Kart experience in spades. Split between 16 classic and 16 brand new courses, the fast and elegant gameplay of gathering speed by drifting around corners and avoiding obstacles is mixed beautifully with the art of maintaining pole position under a hail of weapons from any of the seven other racers behind you. If this wasn’t enough then the new abilities to glide through the air and propel your vehicle underwater add adequate reinvention and verticality to keep you on your racing toes.

Both the new additions are certainly well implemented, with even classic tracks easily embracing the flying and submerging mechanics. They are no great overhaul of the way you’ll play, and in some places they have been ingrained so well that you’ll hardly the notice the difference between gliding through the air and being shot out a DK Barrel, for example. There is a certain tactical advantage that gliding can give. However, just like the propelled sections underwater it can feel sluggish, and there’s often an eagerness to touch down or resurface as soon as possible to get to grips with the graphite once again.

Mario Kart 7 makes another smart innovation by reintroducing coins into the series. When collected they not only boost your maximum speed but also unlock several customisable items for your kart. Dotted around all of the tracks the coins become an essential part of racing. Not only are they an easy way to pick up speed after a spill, but the coins will also invite you to explore other areas of the map. Easily won and easily lost with a smack of a shell or a slip on a banana, picking up coins soon becomes part of your racing creed. This, alongside a new first person mode and gyro controls that effectively turn 3DS into the Wii steering wheel, are without doubt the best mechanics that have been introduced into the game.

Screenshot for Mario Kart 7 on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Of course, much of what has been added to Mario Kart 7 is entirely optional when it comes to the core experience. Using weapons to gain advantage at the back and protect you at the front is the bread and butter of the previous six titles, and it remains so in Mario Kart 7. As with every other Mario Kart game it is a system blighted by inequality. Racing well can often be a punishable offence, and it is common to have a race ruined by Mario Kart 7’s penchant for rubber banding. The inclusion of three new weapons embellishes that experience to a certain degree, being a pleasure to wield but a pain to receive from a gleeful rival. A Tanooki Tail lets you swipe at passing drivers, a Fire Flower throws forth a constant stream of deadly flames and the Lucky 7 gives you seven weapons in one. It can feel unsatisfying to see hard work slip away by the game ‘deciding’ that someone who is struggling should get a better chance. It’s a shame that nothing in Mario Kart 7 has been tweaked to try and smooth over what commonly feels unfair and excessive.

Mario Kart 7’s 16 new tracks are also without that much needed attention. They suit the bill and add a gradual difficulty curve, but they pale in comparison to the 16 ‘retro’ tracks. Even the Wii courses that have been included feel like classics in the midst of the new tracks that fail to offer much variety or originality. It’s a surprise to see that even the obligatory Bower’s Castle and Rainbow Road feel a little old and jaded, their esteemed lineage not enough to stop them from drifting into the background through unimaginative design.

Screenshot for Mario Kart 7 on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Some of the music in the new stages also feels uninspired when played in the shadow of the four classic-tracked grands prix. It is not that it has been rushed or even badly composed, but it just doesn’t have the same polish as other tracks in the Mario Kart canon. The 3D effect fares in a similar fashion; it does its job and nothing else, not really adding to the gameplay or providing much tactical value by adding depth. They are both just other parts of Mario Kart 7 that seem to be happy enough ‘getting by’.

Even the inclusion of online multiplayer, which is by far the best online functionality in a 3DS game to date, still falls well short of what is expected. It is simple enough to get latched onto a game but speaking to those players, even with simple messages, is impossible, and at times you are not able to quit the constantly repeating process of racing, track selection and racing unless you turn off the game completely. You can communicate with your friends or members of your racing community in limited form, however, and these competitive fraternities are the stand out in terms of potential within an otherwise weak online system. It’s hard not to feel that a greater level of openness and options would improve this mode greatly. To be able to turn off or adjust the frequency of specific weapons, as in Goldeneye or Super Smash Bros. Brawl would add a dynamic to much of the online gameplay, which can get a tad repetitive.

StreetPass and SpotPass functionality is also included in the Mario Kart 7 package. Being able to add Miis and download ghost data whilst nipping out for your lunch is another example of why 3DS should be a fine home for a title that has its spirit set in rivalry and the action that follows. To come home and find that a stranger on the street has beaten you time trial record could lead to hours slipping by without any notice.

Screenshot for Mario Kart 7 on Nintendo 3DS- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

Mario Kart 7 is the same Mario Kart game that Nintendo have been making for nearly two decades. Its fast paced, competitive approach is constantly compelling and, though it’s frustrating to be unrewarded for good driving, it’s sprinkled with just enough new touches to keep it inviting.

Graphics

Karts look fantastic and the menus are minimal but well considered. Character design is also a highlight of the game. However, the tracks often look bland and overlooked in favour of detailed characters and karts.

Sound

Often the soundtracks are overshadowed by the brilliant accompaniments to the classic courses. Not much effort has gone into making Mario Kart 7 a memorable aural experience. Other than the inclusion of the Doppler effect, which sounds really smart.

Value

Mario Kart 7 is an accomplished title, and there is plenty to do if you can overlook the poorly implemented online and constant inequality in the gameplay. It is still a Mario Kart game and you get a great experience for your money, even though it is largely the same experience you might have had for the past twenty years.

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Good - Bronze Award

About this score
Rated 7 out of 10

Anyone who has grown up with Mario Kart knows that straight lines are boring and all the fun is had in the corners. What is the same in the gameplay is also the same for the series. Fans of the games don’t want an overhaul or drastic innovation but just an understanding that Mario Kart needs to shift forward with bolder moves rather than tentative baby steps. Nintendo need to be braver in their thinking and stop considering the franchise along straight lines. At times in Mario Kart 7 you get the feeling that Nintendo are scared stiff to create any corners for fear of what might lurk around them.

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04.12.2011

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Developer

Nintendo

Publisher

Nintendo

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10 (18 Votes)

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Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

This is the most backwards review I've read here in a long time. Sweet Jesus, I could not have disagreed more.

~Getting on C3's massive tits since 2K5.~

He's put the game down for some of the wrong reasons.

( Edited 04.12.2011 15:50 by Marzy )

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

On the contrary, I think this is a great review and have to agree with many points. We all know what to expect - it's Mario Kart. But fans crave for strong online play and reward for driving well. It's by no means a bad game, but 7/10 is a good score. And Mario Kart 7 is a good game. But I think they played it far too safe with this one. I don't even think that if they had delayed it to next year and spent more time on it that much else would be different to what we got.

Cubed3 Staff :: Senior Editor
Follow me on: Twitter | YouTube | Backloggery

@ Azuardo:

I generally disagree with your views/blinds/wants/donotwants/likes/dislikes in gaming anyway, so lets just agree to disagree Smilie

~Getting on C3's massive tits since 2K5.~
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Faust D. Strooijer said:
@ Azuardo:

I generally disagree with your views/blinds/wants/donotwants/likes/dislikes in gaming anyway, so lets just agree to disagree Smilie


I'd be curious to know exactly what those are, but I don't see how it's relevant to this since we're clearly both fans of MK, and I don't get the hate for my post already. All I'm saying is, despite thinking the game is great anyway - it's fun, as you'd expect in MK - once again Nintendo don't deliver what we were hoping for in the online area and good driving generally means you get shafted with players at the back ploughing you with items and taking first. It's a step back from MK Wii and I would have thought most people would agree with that.

Cubed3 Staff :: Senior Editor
Follow me on: Twitter | YouTube | Backloggery

I agree with that.

You know how I feel about the game, Az. Smilie

( Edited 04.12.2011 15:49 by Marzy )

Reading around the forums and such I see what a lot of people think of lots of games, and I usually just find myself on the other end of the spectrum.

No hate from me, I just quite strongly disagree with the review (and this your agreeing with the review). I'm probably simply too easily pleased because I don't spend as much of my money/time on videogames anymore, but I find people to generally have too many complaints about videogames.

And, from what I've played of Mario Kart Wii, this is a huge step up to me.

( Edited 04.12.2011 15:53 by Faust D. Strooijer )

~Getting on C3's massive tits since 2K5.~

I disagree with the criticisms levelled. The online is fine enough in my eyes.

The lack of communication is undoubtedly an issue, but it's not one that bothers me too much, in this day and age where online chat using another device is possible. If you create a group, why not take the initiative to create a chat room for the group also.

Nintendo cannot allow all users the freedoms others expect elsewhere, they have their strict long standing company guidelines to adhere to. This is why on WiiU Nintendo have given third parties the option to devise their own online systems, while Nintendo will have little role other than to tick off what is acceptable -liability etc.

I'm hoping we see Mario Kart themed Swapnote integration happening down the line, with an update.

As far as your criticism of not being able to select or deselect Items, and alter frequency, you should take into consideration what that might do to the basic AI model of the type Mario Kart uses.

I think it's a solid 8.5 myself, that could hit 9 if the community grows and the game receives notable tweaks.



( Edited 04.12.2011 16:58 by Squidboy )

3DS Code 2578-3122-0744
Staff Member

Destructoid has the harshest review I've reads so far, gave it a 5, and said it added nothing new(even saying the underwater and gliding mechanics don't make a difference (even tactically)).

http://www.destructoid.com/review-mario-kart-7-216484.phtml

It was interesting when I read the bit about the tracks in your review Sam, some people say they're better than the Retro Ones, and some say they're worse, I haven't played the game yet so I wouldn't know.

Anyway, seems like a fair review looking at it from your perspective, although I have yet to play it myself, I look forward to it, and judging from youtube videos, snaking (sort of) be done so I'm happy with just sticking to beating my own times on time-trials (it makes it far more fun).

Stuart Lawrence
Follow Me on twitter :: @Stulaw90 || My Youtube || Backloggery
NNID: Stulaw

Really conflicts with GamesRadar's 10 out of 10 review here.

I haven't played it yet, but I'm extremely excited. Are you sure you didn't get the title and score confused?

Add me on anything. I'm always looking for new friends/opponents/town visitors/chances to appear more popular than I actually am.
Guest 04.12.2011 17:43#11

wene does it come out

I'd have liked a bit more info on the StreetPass and SpotPass features.
With MKDS I got the most fun from the mission mode.

Please give our little random review show a try;
http://randomreviewshow.com/index.html
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Stulaw said:
Destructoid has the harshest review I've reads so far, gave it a 5, and said it added nothing new(even saying the underwater and gliding mechanics don't make a difference (even tactically)).

http://www.destructoid.com/review-mario-kart-7-216484.phtml

It was interesting when I read the bit about the tracks in your review Sam, some people say they're better than the Retro Ones, and some say they're worse, I haven't played the game yet so I wouldn't know.

Anyway, seems like a fair review looking at it from your perspective, although I have yet to play it myself, I look forward to it, and judging from youtube videos, snaking (sort of) be done so I'm happy with just sticking to beating my own times on time-trials (it makes it far more fun).

All you had to say was Jim Sterling reviewed it.

3DS Code 2578-3122-0744
Staff Member

Ah right, I don't read destructoid very often, I guess he's a Nintendo hater then?

Stuart Lawrence
Follow Me on twitter :: @Stulaw90 || My Youtube || Backloggery
NNID: Stulaw
RT (guest) 04.12.2011 19:25#15

I agree completely. This feels like an incestuous cousin of MK Wii and DS. Fans are looking at this game through Rose tinted Nintendo glasses. Distinctly average but it's Mario Kart should be the tag line here. The glider and sub are the worst decisions Nintendo have taken here, just to be "innovative".

Diddy Kong did so much more over a decade ago and Nintendo are living in its shadow.

Nintendo wont change or listen because people will buy this thus all that matters.

Go Figures (guest) 04.12.2011 20:16#16

Whilst I echo some of the downfalls of this review, this is MARIO KART we're talking here. Not some poor spin-offs (ha) like Diddy Kong or Crash Bloody Bandicoot, it's the BEST entry in the series thus far.

I will admit that MK7 is flawed, and in some ways more frustrating than MKWii but it is as close to perfection especially rushed (a fact Nintendo even admitted).

This review is a too harsh I would have given MK7 an 8 at the very minimum, 9 if the computers didn't "cheat" as much as they do.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

The hands-on time with this that I've had over the past year gave me a mixed impression, to be honest. I wasn't a massive fan of the hang-glided and underwater additions, feeling that they didn't add anything, more proved to be distractions from the core game.

It didn't feel anywhere near as special as Mario Kart DS, Mario Kart: Super Circuit or the original Super Mario Kart from my limited time with it. Therefore, I can see where Sam's coming from with the review, although having not played it extensively it's hard to say whether I would have gone with 7/10 or not. I'm normally a little more lenient with scores, so would have likely gone to 8, knowing me Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Go Figures (guest) said:
Whilst I echo some of the downfalls of this review, this is MARIO KART we're talking here. Not some poor spin-offs (ha) like Diddy Kong or Crash Bloody Bandicoot, it's the BEST entry in the series thus far.

I will admit that MK7 is flawed, and in some ways more frustrating than MKWii but it is as close to perfection especially rushed (a fact Nintendo even admitted).

This review is a too harsh I would have given MK7 an 8 at the very minimum, 9 if the computers didn't "cheat" as much as they do.

Stulaw said:
Ah right, I don't read destructoid very often, I guess he's a Nintendo hater then?

Nah, he just creates many reviews that a large number of people pour scorn over. His hypocrisy is astounding also, he gave MW3 a 9.3, and gave this a 5 while claiming it's the same old game.

I'm finding this game has brought in some interesting tactics with the gliders.

3DS Code 2578-3122-0744

I agree with the review and think a lot of things could be better, particularly the "fairness" of the computer in single-player races, but I really don't think there's much more to complain about. Some things may not be as awesome as they could be, but at least those features exist at all. The multi-player functionality is awesome, even if it is limited. The fact is that once you get into the game, you'll play for hours on end, and that's what counts. Everything combined makes for a very engrossing game that's better than ever, even if only by a small margin.

Urgh123 (guest) 05.12.2011 10:08#20

Mario Kart was excellent with the SNES incarnation but went severely downhill from then. This edition mocks everything the franchise stands for. Underwater, really? I agree throughly with this review but I would have given it a 6, if that.

Nintendo know it will sell and that's what makes me dead inside, the knowledge that they would release a half baked product just because it's Christmas. That is not the Nintendo I know and love. Shambolic attempt at Mario Kart. Gimped and overpowered.

Momojin (guest) 05.12.2011 10:08#21

Perfect 10 duh! What do you want guns or some shit like that? It's Mario Kart and this Mario Kart is the best one so far.

Go Figures (guest) said:
Whilst I echo some of the downfalls of this review, this is MARIO KART we're talking here. Not some poor spin-offs (ha) like Diddy Kong or Crash Bloody Bandicoot, it's the BEST entry in the series thus far.

I will admit that MK7 is flawed, and in some ways more frustrating than MKWii but it is as close to perfection especially rushed (a fact Nintendo even admitted).

This review is a too harsh I would have given MK7 an 8 at the very minimum, 9 if the computers didn't "cheat" as much as they do.

That "poor spin-off" is one of the best "kart" games of all-time, unless you're talking about the DS version? Which I still personally liked. Diddy Kong Racing did something incredible and far more innovative for its time than Mario Kart ever did. A huge Adventure mode and Kart, Planes and Hover Crafts. Mario Kart 64 seemed so simple in comparison.

( Edited 05.12.2011 10:15 by Marzy )

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Marzy said:
Diddy Kong Racing did something incredible and far more innovative for its time than Mario Kart ever did. A huge Adventure mode and Kart, Planes and Hover Crafts. Mario Kart 64 seemed so simple in comparison.

And incredible music Smilie.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

And what Kafei said.

ditto

Please give our little random review show a try;
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We have special effects and umm...stuff...

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