Nintendo made a strange and rather gutsy choice naming it
3DS racer Mario Kart 7. It's the first numbered entry in the series and serves
as a reminder that people have played games similar to it six times before.
However, it also shows Nintendo's faith in one of its highest-selling
franchises, as the number reflects almost 20 years of success, a trend the
publisher intends to continue on its somewhat troubled handheld. We recently
took Mario Kart 7 for a few dozen laps and can say that tradition of quality
seems to be continuing.
If you don't know already, Mario Kart 7 has a few new rules
you need to get used to. Most courses have launchers that give you a chance to
hang glide for as long as it's strategically valuable, with underwater sections
adding to the variety as well. The concept of collecting coins to increase your
base speed is back too, and you lose coins for taking a hit, making items more
dangerous than ever. In our short time with it these new rules succeeded in
making the traditional Kart experience more exciting.
Our first race was in the 50cc Mushroom Cup, which introduced
us to our first set of new tracks. We started on the very standard raceway of
the Toad Circuit, remarkable mostly for the creepy/cute giant Toad balloons. Daisy
Hills is a sunny speedway with bumpy wooden bridges and hot air balloons. Cheep
Cheep Lagoon was a nice introduction to the underwater mechanic and was filled
with its fishy namesake. And finally, Shy Guy Bazaar closed the Mushroom Cup
with a dimly lit Super Mario 2 inspired course that had a very Arabian nights
feel to it.
The next set of original tracks, the Flower Cup, began with
the Wuhu Loop that took place on the Mii's home island and a giant bridge as
the centerpiece. Next came Mario Circuit, which was more pastoral than expected,
including falling cherry blossom leaves. Music Park (our favorite of the day)
followed that with giant musical notes and a melodic patch of road over with humongous
piano keys. Rock Rock Mountain finished the race with sharp turns and one very
steep incline up said mountain.
After those races we got to enjoy the classic tracks in the
Banana and Shell Cups. We loved returning to Waluigi Pinball (DS), Mario
Circuit 2 (SNES), and Koopa Beach (N64). For Mario Kart veterans each course
fit like an old glove, with each turn and item placement immediately familiar,
only now they looked better than ever and implement the small updates found in
this 3D entry. Though there was a definite lack of Double Dash tracks in what
we saw, though there are tracks we’ve yet to see, and the Nintendo reps told us
about half were new.
Both tracks old and new were great fun to play and reminded
us why we’ve given so many hours to the series, and Kart still has some new
tricks. When we were introduced the new first-person mode, we were a little
hesistant (and you probably are too after rolling your eyes at this steering wheel),
but we changed our minds pretty quickly. When in first person you can control
the kart with the pad or gyro controls, and even though you can’t see the whole
kart, important info like who’s behind you and blue sparks are communicated
well. We’re not sure how much we’ll use it in the final game, but it’s not as
gimmicky as we feared.
We also got introduced to the games online and Wi-Fi capabilities.
Not only can you take your kart online for simple races, but you can also start
building a community with online friends, with stat tracking of things like races
won and coins collected. You can also exchange that info with StreetPass,
should you walk by another player, and there’s even plan to implement SpotPass
to share ghost data, including the surely impossible to beat times from
Above: Watch out for the dangerous “7”
item that gives the racers seven powerful items at once
We may have come in worried that Mario Kart 7
would be a repeat of the too easy Mario Kart Wii, but it instead reminded us in
the best of ways of Mario Kart DS. We’ll wait until the game actually comes out
in early December before we feel certain about, but certainly looks like Mario
Kart 7 is on the right track.