There doesn't seem to actually be an options screen, which means (unless there's some weird button combination in the manual that we didn't receive), you can't delete your save game once you've started. Apart from that… it would have been nice to have even more tracks, but if you don't enjoy the ones there are enough to happily play them again, there's A) something wrong with you and B) a good chance you just don't like Nintendo games.
Above: Luigi's Mansion returns from the DS game, only with ramps for hang-gliding
As a gamer who grew up hating Nintendo, it's quite a personal revelation to love one of its games as much as this. But I'm on board with everything the game is trying to do. Sure, all the tricks here have been done before and the core of the game is the same as it's always been. But yet again, it's been packaged and delivered in a way that makes it feel fresh.
It's a cast of likeable, cartoony characters getting powered up by magic boxes and enchanted flowers, then doing things that simply can't be done in real life, like drive under the feet of a stamping dinosaur or race down the keys of a keyboard while a graphic equaliser pumps out bright colours all over the walls. When other companies try the kart racer formula, it often feels tired and cheap. This feels fresh and deluxe.
Above: Know what I wish I was doing instead of captioning this picture? Playing Mario Kart 7
Better still, it doesn't resort to ridiculous motion control steering or touch screen selection of weapons. You play it with the buttons and analogue stick (though, surprisingly, not the d-pad, which instead just switches between 3rd person and 1st-person camera modes), like you have done for forever. With go, stop, fire and jump buttons, it's easy enough that anyone can play it. Instantly enjoyable, infinitely accessible but as deep as you want to make it.
Above: Want to go ultra-hardcore? Strive for faster laps - you'll be amazed how much faster you can go
This really should have been a launch game, no question. But it's here now, and must surely mark a turning point for the system. Mario Kart 7 sets the graphical bar so high, it doesn't even look like a 3DS game, which means everyone else has a new standard to follow. Suddenly the platform feels new again.
Mario Kart Wii? Yes. There are no
balancing issues and somehow the team has managed to take 80% of the
frustration out of the game. Graphically, the two are pretty much
identical in terms of quality, but Wii can't do that incredible 3D
effect, making this the best-looking Mario Kart ever.
Ridge Racer 3D? Yes. No technical troubles, no dubious cornering mechanics, and
vastly superior presentation (and gameplay) makes Mario Kart 7 the clear
choice for your racing fix on 3DS. Oh, and even if you like sims,
you'll still enjoy this more than F1 2011 on 3DS. But that's another story…
Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing? Yes. I do maintain that SASASR is a fine example of the genre, let down only by some frame rate issues and unoriginal weapons and power-ups. But the cast is strong in each, the levels are suitable larger-than-life, and the drift mechanic is great in Sumo's effort. However, Mario Kart just exudes effortless quality, AND it's handheld. Nuff said, really.
Mario Kart 7 is THE game the 3DS has been in dire need of. Sadly, it raises the bar so high for almost everything else, most 3DS games don't even look like they belong on the same system. Get it now.
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