Article 002: Mario Kart 7 Review

Mario Kart 7 (MK7) is a great addition to the Mario Kart franchise. It features quite stunning graphics that rival that of the Wii, a back-to-basics control scheme, and a few very cool new features. The changes in game play are perhaps minimal, but at a great deal of strategy and fun.

Salutations! Doctor X here, bringing you another review for JoystickRobot. This time I am reviewing an addition to quite possibly my all time favorite Nintendo franchises: MarioKart. The JoystickRobot is excellent at playing MarioKart, and having spent many many hours playing on the DS and Wii it didn't take much for JoystickRobot to pick up MarioKart 7 for the 3DS.

The controls are very similar to that of MarioKart DS (MKDS). The main exception is the analog circle pad instead of the D-pad for the DS. Brakes, acceleration, drifting, and items pretty much work the same as with the DS (but lets face it who really uses the brakes, eh?). However the graphics and online play make a huge improvement over the DS version.

The graphics for MK7 are in my opinion, very good. Turn up the 3D to about halfway to see some amazing detail. Peripheral scenery is greatly improved over even the Wii version, as things like flowers and trees really "pop" with great 3D rendering. I genuinely think that the grapics on the 3DS version are better than the Wii, and the JoystickRobot and I have put in many hours into both.
Online play is well done, and very similar to Mario Kart Wii's (MKWii) online play in many respects. Remember the days with the DS? When playing online with MKDS you had to connect to the internet everytime you wanted to go online. Now with the 3DS, online connectiion is part of the built-in system, so that is much easier to engage in online play. The same is true of friend codes--you now specify your friend codes as part of the core 3DS system, making things a little easier to connect with friends for a match.

New additions to the game include the addition of hang gliding, under water driving, and customizable karts. Hang gliding is what you might expect, when you go over certain types of ramps or ledges, a hang glider shoots up out of the back of your kart and you can glide back down to the ground. This gliding mechanic makes good use of the analog controls for the game. It also plays out strategically as you can use mushrooms to boost up into the air to go further into the course. However there are certain restrictions to this that will send you back to the ground for going "out of bounds". Also red shells can now fly and will indeed take you or your opponent out if hit in mid glide. The underwater propeller is an interesting item that allows you to drive under water on certain courses, with little loss of speed. Retro-courses with water-related obstacles such as Daisy Cruiser and Koopa Troopa Beach are renewed with this new game play feature. Driving underwater adds new short-cut possibilities, and makes the courses more complex most of the time, and is overall a meaningful addition.
Underwater driving adds new strategic and short-cut possibilities.
Kart customization allows you to change the wheels and hang glider for a given kart, to alter things like speed, acceleration, weight, and handling. This is a pretty useful feature but could perhaps make it a little more difficult to scan through all the possible combinations to find the kart with the best acceleration, for example, since there are 3 degrees of freedom to tweak.

Another new change in this game is that some courses have "sections" instead of laps. The new version of Rainbow Road is actually kind of fun and less tiresome given that you never repeat any part of the track. Speaking of Rainbow Road, this course has always been one of my least favorite course, but I actually like the MK7 version! It features a moon that you land on and experience "weightlessness" on or at least a reduced weight giving rise to larger jumps. Best rainbow road yet!

Power-ups are as good as ever with MK7. Returning to the mix are the usual banana peels, triple banana peels, green shells, triple green shells, red shells, triple red shells, mushrooms, triple mushrooms,  gold mushrooms, stars, bloopers, bullet-bills, lightning bolts, and bob-ombs (I won't belabor my audience with an explanation of what these items do if you don't know, check out this page). Absent from the game are fake question-mark boxes, and ghosts. The loss of the fake question-mark boxes is a bit troubling strategically, since it was always fun to place them right above the real question-mark boxes, however given that since MKWii you can not block incoming shells with them, it isn't a total loss.

Other power-ups like Mega mushrooms and lightning clouds, which debuted for the MKWii, are not here either. However some new ones have hit the scene. The Super Leaf give the kart a tanooki tail, which allows you to block incoming shells, swat away banana peels on the track, and swipe away opponents that are close by. Actually, the Super Leaf is a pretty great item, and given that there has been a "Leaf Cup" in pretty much every Mario Kart game previous, it only makes sense that the Super Leaf is here to stay as a cool Mario Kart item.
 The tanooki tail obtained from the Super Leaf makes total sense
as a Mario Kart item.

The Fire Flower item allows players to shoot fireballs at opponents, in front and behind, and lasts for a finite time. Contrary to many reviews out there, the Fire Flower is not a new item, and was actual part of Mario Kart Double Dash for the GameCube. The Lucky 7 is a new item that is pretty rare, and pretty difficult to use effectively, but when you can use it effectively it is a great item. The Lucky 7 basically gives you seven items spinning around you. The downside is that they are spinning pretty quick and it is sometimes tough to time the use of them at the right moment. Another downside is that if someone runs into the bob-omb spinning around you, then both of you and all the six other items are goners. The Lucky 7 is nonetheless an interesting item and a cute play on the seven in name of the game MK7...which brings me to the name of the game.

Many people have probably wondered why this game is the first game to be numbered rather than take another name, or be named after the system it is on such as Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart Wii. I actually think that the reason just might have to do with a redesign of the 3DS. There are a lot of rumblings about a redesigned 3DS, possibly with a new name that downplays the 3D functionality, and better distinguishes it from the DS. Calling the game Mario Kart 3DS could have further added to the confusion as to whether this game works in the yet-to-be-named redesigned handheld. Only time will tell.

Anyway, this review mainly focuses on Grand Prix play, and kind of leaves out the Battle mode. I have never been a huge fan of the battle mode, but when I played it I didn't see many differences from previous games. One more feature that is put back from last being seen in the original Mario Kart is the use of coins. Basically, the more coins you collect, you unlock further kart customization features. I didn't find this to be terribly different from revealing new karts based on how many races you have finished, so I don't consider this a big change.

Thanks for reading!
Doctor X and the JoystickRobot


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