Mario Kart 7: Final Thoughts
I’m going to get this out of the way right at the beginning. My favorite Mario Kart is still Mario Kart 64. To be fair Mario Kart 7 never really even had a chance, as I have such a long history with the 64 version, I can’t say it’s even possible to unseat the game atop my list of favorite games anymore. Objectively though, Mario Kart 7 is without question the most advanced game in the series.
Honestly I wasn’t expecting much from 7. Perhaps that’s why I’m so blown away by its awesomeness. Where to start…
Some of the most obvious changes to the series are some of the least exciting to play in my opinion. Karts can now fly or dive into water. Flying is somewhat fun as it’s more of a controlled float back to the ground after you launch off a big ramp. The fun part is aiming for multi-tiered paths on the track. Some are higher than others and if you miss, you’re forced to take an alternate route that you hadn’t planned on. The underwater driving though, isn’t as exciting, as you’re still driving a kart on a course, only with far more floaty physics. While you’re underwater, there’s nothing particularly unique about it compared to driving that it just feels unnessicary.
One obvious new feature that does work well is the 3D display. For the most part the effect isn’t used in extreme. The tracks are rendered beautifully and tastefully. And while driving, especially going around tight high banked corners, you really “feel” the 3D effect. I use the word feel because it’s not something you’re really actively paying attention to while you’re playing, but especially in certain moments, you get that feeling of “whoa” when you know there’s a different perspective that you aren’t used to getting from a normal screen. Other 3D effects are pulled off very well. One of the best executed is Blooper’s ink that splotches your screen. The 3D brings that ink out infront and on top of the rest of the display, and really gives you that sensation that you get when a big truck goes by on the highway and sprays your windshield. If only there were a windshield wiper effect to clear the ink. Over all the 3D effect is used modestly and appropriately.
Kart customization makes its debut in Mario Kart 7. It’s a novel feature, but one that I appreciate. I remember when Double Dash came out and I was not excited at all by the goofy kart designs. There’s always been a more traditional go-kart available, but this time around the classic Mario Kart 64 kart is back as the “Pipe Frame” kart! Of course you can customize any of the karts with big monster truck type wheels that have better offroad speed, or tiny shopping cart like wheels that have good handling. I prefer the old fashioned wheels that match the kart. You also have the option to pick different gliders which have slightly different flying characteristics. Before each race/cup you select your character, kart frame, wheels, and glider. It’s not a feature I’d say is mind blowing, but it’s fun to play with and fun to unlock more stuff as you gather coins.
For me, the things that make Mario Kart 7 so great, are the things that have made Mario Kart great from the start, just done better. The controls on the 3DS are amazingly solid. It strikes that perfect balance between easy to pick up and play, and skilled finesse beneath the surface. Turboslides are performed by drifting around corners. The tighter your turn, the faster you build your turbo, so you are rewarded for taking the right line around any given curve, or punished for not doing so.
The tracks are phenomenal. 16 brand new courses and 16 retro courses. I always find myself wishing I could pick my own retro courses as my favorites never tend to make the list. (I want Royal Raceway!) But the new courses are absolutely fabulous. Detailed, alive, and fun to drive. They take advantage of the 3D screen to its fullest to really make you feel like you’re driving at some crazy angles sometimes. And everything runs super smooth. You will be turbosliding, jumping, gliding and boosting almost constantly. Additionally there are some tracks that instead of running 3 laps, you will actual race a long course from point A to point B.
Online multiplayer has been a blast. It’s fun to know you’re not just racing against the computer, and when you win it makes the victory that much more satisfying. That said, it’s much harder to win! Everyone is holding on to those items until the last stretch, and that’s when all hell breaks loose. Coming around the last corner in 1st place is about the last thing you want to do in Mario Kart VS mode! The frantic chaos is what makes it so great. And for me, the most enjoyable part is you don’t get to chat with any of these people. So they could be screaming adolescents on the other side of the internet for all I know, but I prefer to think that they are all sophisticated folks like myself. It works for me.
Mario Kart 7 is probably everyone else’s favorite Mario Kart game. And for good reason. It takes everything that has made the previous installments great, does it better, makes it portable, and does it in 3D. But for me, until they release Mario Kart 64HD3D with an authentic N64 throwback controller with analog sticks that don’t grind to powder… Mario Kart 7 will be an extremely close second.