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Mario Kart 7

by Paul Morgan - July 24, 2011, 3:21 pm EDT
Total comments: 14

Is it just Mario Kart DS with new gimmicks, or something more?

For the most part, the series has stuck close to its origins in Super Mario Kart when it comes to the gameplay that has served it so well. Nips and tucks as we move from console generation to generation are one thing, but kites and submarines? You'd be forgiven for wondering whether this is a step too far beyond what is expected for Mario Kart.

Hang-gliders, propellers, plus whatever other contraptions and gizmos Nintendo include in the final game are deployed automatically with no input from you. Drive off a particularly high ledge or boost off a jump and the hang-glider will pop out, allowing you to gently swoop down to earth using the Circle Pad to guide your descent. Propellers work in the same way: drive into water and the propeller will pop out from behind you and give you a push through the depths. At first glance these additions seem merely cosmetic but as you play it becomes apparent that they will add to your racing tactics. When you are hang-gliding you can travel quite far down the course if your flying skills are with you on the day, using that opportunity to scout out the road ahead for shortcuts, or you could just as easily push yourself into a nose dive to get back to the real racing. 

Propellers also give you more scope than first appears. On one of the demo courses the track narrowed down to a thin Y-shaped junction with a big pool of water beyond. Your Mario Kart racing instincts scream at you to avoid falling into the water because you'll have fallen out of the track and be dumped unceremoniously back onto the course by Lakitu with the lengthy time delay that brings, but as I head towards this junction I get hit from behind by a red shell and spin out over the edge and straight into the water. Grumbles aplenty from me but rather than seeing the screen fade to black, I recovered from the shell hit straight away, the propeller appeared and I just kept on driving through the pool, up the side and back to rejoin the course further ahead. It completely changes the scope of the track and how you approach it.

The demo had a mini grand prix with three races that provide the perfect way to show off the new additions. The first track takes you through what would appear to be a mountainous region of the mushroom kingdom. It's all big sweeping curves with ramps leading to boost-assisted jumps, which is great for demonstrating the hang-glider in all its glory. You leap off the ramp and out pops the hang-glider and you can then glide up, down and to the left or right, dodging overhanging pipes as you go. I must admit that I did wonder just how this was going to fit in within the Mario Kart ‘feel’ but after the first lap I was already on my way to being sure that this new gameplay mechanic is only going to help add to the racing experience. Track two takes you underground through a network of caves with pools of water dotted around the course , clamshells and weeds blocking your way as you power through the water. The final course cuts through Donkey Kong's jungle with some familiar faces from DK's recent Wii outing making an appearance.

The game itself looks as beautiful as you’d expect from a Nintendo release. All the characters look great, enhanced versions of the Mario Kart DS models. The courses I saw were all beautifully rendered with great backdrops. The 3D really is the best I’ve seen to date on the 3DS. The immersion it gives you as you swerve around obstacles and career through the tracks is second to none.

A new feature is the kart customisation screen. You choose your character (eight were available in the demo), then the main body of your kart, which from the demo we played offered a standard kart, a Yoshi egg and the frame of a truck. You're then given a choice of wheels: small, standard or large. In all honesty, the racers amongst us are only ever to going to plump for the standard wheels. The small trolley-like wheels are too jittery and sensitive and the big truck wheels make navigating some of the tracks a real lumbering chore. Young ones will have a field day mixing up all the different variations for a kart of their choice but I for one will be sticking with the tried and tested standard kart.

Drifting is present and correct but to begin with it feels loose and floaty on 3DS using the Circle Pad (D pad control is not an option). Decades spent waggling my thumb over a D pad meant that it took me a little while to get to grips with how the 3DS handles but you’ll quickly get used to it. Something else that makes a return from ‘ye good old days’ (and we're surprised it's taken so long to return) is coin collecting, with Mario's favourite collectibles laid out liberally throughout courses. Keep on grabbing these and you'll get a speed boost. All the items are present and correct and from what we could see there were no new ones, although we'd be surprised if there aren't one or two more in the final game.

A few people are going to be doubtful of the new hang-glider/propeller mechanics, but I feel that their inclusion will be a small but integral part of this latest update. It’s just enough to help keep the series feeling fresh, but it’s not too much of a departure to cause any real concern. Otherwise, the game is pretty much what we’ve come to expect over the years. Expertly balanced racing with gorgeous graphics and great use of 3D (the first time another racer squirts squid ink in your face it’ll scare the daylights out of you). It’s normally a negative to find out that a game is just ‘more of the same’ but when it comes to Mario Kart that’s just what I want!


Great impression! Do you know if gaining the speed boost while drifting handles like the Wii or the DS game? I'm a little worried about the circle-pad's longevity if it handles like the DS game. I had to buy a new DS Lite after snaking in MKDS ruined my d-pad.

TJ SpykeJuly 24, 2011

I hope they kept snaking out of this game since snaking single-handily ruined online for Mario Kart DS.

Quote from: TJ

I hope they kept snaking out of this game since snaking single-handily ruined online for Mario Kart DS.

I never got the impression that it ruined the online, it just made it less accessible to newer players. Nothing is more fun than having an online match with everyone snaking. It feels great when you win. Though, I have to agree, I do not want them to leave it in this go around, as I'd like my 3DS to last.

Except for its online multiplayer and snaking, Mario Kart DS was pretty much perfect, so I hope they don't change it too much, outside of those things.

famicomplicatedJames Charlton, Associate Editor (Japan)July 24, 2011

Why is it that snaking in Mario Kart 64 was considered the ultimate skill and the best way to get the fastest lap times, yet, in Mario Kart DS it's considered evil and cheating?

Snaking was not what ruined online for me, it was people trying to get the gold star rank by just smashing you with invincibility stars instead of racing, also SO much rage quitting. (with no consequences)

Here's hoping they have a Mario Kart Wii style point system with HEAVY penalties for rage quitting.
Actually, I hope they copy the Wii online system entirely, now you can see what game people are playing at any time on the 3DS - the only problem with the Wii version (and the Wii in general) is fixed!

TJ SpykeJuly 24, 2011

You could powerslide in 64, but snaking was almost non-existent and rarely affected the outcomes of races. DS got to the point where it was impossible to win if you didn't snake since at least one person would be doing it already. It cause the game to be boring and frustrating and not even worth it.

Plus, the lack of online in MK64 means if someoene's snaking, you can bash them in the head with an N64 controller.

... what, I'm the only person whose N64 sessions went to 2 falls, 2 submissions or a knockout?

CericJuly 25, 2011

This is a good impression and it sounds like the new additions will be mixing things up a lot more then even the author believes.

UltimatePartyBearJuly 25, 2011

How do the karts handle underwater?  Is it just a change of scenery, or are there going to be times when you have to weigh the options of plowing through a pool or going around it, perhaps depending on your character and kart design?

The gliding reminds me of F-Zero GX, where you had to find a good "racing line" in the air, i.e. balance speed with rate of descent.  I sucked at that, so I'm not really looking forward to it.

Ocean VoyagerPaul Morgan, Guest ContributorJuly 31, 2011

@ TalesOfFan - the drift handles just like Mario Kart Wii. It feels strange at first because of the circle pad but after five minutes it's just fine  :)

@ UltimatePartyBear - driving underwater just feels like it's slowed down a little, it is pretty much a cosmetic thing.

CaterkillerMatthew Osborne, Contributing WriterAugust 01, 2011

I tried snaking but I just couldnt do it, maybe because I just wasnt used to the slider.

Ocean Voyager did you also notice a lack of items flying all over the place? Maybe because it was on some medium setting, but I got to first place and stayed there for a super long time, no distractions for almost every race. I sure hope nintendo toned down the constant blue shells.

famicomplicatedJames Charlton, Associate Editor (Japan)August 02, 2011

Quote from: Caterkiller

I tried snaking but I just couldnt do it, maybe because I just wasnt used to the slider.

Ocean Voyager did you also notice a lack of items flying all over the place? Maybe because it was on some medium setting, but I got to first place and stayed there for a super long time, no distractions for almost every race. I sure hope nintendo toned down the constant blue shells.

How to fix blue shells:
A) Don't make them fly, they should plough though the pack until it reaches 1st.
or better
B) Don't have them anymore.

AdrockAugust 02, 2011

My brother used to troll snakers all the time. Once he noticed someone snaking, he wouldn't even bother trying to win, he would launch item after item at them and many of them would quit. My brother knew how to snake too, he just felt it ruined the point of the game. The moral of the story is if someone starts snaking, just be an insufferable bastard. It won't win any races but at least they'll get so frustrated they quit. Lulz to be had by all (except snakers).

Ian SaneAugust 02, 2011

I think the snaking in Mario Kart DS just demonstrated Nintendo's lack of online experience.  Snaking is a bug.  They don't design the game to have it.  In a local multiplayer game it doesn't really matter because you and your friends can agree to not exploit bugs and "punish" those that do.  You can't do that online.  With online play it is of the absolute importance that you try to make the game balanced because any bug or game breaking cheap move will be exploited and the whole thing will just turn into some weird meta-game where the only way to win is to work the game.  With Nintendo being five years behind the rest of the world on this online stuff and being notorious for living in a cave with their fingers in their ears and insisting that they reinvent the wheel every time, they're going to goof this stuff up at times and Mario Kart DS was practically their first time doing this PERIOD.

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Game Profile

Mario Kart 7 Box Art

Genre Racing
Developer Nintendo,
Retro Studios
Players1 - 8

Worldwide Releases

na: Mario Kart 7
Release Dec 04, 2011
jpn: Mario Kart 7
Release Dec 01, 2011
RatingAll Ages
eu: Mario Kart 7
Release Dec 02, 2011
aus: Mario Kart 7
Release Dec 03, 2011

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