2011-12-14

Mario Kart 7 – A Difference Maker?

by Yo Snyder

The 3DS has had many problems this past year, but chief among them
(and a sure killer for any system) is a lack of quality games. Well,
Mario has come to the rescue in a big way this holiday season. With Super Mario 3D Land and now Mario Kart 7,
that plucky little plumber is doing all he can to make the 3DS a
must-own system. Is it? Well, that’s not easy to answer (but here are
some of our thoughts on that). Does Mario Kart 7
help? There’s no doubt about that. It’s fun and it plays to many of the
3DS’ strengths while doing a good job of expanding into some areas
where Nintendo games have always been lacking; namely online.

Let’s talk about that online stuff. First, Mario Kart 7
does a couple of great things here. One, it’s easy to jump online and
play with anybody. That’s right, no friend code exchange necessary. 
Two, you can make communities in order to play with other like-minded
gamers. It’s similar to what you can do on Forza 4, but less
detailed. These two options alone are leaps and bounds beyond any other
online offering in other Nintendo games. Toss in stuff like StreePass
functions that are similar to Need for Speed’s autolog (i.e. race
against times and ghosts of people you get via StreePass), download and
play for friends who don’t have a copy of the game, and local
multiplayer for up to eight players, you have a really fun, social game
that gives you many ways to interact with friends or just other racers.
Good job Nintendo, now take this momentum and build on it. 

Other
new features for this Mario Kart include customizable kart options,
which is a feature that fits so naturally into the series I’m surprised
it hasn’t shown up before now. I agree that one thing that would make it
even better was if you could choose what kart options to unlock with
your coins, but it’s still a great addition regardless. You can also
take your karts to the air and below the waters. These things don’t have
that much affect on the races as you might think; they’re generally
just short segments in a race. Again, having entire races built around
these abilities would really shake things up, so maybe it’s something to
build on for the next version. The new first-person mode that uses the
gyroscope feature of the 3DS so all you have to do is tilt the system to
steer is fun in short spurts, but makes the 3D fairly pointless and
nauseating to use. And then there is that whole 3D thing; it’s not quite
as effective or radical as it is in Mario 3D Land, but it looks good and is fun to use, but doesn’t drastically change the feel of the races.

The
rest of it will feel pretty familiar to fans and should be lot of fun
for new comers. There’s a great variety of tracks ranging from classics
from throughout the history of the series to some solid new ones. Things
can get pretty challenging in the 150cc Grand Prix for those who like a
challenge. Unlike Mario Kart Wii, I didn’t feel that wins
depended quite as much on blind luck  this time around, although luck
and randomness certainly play a part. The controls are easy to pick up
but require finesse to master, and if you play to long, they can start
to feel a little awkward and uncomfortable (I had a small case of the
hand cramp claw going on after extended play time). The unlocks and
desire to beat your friend’s times keep you coming back for more, so
this is a game that will definitely get some play time on your 3DS,
which is exactly what the system needed.

Speaking of the
randomness of some of the races, one thing this game will teach you is
perseverance. You may be a lap ahead, but don’t think that means a win. A
few blue shells, lightning bolts, squids and red shells, and you’re
right back in the middle of the pack. Random? You bet. Unfair? Probably,
it definitely feels that way. Should you give up? Absolutely not, you
still have every chance to get right back in and win that thing. And so
it is with life. I don’t know about you, but there have been plenty of
times when I’m cruising along in life and suddenly a blue shell comes
out of nowhere and whammies me. I’m left dazed, stunned, and feeling a
bit behind and harried. I didn’t do anything do deserve that blue shell,
so it can feel pretty unfair and at times I’ve even felt like just
giving up. But then I remember Hebrews 12:1-2 which says “…let us run
with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on
Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before
him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right
hand of the throne of God.” Jesus faced a difficult race himself, but he
persevered. More than that, he won that race despite all odds, and he
promises to give us the strength and perseverance to do the same. On top
of all of that, he also won us the victory. Truth is, we can’t win this
race called life on our own; our own skills and all those blue shells
just won’t let it happen. But because of the death and resurrection of
Jesus, if we buy in to that and accept it, we have the victory, which
makes the rest of the race that much easier to persevere through,
despite those unfair blue shells.

The 3DS was in desperate need of
some solid games going into this Christmas season, and it only makes
sense that Mario should deliver on what the system needed most when it
needed it most. The jury’s still out on whether or not this will be
enough to save the system, but in the meantime, there’s a really fun
game out there to put next to that shiny 3DS under the tree.

Score out of 7:

Graphics: 6 – Bright, colorful, makes good use of the 3D effect. This is a great looking game for the system.

Sound:
5 – I still the music gets annoying after awhile, but all the little
quips are fun and the sound effects for everything is as bright and
colorful as the graphics.

Controls: 5 – They’re precise and
responsive, but the way to need to grip the system to do everything can
make your hand cramp after awhile.

Gameplay: 6 – This game is just
flat-out fun. It’s fun on your own, more fun online, and the best fun
when playing with friends. Lots of options for game types and
customizable karts adds to the fun factor.

Story: N/A

Content: 7 – It’s Mario and his pals; it doesn’t get much friendlier.

Overall: 6 – Mario Kart 7
is a great and much needed addition to the 3DS library. It provides a
good reason for you and your friends to use them if you have them, but
isn’t quite strong enough on its own as a reason to get a 3DS. The
addition of online play and its huge impact can’t be overstated. It
feels familiar, yes, but it’s still a lot of fun.