I’m counting. The SNES’ Super Mario Kart, the N64′s Mario Kart 64, Super Circuit on the GBA, the GameCube’s Double Dash!!, Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart Wii. Yep, that’s six, and that’s not including the coin-op versions. I had to check – when Nintendo changed the name of Mario Kart 3DS to Mario Kart 7 it just seemed there hadn’t been that many in the series already. Time flies, huh?
Perhaps on the surface not the most interesting of new features, but a little time with them suggests there is more to them than just gimmicks for the sake of adding something new.
It’s really more about the Karts than anything else. Pre-race screens allowing you to tweak your ride a little by switching out your chassis and swapping over your wheels, both of which have an effect on your speed and control when you’re not on tarmac – the larger wheels, for example, help maintain a good chunk of your speed when offroad.
Gliding’s actually a really neat new feature. It’s nicely balanced in terms of risk and reward, there are items to collect whilst in the air and, if you’re good, you can skip out whole seconds of regular track below you but there’s always the chance that you’ll crash and fall into a chasm. The airborne sections control like the glider in Pilotwings, so there’s little confusion when you first take to the skies.
The underwater areas of the courses feel less fresh. Sure, you’re submerged which means turning is more sluggish but you’re still fixed to the floor, just using your propellor rather than your engine to keep you moving. There are a few locked accessories on the kart configuration screen, though (only one set of wings was available, for example) so perhaps we’ll get a more interesting chassis that will open up these areas a little.
We’re happy about the return of coins, though. These have been missed out of recent Mario Karts, and it’s nice to see them back even if their purpose isn’t entirely clear yet. Regardless, they already promote a little offroad exploration and should make the single player campaign more replayable than the DS and Wii versions, even if its clear multiplayer is still the focus.
And speaking of that, online races are confirmed (as you’d expect) but Nintendo have also promised SpotPass and StreetPass functionality, which might hopefully include more regular staff ghosts in addition to the ability to upload and share your own time trial success stories. The DS Mario Kart was brilliant fun online (until it was spoiled a little by hackers) and hopefully Mario Kart 7 will be just as much fun.
The graphics are lovely, too – the 3D effect is nice (and some of the weapons really play on the added depth) and the courses look as rich as ever. Retro Studios have been involved with the Donkey Kong track and there’s the usual plethora of Retro levels too, including tracks from Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart Wii. The game runs at a rock solid 60 frames a second, too, even with the 3D mode activated.
It’s obvious that Mario Kart 7 will be a success – the previous titles still sell extremely well and they’re an evergreen range of games that fit the Nintendo brand perfectly. We can’t wait to get our hands on the finished game.
Thanks to Lee and Dan for their assistance with this article.