Saturday, 31 December 2011

First Impressions: Mario Kart 7

 Whenever a new Mario Kart game is released, gamers across the world will take the chance to compare it to its predecessors. It's difficult to differentiate more recent releases in the series such as Mario Kart Wii  and DS, as they're very much similar when it comes down to the basics of kart racing with everyone's favourite plumber and his slimmer brother, alongside many other Mushroom Kingdom favourites. The gameplay mechanics rarely make a drastic change with each subsequent release, and the 'feel' of each Mario Kart game has only made a single turnaround following the release of Super Circuit on Game Boy Advance. Since underrated GameCube title Double Dash, the tightened handling and evidently more luck-based gameplay has only been changed up through varying gameplay mechanics. The DS release was a core experience, offering up no ridiculous gimmicks and instead opting for the inclusion of online multiplayer modes to differentiate itself from its predecessors. Mario Kart Wii, on the other hand, introduced many new features to make the Mario Kart experience more thriving. These included a trick system in which the player would be granted a small speed boost if a button is pressed or a remote is waggled at the correct moment following a jump, and more importantly the inclusion of bikes; alternate machines that offered drifting with increased under-steer as well as the ability to do a wheelie, a technique useful on straights.

Despite being a more varied Mario Kart, however, the Wii iteration often receives a barrage of hate from many, thanks to its entirely luck-based appeal. The awful players in last place would almost definitely receive a deadly Blue Shell from an item box when racing, and due to a lack of temporary invincibility after being hit, this often lead to the skillful player in first position being knocked down to last position. I and many others find Mario Kart Wii far too frustrating to actually enjoy, and if it wasn't for the quite frankly broken gameplay, it would've potentially been the best game in the series. For this reason alone, the release following this universally hated instalment had to be good. It had to pack all the things that would've made the Wii version great, while refining the core handling and game mechanics back to the way they were in the DS version. Well, that's exactly what Nintendo, with a little help from Retro Studios, have done with the 3DS iteration of Mario Kart. Say hello to Mario Kart 7, a total game-changer for the spin-off series in more ways than one. And this post happens to be none other than my first impressions of this release, as if you didn't notice from the post's header.

The best thing about Mario Kart 7 on 3DS isn't all the exciting new features, but the extra layers of strategy introduced by them and the balanced-out, fine tuned gameplay that Nintendo have perfected in this release. No longer will the player be haunted by rubber-banding AI or dreaded Blue Shells, which appear much more rarely in this release, and when they do they tend not to send your racer flying back into last place. Mario Kart 7 is truly a game of skill, and aforementioned strategy. The main new feature exclusive to the seventh release in this long-running franchise takes the form of strategic flying and underwater sections. When launched into the air through a large, boost-covered ramp, the kart will sprout a glider about it, allowing the player full horizontal control of their kart, as well as vertical control. This works essentially like PilotWings, having the player catch air by diving, then gaining altitude from a sudden ascention. This allows for the strategic skipping of certain sections of tracks, whether they be the 16 all-new ones, or 16 retro courses, all of which are a great selection of settings for some frantic, but well-balanced gameplay. Underwater sections are also introduced in Mario Kart 7, although these moments aren't quite as fully fleshed-out as the sections that involve gliding through the air. Handling makes a change underwater, making the drift mechanic of your kart feel a lot more like that of Mario Kart Wii's bikes, which are unfortunately scarce in this release. Regardless, underwater segments are almost entirely optional, giving you freedom of choice over which of the many routes available you should take. Throw in the welcome addition of Super Mario Kart's speed-boosting Coins and you've got the most strategy-based Mario Kart ever.

Judging from my First Impressions of the game, Mario Kart 7 is the definitive entry into the franchise. They've managed to balance out the kart racing formula after Mario Kart Wii's disappointingly broken antics, which you can probably tell more than impresses yours truly. The glider and underwater sections, as well as the re-introduction of classic titles' Coins are more than welcome, and it's great to finally be racing in a balanced playing environment, rather than one that awards those who have luck on their side rather than skill. Better items found in Item boxes are still granted to those in lower positions in a race, but the amount of boxes placed on a track have been decreased a little this time around, and a number of annoyingly broken tools from earlier releases have been thankfully removed from this experience. Other than the Wii release's bikes, Mario Kart 7 packs everything from past releases and more, and with the same awesome online multiplayer (which I've unfortunately not been able to test out just yet) we found in the past two releases you've certainly got what might just be the series' magnum opus. However poor the first three quarters or so of 2011 have been, nobody can deny the quality of more recent releases on every platform, and this is one of those releases that truly shines. Quite frankly, if you have a 3DS and you're getting a bit bored of your library of games, you quite frankly need this title. Get set for my full impressions of Mario Kart 7 in the impending review which will drop in the big year that is 2012. I'd like to thank everyone who reads this stuff, and wish everyone a happy new year. In the closing hours of 2011, this is me out. Here's to a spectacular 2012...

~Happy New Year!~

1 comment:

Daisy said...

I haven't play much of previous Mario Karts, but I'm loving this one! Happy New Years btw xD

Oh and I wrote a first impressions post too. Not as detailed as your awesome post here haha xD