It’s a mere few weeks away from the release of Nintendo’s eagerly awaited 3DS racer Mario Kart 7.
Along with Super Mario 3D Land, the game has boosted interest in the 3DS and pushes the handheld towards a brilliant future. Taken on its own terms, Mario Kart 7 is also one of the biggest and most anticipated entries in the series to date.While Mario Kart has always been a series heavily built on a tried and tested formula, Mario Kart 7 boasts a hefty amount of content and changes to the series – perhaps that’s the reason why we’re getting a fully fledged numbered sequel, rather than an entry which simply sticks ‘3D’ onto the end of the title.We’ve put together a handy guide to everything you need to know about the upcoming racer, taking a look at brand new features as well as the return of classic tracks and traditions which make the series such a nostalgic joy to play.
As always, Mario Kart 7 combines both new and old tracks into its hefty line up of 32 courses – one of the biggest of the series so far. Half of these will be faithful remakes of classic tracks like ‘Luigi Raceway’ from the N64 edition and the excellent ‘Coconut Mall’ from the most recent – and its closest relative – Mario Kart Wii
As nice as it is to have these retro tracks included, we’re most excited about the 16 new courses which are making their debut in Mario Kart 7. The trailers released so far have included many glimpses of the new tracks which now also include underwater and flying sections which are seamlessly intrigrated to the races.Several of these new tracks look brilliantly inventive as usual for the series. ‘Music Park’ for instance, is paved with different instruments which all play when being driven across, while ‘Cheep Cheep Cape’ (it probably isn’t a reference to The Room) is a heavily aquatic track which features an extensive underwater section. There’s also the obligatory reworkings of Mario Kart mainstays, including a brand new version of the colourful ‘Rainbow Road’.
Here’s the full line up.
Classic TracksMario Kart 64Luigi Raceway
Koopa Troopa Beach
Kalimari DesertMario Kart Super CircuitBowser Castle 1Mario Kart Double DashDaisy Cruiser
Dino Dino JungleSuper Mario KartMario Circuit 2
Rainbow RoadMario Kart DSLuigi’s Mansion
Airship FortressMario Kart WiiKoopa Cape
Mushroom GorgeNew Tracks
Cheep Cheep Cape
Shy Guy Bazaar
Wuhu Loop 1
Rock Rock Mountain
Wuhu Loop 2
Rosalina’s Ice World
There’s a large roster of characters in Mario Kart 7, including some awesome brand new additions. Along with the usual suspects like Mario, Luigi and Princess Peach, Mario Kart 7 features the debuts of cloud hovering Lakitu, Wiggler and Queen Bee from the Super Mario Galaxy series. Most exciting is the addition of Metal Mario, whom has frequently appeared as a secret character in previous Nintendo titles like Super Smash Bros and Mario Golf 64.
Carried over from the Wii version is the ability to race as your own characters created with the 3DS Mii creator tool. This allows you to easily play as yourself, or some of the more popular Mii creations like Chuck Norris, Adolf Hitler or Batman.
The line up is as follows.
New to Mario Kart 7 is the ability to customize and create your own custom karts. This might seem something of a obvious addition, but there’s far more to it than simply changing the look of your vehicle. Customization can actually be a vital part of managing to win races, with the conditions of certain tracks requiring the player to adapt to the environment.
If it’s a track heavy with muddy turns and swampy areas, adding big wheels to your kart can make all the difference. Likewise, if it’s an icy track, customizing your kart to increase handling over speed will help keep you from skidding off the track during a pivotal moment of a race. The addition of kart customization is a long overdue evolution to the long-running series, but it also has the potential to be a game changer.The customization options of Mario Kart 7 also allow for the entry to make use of extensive unlockables and kart modifications. Also, the trick system from Mario Kart Wii is making a welcome return, but oddly, motorbikes have been scrapped.
Items and Power-ups
Without its items and power-ups Mario Kart would still be fun, but nowhere near as addictive or satisfying. The fact that it’s entirely possible to trail behind in last position, only to suddenly utilize a power-up to snatch 1st place, makes Mario Kart unpredictable and frenetic.
Classic items are all here and handle exactly how you’d expect. There’s nothing more satisfying than knocking a rival racer off the track with a shell, or managing to meticulously lay banana skins to create complete chaos for everyone behind you. These classic items are still plenty of fun, but the brand new items to Mario Kart 7 are also pretty cool.As a tie in to Super Mario 3D Land and to encourage the slaughter of raccoons (just joking PETA !) the Tanooki Tail (or Super Leaf) is one of the most heavily touted new additions. The tail enables players to strike other racers with a swipe slash move, while it also protects against oncoming threats like shells. Elsewhere, the Fire Flower gives the ability to fling destructive balls of flames at other players – both in front and behind – as well as forcing them to drop coins.The final new addition is called Lucky 7, and looks set to become the most prestigious and feared of the new items. Finding the item will grant the player access to 7 rotating weapons including shells, bananas and bob-omb’s – all of which can be scrolled through and used in any order.
The full list of items reads like this.
Triple Green Shell
Triple Red Shell
Fire Flower (New)
Super Leaf (New)
Lucky 7 (New)
The Wii and GameCube versions of Mario Kart scrapped the coin system which has been a popular part of the series in its earlier incarnations. It’s great to see them being reinstated for Mario Kart 7, for the first time since Mario Kart Super Circuit for the Game Boy Advance in 2001.
Tracks are scattered with coins which can be collected by driving into them, as well as stolen by crashing into rival racers or by using certain weapons like shells. These coins can be used to buy unlockables items, most notably accessories and items for vehicle customization.
The real meat and potatoes of Mario Kart 7 will be its online functionality, which has the potential to make the handheld impossible to put down. Online races can be played with 8 players, and uses the same matchmaking system as the Mario Kart Wii. Matches can be played both online and offline, through an ad-hoc connection or WI-FI. If you’ve only got one cartridge between two consoles, Gameshare is available, although the second player’s options are limited to racing as character (Shy Guy).
While Nintendo aren’t exactly known for their superb online features, Mario Kart 7 seems like a significant step forward, offering intuitive features and a decent interface. Games can be joined against worldwide users or friends and there’s also an intriguing community feature. This allows gamers to join a community of up to 10,000 players, based around anything from location to something like a favourite football team.It’s a cool idea, and while you can’t chat or communicate to other players, it gives Mario Kart 7 an extra level of social interaction.
Steering Wheel Add-On
Just like Mario Kart Wii, a an add-on peripheral is being released to turn the 3DS into a steering wheel – or if you prefer, a bulky and expensive frisbee. As well as traditional control schemes, Mario Kart 7 makes use of the 3DS gyroscope to offer motion controls at the expense of the 3D visuals.
The steering wheel add-on isn’t exactly compulsory, but if you want to really immerse yourself in Mario Kart – or look sillier playing it – the steering wheel will do just the trick. Using these gyro controls will also allow you play the game in a first-person view which is a brand new addition to the series.
Mario Kart 7 makes great use of the 3DS’ Spotpass features, such as the ability to share records or ghost data with friends, as well as exchanging data over Streetpass with the 3DS left in sleep mode. As well as being able to trade race data, the 3DS will also get its very own Mario Kart channel avalaible through the e-shop. The channel will integrate information gathered on Spotpass, as well as leaderboards and community information.
Mario Kart 7 is released on the 2nd of December and we’ll have a full review for you in the coming weeks.