Hands On: Mario Kart 7 3DS!

We’re speeding through the forest in our customised Kart. Sunlight streams through the trees in shards and everything is beautiful and vivid. We come across a river. We plunge underwater. This could spell disaster but have no fear; like a James Bond car created by Dick Dastardly we sprout a propeller which keeps us going underwater. We drift past giant clam shells and we chance a coin from one of their mouths, narrowly avoiding its downwards chomp which send bubbles up towards the surface. We reach a rainbow coloured booster ramp and we are launched out of the water again to continue our adventure. Suddenly, the peace is spoilt when ink covers our view, spraying backwards in to our eyes. It’s just as well. A red shell is in pursuit. There are no bananas left and no escape as the offending shell comes in to view behind us and halts our hopeful lead. Sparks fly in all directions as we are hit and tumble across the road. The ‘1’ figure in the top left of the screen reduces to ‘2’ as we are overtaken by another Kart. This is a race. This is Mario Kart 7 on the Nintendo 3DS.

The first impression we get from the forthcoming game – the first in the series to be released in 3D – is… it is a thing of simple beauty. Like every other game in the series it continues to push the gameplay and course design in new directions. In this incarnation, there are two new ways to travel – in the air and underwater. It’s very simple. When your Kart goes off the edge of a cliff or over a huge ramp, you sprout wings and glide through the air. The controls are responsive and fluid, behaving just like a real glider would. This seems to be a really useful way of finding shortcuts, something that fans bemoaned the lack of the last three games in the franchise.

The motorbikes are gone and there are no (admittedly enjoyable) passengers on the back of your Kart. The game then, as well as being new, fresh and innovative has reached back to the roots of the series that made it so popular. This about mastering the corner, drifting, defence and judgement. The new dimension, namely the third, is what makes this game stand apart from the rest. The no-glasses 3D of the 3DS is clever (you can adjust how much of the 3D is effective) and immersive. You can really feel the speed of the track rushing past you and the space as you drift expertly (Steve knows his shoulder button well) through the beautifully designed tracks.

This is Nintendo at its very best doing what it knows how to more than anyone else – to have fun. The customisation of the Karts breaks down in to three categories, the body, glider and wheels. Depending on which ones you choose, it will affect your driving. Larger wheels on a smaller Kart will help you on rough terrain and a lighter Kart with a good glider will help you fly further. This isn’t about the endless, and slightly tedious tuning of Gran Turismo, or putting the latest flame decal on your spoiler.

Nintendo are keen to impress with Mario Kart 7, and after playing it, we certainly are. The prospect of all the other goodies they’ve packed into the game only excite us more! Eight player local and online play, 16 new tracks with re-jigs of older tracks to incorporate new air and sea sections, and brand new weapons including a super-destructive looking Fireflower, which shoots high velocity fireballs fore and aft (presumably not effective underwater). Gyro controls put you in the cockpit while you tilt the console to steer, and there’s downloadable ghost data via streetpass and spotpass. New characters in this instalment include Metal Mario and Lakitu.

There’s plenty more to come we’re sure but after playing Mario Kart 7, even for a short while, we are sure fans of the series, as well as new players, will love it.

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