Mario Kart 7 Review
The best Mario Kart ever.
Graphics & Atmosphere Overview
If there's one thing that can be said about Mario Kart 7, it's that it doesn't make any graphical or sound-related changes for the worse. In fact, we'd even go so far as to say that it's the best-looking game in the series yet, but it's really not much improved from Mario Kart Wii, the most recent iteration. Still, considering that it's a handheld title and the Wii is a full console, that's not too shabby.
The most notable new aspect of Mario Kart 7 is the 3D effects provided by the 3DS' passive, glasses-free technology. While it has, since launch, been a little dodgy, it works well within the scope of the game. Depth is added and foreground action subtly pops out without instilling the feeling of vertigo. Unfortunately, the 3DS must be held almost perfectly still and level to maintain the illusion without the interference of unwanted crosstalk, which, in an exciting game like Mario Kart, is more difficult than it sounds. We recommend shutting off the 3D when playing competitively online; it's much less painful to get completely owned in only two dimensions.
Mario Kart 7 maintains the long tradition of cheery-looking tracks with bright colors and blank, smiling inanimate objects. Which is par for the course in most Mario titles. The oddity of Mario's world aside, the new tracks are spacious, well-rendered, and sound in their makeup. Shy Guy Bazaar has a flat, warm, desert feeling, contrasting to the dewy foliage that peppers the bumpy roads of DK Jungle. Rainbow Road courses in multi-colored majesty through a vast, star-sprinkled galaxy, and hanging from a glider while sailing down through the waterfall-laden chasm of Rock Rock Mountain is an experience unmatched by the presentation of past Mario Kart titles. All in all, the game's artistic presentation is impressive, smooth, and consistently interesting.
While gamers shouldn't expect Crytek level graphics from anything in Mario Kart 7, they are definitely the best graphics in the series so far, 3D or not. Characters backing up turn and look over their shoulder; dust kicks up and meshes with the sparks from tires during a long drift; gliders ripple subtly in the passing wind; and water pools and splashes upon bursting forth from its blue-green depths. For a handheld title, everything looks great. Considering the frantic, fast-paced nature of the game, taking the time to stop and look around the environment is a rare treat, but players will be pleased with Mario Kart 7's graphical presentation should they choose to do so.
On a separate note, the retro tracks look no worse for being old hat, and in fact have been updated and smoothed out, giving players no excuse to groan, "Oh no, one of the old tracks." We will say that SNES Rainbow Road is still charmingly comprised of blocks, but at this point, changing it would be heresy.
The music in the Mario Kart titles has always been a highlight of the series' presentation, and Mario Kart 7 continues that tradition with new tunes that stick to your eardrums by employing simple instrumentation and memorable, singsong melodies. The music from the last 6 games is unchanged, though it has probably been revamped so as to compete with the new software employed in the composition of the new tracks' music; but if you're looking for classic jams from the GBA and N64 versions of Mario Kart, you'll be pleased to know that they come in right on cue. We were particularly pleased with the new Rainbow Road theme song, which employs the old SNES theme song in germs throughout the composition while adding sections and chordal harmonies that give it the weighty feel of, let's say, 20 years of longevity.
The sound effects in Mario Kart 7 are holdovers from the previous games. Bob-Ombs explode, Green Shells smack, and Super Stars pump that never-gonna-die invincibility theme from Super Mario Bros. at you like it's going out of the style. This isn't a bad thing, of course, as new item sound effects would just confuse and frighten Mario Kart vets right out of 1st place.
The best sound effects are the more subtle aspects of kart ergonomics and engine functionality. While the little titular karts will never house the roaring engine of the serious cars found in realism-based racing titles, the sound of some of the game's more muscular kart bodies roaring up to full speed is nonetheless satisfying. Tires screeching, coins tinkling, and the subtle flapping rustle of a deployed glider all add to a sense of immersion and continuity.
We just wish Mario would stop shouting his name. 1st place is, "Yeah, Mario's the best!" 2nd place is, "Mario, yeah! Mario!" Last place will net you, "Oh nooo, Mario LOSES!?" We get it. Your name is Mario. Mario Mario. The game is called Mario Kart. Playing as Mario technically renders you as Mario Mario in a kart in Mario Kart.
Other than the odd, sometimes funny, sometimes unintentionally disturbing way that characters continuously rant about their names and how amazing they are, sound effects couldn't be better.
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