Mario Kart 7 - 3DS Review

So, as I've touted repeatedly of late, my wife got me a 3DS for Christmas.  This is awesome on several levels, but mostly because I really wanted one but wasn't really in a position to spring for one just yet.  Of course, as cool as it was to get the system on Christmas Eve, all consoles boil down to the software provided for them.  The next day I got 3 more games as presents from my wife - including Mario Kart 7, which has been my most-played game so far.

I have a long history with the Mario Kart series, having played most (but not all) of them over the years.  Perhaps most extensively was Mario Kart 64 back in college at a buddy's house (other regulars in the rotation back then were Madden, Tecmo Bowl and Golden Eye).  Mario Kart is a title that has always had a lot of appeal - whether it was to a bunch of guys in college, or my wife and her friends or even my children - the race mechanics compliment the colorful Mario landscape perfectly.

As my first review of a 3DS title on my blog, this is one I have been pretty excited to talk about.

Graphics - 9:

There is no slowdown, you don't see images clipping through solid objects and the entire landscape of the courses is a genuine treat to behold.  Also, something that I feel should come into consideration when doing a 3DS game review is the 3D, and here it adds a wonderful sense of depth as you race around the track.  There could be more details in some of the models, but there is almost always something interesting to look at and it scales beautifully on the 3D screen.  Little touches like the inkblots on the screen or the sense of flight while gliding past obstacles really get a chance to shine here.

Sound & Music - 9:

Catchy tunes never really got old as I raced around the track, and I found a couple to be pretty memorable in their own right.  Also, the Mario Kart games have always had adequate if unspectacular sound, but I enjoyed playing this title with my headphones on as the various effects often gave me an idea what was going on with the cars behind me.  This includes me swearing under my breath as I realize a blue shell is about to strike.

Gameplay - 9:

The racing handles really well.  There is a lot of variety to be had in the different kart loadouts and the additional airial gliding and submerged watery course sections added a nice bit of variety to what was happening.  I had to admit that when I first saw video of those segments, I was worried that using a glider was getting too far away from what Mario Kart is, but I'm happy to say it's usually managed in small doses and only serves to add greater variety to the proceedings.  Plenty of power-ups including a couple of new ones help keep things fresh as well for those who enjoy their combat with their kart racing.  The dual screens work well also - I enjoy the large map at the bottom which is easier to glance at and read than some of the smaller overlay mini-maps found on the console releases in the past.