Mario Kart is one of Nintendo’s best-selling and highest-quality series. This franchise is able to connect so well with gamers of all types because it mixes a steady injection of new ideas while retaining the same addictive kart racing gameplay that makes all other kart racers pale in comparison. Mario Kart makes it debut in the third dimension in the newest entry on the Nintendo 3DS. New this time is hang gliding and underwater segments that make an all new lineup of courses that much more fun to race on.
My time with the game started with the character selection screen. The eight characters were all franchise regulars including Mario, Luigi, Peach, Bowser, Donkey Kong and more. I chose Mario then moved on to selecting a kart to race. This time around, you have three unique options to mix and match. First is the kart itself, a choice between a Yoshi egg-shape, Bowser’s kart, and Mario’s standard racer. Then you choose the size of your tires that come in small, standard, and monster truck varieties. The final option was to choose a standard red hand glider with Mario’s M on it and two other hidden options.
After choosing my racer and my kart, it was time to race. The first track I raced on was set in the mushroom kingdom. The map started high in the mountains where you are nearly level with the clouds in the distance. The rocky mountain terrain had many winding turns until a steady stream of boost propels you of the side of a cliff and into the sky. My hang glider released automatically as Mario began a swift yet gentle descent into a pine forest. While in the air you have full control of the karts movements in order to avoid obstacles, collect coins, and even deploy items.
Karts land on the ground and continue to race forward seamlessly. Another part of the level was uphill with heavy boulders rolling towards the screen. The second level on my tour was a beach. This time instead of taking to the air, the course leads you underwater. A propeller deploys on the back of your kart instantaneously. Racing underwater is somewhat slower but otherwise plays the same as on land. Snapping clams and other hazards attempt to slow your progress when underwater. The final track on the tour was a golden banana temple. This course had thin strips of pavement that are very easy to fall of if you are not careful as well as a hang gliding segment where you have to maneuver past large stone obelisks.
Graphically, Mario Kart on the 3DS is impressive. The visuals are as bright, colorful, and lively as they have ever been. The demo ran exceptionally smooth. The 3D enhancements stand out well. Details such as the way seaweed sways in front of you when underwater, the water on the screen when back on land, and the great sense of depth when gliding make this a game you want to play in at maximum 3D settings.
The controls are similar to that of Mario Kart DS. The A button accelerates and B brakes. The circle pad feels great for steering. Drifting is relegated to the R button and deploying items is mapped to L (or X). The touch screen displays a map and other information about the current race. Most of the game is the Mario Kart you know and love. All of the items available in the demo were the same as past games bombs, shells, bananas etc. The tracks have their own unique shortcuts, hazards, and other secrets. There is a lot we still don’t know about Mario Kart on the 3DS such as how it will incorporate the 3DS’s online and Street Pass features but what I played was promising.
Mario Kart 3DS has all the makings of a solid entry into this beloved Nintendo staple that makes the most of its debuts on the 3DS. Mario Kart 3DS launches sometime later this year.