If Super Mario 3D Land is meant to bring the 3DS back from the brink of death, then Mario Kart 7 is the great redeemer, proving the handheld and its 3D aren't just a gimmick. If Nintendo and their (lacking) third party titles could match the quality ingrained in this famous karting series, the 3DS would be flying high through a sea of 99 cent apps. But let's just be happy that we're getting another fantastic Mario Kart.
Nintendo's booth showcased three brand new tracks for the title. The first level saw a mix of mountainous and grassy terrain that made use of the new hang-gliding attachment. Turns were sharp and falling rocks a-plenty, providing a decent challenge. Track two, a beach type, made use of the new underwater sections, with plenty of fish to block your way and a funky little propeller to jet you along. The final track was a Donkey Kong themed one, featuring new obstacles. All three levels suited the Mario style, brimming with vibrant colors and quirky designs that appeal to the child in all of us.
Everyone's kart can now be customized with a choice of shell, wheels, and accessory (the hang-glider being the featured one). While different karts serve the same speed-differentiating purpose they had in previous games, the wheel selection gives better or worse traction depending on the surface. The effect was rather noticeable, giving a great advantage if strategically planned. The hang-glider, an entertaining game-changer, provided brand new routes to navigate and options to attack foes from up above. Yet... it carries risks - being hit out of the sky can definitely ruin a race.
Mario Kart 7 sees the triumphant return of coins from Super Mario Kart, boosting speed and defense the more coins are collected. They can change the tide of a race (in either direction), and also carry added detriments, since coins mostly zigzag or group between enemies and obstacles. I was excited to try the new Fire Flower and Super Leaf items, but unfortunately they weren't included.
The handheld Mario Karts have always been great iterations in the series, and Mario Kart 7 is no exception. The use of the hang-glider and underwater sections provides an awesome new take on the karting experience, the customization creates a more personalized feel, and it welcomes back some old friends and features to create one of the best Mario Karts yet. Get ready to glide your way to Rainbow Road glory December 2nd in Europe and the 4th in the U.S.