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Critical Reception: Nintendo's  Mario Kart 7

Critical Reception: Nintendo's Mario Kart 7

November 30, 2011 | By Danny Cowan

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Nintendo's 3DS kart racer Mario Kart 7, which reviewers describe as "an exquisitely polished game with few flaws." Mario Kart 7 currently earns a score of 85 out of 100 at

Joystiq's Griffin McElroy gives Mario Kart 7 4.5 out of 5 stars, calling it "an exercise in fun/frustration."

"Mario Kart 7 is, as its predecessors always have been, an exceedingly hateful game," he explains. "Three laps' worth of perfect corner negotiation, aggressive drafting and creating enough sparks to manufacture a small sun can be overturned instantly, sometimes in sight of the finish line."

McElroy continues: "Frustrating though they may be, those turnabouts are how the franchise skirts around recurring poxes of the racing genre. Last place racers get far more potent weaponry than the pace cars -- not rubber-banding in the traditional sense, but the result's the same.

"Mario Kart 7's changes and additions are few in number, but they're rich in the refinement of that concept. More than ever, it's a game about getting screwed over without getting too angry about it, a pair of goals it achieves with panache."

New items make the experience feel fresh. "Racers' armories have been expanded with a handful of new offensive and defensive items, like the Fire Flower, which can launch a salvo of fireballs that shoot rapidly but don't pack much punch, or the Lucky 7, which surrounds the player with a ring of seven random power-ups," McElroy notes. "The most welcome addition is the Tanooki Tail, which can be used to spin out a nearby racer or, as is more commonly its utility in first place, can deflect a projectile with a last-second spin."

"Mario Kart 7 is an exquisitely polished game with few flaws," McElroy summarizes. "Blue Shells are, as they always have been, unavoidable race-ruining bullshit, for instance. Don't take my jokes about the game's frustrations lightly, as its last-second turnabouts are as frequent as they are enraging, and some players may not be able to handle the disappointment."

Adam Biessener at Game Informer scores Mario Kart 7 at 8.5 out of 10. "If you've played one Mario Kart, you haven't played them all -- but you could go directly from the SNES original to this brand-new 3DS version without missing a beat," he admits. "The mechanics are almost identical, though the formula benefits from a few decades of balance tweaks and subtle improvements."

"Mario Kart is almost exactly how you remember it, but what tweaks have been made are generally positive," Biessener continues. "Powerslide-boosting (blue sparking, in the vernacular) is now dependent on the degree of the slide instead of d-pad gymnastics, meaning that boosting down straightaways is a thing of the past.

"The much-hyped glider and underwater segments are minimal and kind of neat, and it's cool that they adapted the retro stages to fit MK 7's gameplay systems. I'm less convinced that the return of coins has much effect on gameplay; I think they make you go faster? If nothing else, I dig having something else to aim for during the race."

Online play proves to be disappointing, however. "It seems to work as advertised, but I'm hardly inspired by racing against strangers with no persistent leagues or overall ranking structure to validate my progress," Biessener writes. "The ability to create communities of users with custom rules (no blue shells, for example) is neat, but the functionality is limited enough that I would rather just race with the default rule set. I see MK 7's online as much more of a distraction than a destination."

"Mario Kart 7 isn't 100 percent golden, nor is it going to make believers out of anyone who wrote off the series years ago," Biessener says. "Taken on the whole, though, this is one of the best entries in the series. As a fan, I'm thoroughly pleased."

GamePro's Kat Bailey rates Mario Kart 7 at 4 out of 5 stars. "Mario Kart has thrived all these years because its controls are tight; the tracks are well-designed, and it straddles the line between manic and frustrating," she explains. "Various competitors have tried to add their own take to the kart racing genre over the years, but Mario Kart remains the original and the best."

Bailey finds that the new underwater and hang gliding sequences don't add much to the experience. "I can only think of one instance in which the glider really opens up a previously inaccessible part of a track, and even then it's only to grab power-ups," Bailey recalls. "I had kind of hoped that it would be used to create sprawling tracks that offered multiple options depending on the kart customization, but that appears to have been a pipe dream. As it is, the new add-ons feel relatively superfluous."

"Customization isn't totally out the window though," Bailey notes. "As always, the wide variety of karts and characters cater to any number of individual styles; and I like being able to choose between wheels that perform well on pavement versus those that are superior off-road."

Bailey warns that the game does a poor job of tracking player progress. "Why doesn't Mario Kart 7 have a more robust player hub?" she asks. "A few stats can be found in the Mario Kart Channel, but it lacks what I consider essential information, such as how many coins I need to collect before I receive my next new kart or part. I would love it if the next Mario Kart took a page from Super Smash Bros. and went crazy with stats and trophies. All the more reason to keep playing after finishing all of the tracks and collecting my karts."

"I think it's fair to say that Mario Kart 7 fulfills the majority of its objectives and remains the best kart racer on the market today, even if it doesn't go quite as far as I would like in exploiting its new features," Bailey concludes. "As Sega, Nicktoons, and everyone else will tell you, that's no mean feat, even with the market being as shallow as it is. As always, Nintendo just happens to make it look easy."

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