There’s no gentle way to say it, so I’ll just say it.

I absolutely hated Mario Kart Wii.

Sure, it had some interesting tracks, and the Wii Wheel was amusing, as you would want motion control in a game like this, but I couldn’t not fathom the dishonest difficulty. There was nothing worse than being in first place, only to be blue-shelled into oblivion into last place, as Toad merrily zipped past you. The “punishment” doled out for skilled players was unbalanced, unreasonable and frustrating, even against the computer, of all things. It was one blue shell too many that made me set down my controller to walk away and never look back.

Sure the blue shells are in the 3DS version, but they don’t seem to enrage me as much.

Mario Kart 7, perhaps the least inspired of the named titles in the franchise, is actually good fun, and a throwback to more of the regular DS version (my favorite in the series). There’s a little bit of difficulty wonk, but at least I feel like I have a chance to recover, and in some cases, can. That’s all I really asked for.

The 3D is a nice effect in the title. Nothing outrageous, but nice enough to add depth, though the new Rainbow Road was a real “Wow” level for me. From magazine/online previews, I wasn’t fully impressed with the graphics, but the game looks much better in person and in motion. The music is pleasant and inoffensive. The older fare stuck out to me more, however.

The game itself controls really well. The analog pad works very well for turning, and the whole game feels responsive and fun. When falling off a cliff, it feels more like a bad driving choice, than some questionable control flaw. The real fun comes from the gliding/diving mechanics, which encourages players to explore possible new paths and shortcuts. Kart customization is also an added benefit, as the new upgrades can make the difference in a race.

There are also a good handful of retro themed levels (not the company, though they did work on the game as well) that add this new exploration element, and the levels that they chose were among some of my old favorites, like Luigi’s Mansion and Waluigi’s Pinball. Amazing, but true, the game also offers a robust online mechanic, from finding other racers to StreetPass.

For a starved system during its first few months, the 3DS is now overflowing with quality titles, and this is one of them. And best of all, the more agreeable difficulty renders my urges to smash my TV, then punch someone in the face from AI cheating into non-existent territory.

I’m glad that Nintendo finally restored the franchise to form. I don’t mind losing, but I also don’t want to be punished for having a vague idea of how to play the game beforehand.

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Filed under: 3ds gamingmario kartpost-script