Something a bit different for this week! We are going back to the last two main Mario Kart games, and not only have I reviewed them, but I have compared them side-by-side. The games are compared on Gameplay, Visuals, Audio and Longevity. This should be an interesting one!
Also, yes, MK7 is from the current generation. So it’s a half-Temple of Time this week, I suppose!
Mario Kart 7
In the latest edition to the Mario Kart series, the gameplay is as smooth as normal. The two main additions to the actual gameplay are the much-advertised flying and underwater sections. These happen automatically at certain points of the track, and add more variety and tactical depth (underwater depth, huh? Huh? I’m sorry.) to the races. Gliding takes some practice to make sure you go as fast as possible – it all depends on how you direct the Circle Pad. Underwater racing, however, lacks the same level of technique and is quite similar to normal racing – except the karts handle slightly differently; they are as “floaty” as you would expect.
Coins also return in Mario Kart 7, making their first appearance since the original Super Mario Kart. You can have a total of ten coins at any one time, and each extra coin you have gives you a speed boost – so you want to have the maximum ten coins as often as possible. Being hit by items or certain obstacles makes you lose some coins, so be wary. Coins have another purpose, though – collecting significant totals of coins will unlock new parts to customize you kart with (more on this in a bit). The gaps between totals become larger and larger as you play, but this gives you a reason to keep playing – you will want to get all the parts for your kart.
As I just mentioned, karts are now customizable. Instead of many different karts to choose from, you have three parts of the kart to customize; these three parts are the main chassis (the “body” or shape of the kart), the wheels, and the glider you use. Each part has different attributes, so making your kart isn’t just about making it look good – it can really affect your race.
The single player is solid, though local and online multiplayer are probably the modes you will be using most. The single player is easy to progress through, but getting three stars on all cups, to make yourself look good on the multiplayer modes, will take some time. Local multiplayer remains your standard Mario Kart local multiplayer, but the removal of long leagues, like the up-to-32 race leagues on Mario Kart DS, is unfortunate – these were great fun on Mario Kart DS. Mario Kart 7 can only do 4 race leagues.
The online mode is the best online in any Mario Kart yet, taking that title away from Mario Kart Wii. While less players can participate in each race, the new communities really improve the online – being able to create your own leagues (again only 4 races, disappointing) is a great addition as you can customize parts of the races e.g. what items can be used. Customizable races are also present in local multiplayer.
The controls for Mario Kart 7 are very similar to the proven Mario Kart DS controls, except the circle pad is used over the D-Pad for steering, which increases the precision at which you can drive. There is also a first-person gyroscope mode, which lets you control the kart by turning the 3DS – while this is something that sounds great, it is a novelty and you will find more precision using the standard controls.
Mario Kart Wii
The Wii’s version of Mario Kart plays just as smooth as the 3DS version. But with twelve players instead of eight in Mario Kart Wii, the races can get quite hectic. I have experienced races were you go from last to first in half a lap, or the other way round. This can make for infuriating gameplay, and the game does feel less balanced – whether this can be more fun, due to escalated emotions, is up for debate. When you can control a race perfectly only to get Blue Shelled, Lightning Cloud-ed, and Red Shelled to last place, it feels a little extreme. This makes parts of the single-player mode very difficult – the AI does seem to be rather harsh. You won’t be able to three-star all the cups in one go, that’s for sure (or if you do, then you are probably a very lucky person!).
When it comes to the online mode, however, it feels a lot better – with the annoying AI gone, the race feels a bit fairer and the chaos can make the races hilarious – especially in splitscreen. The many karts and characters to unlock add length to the game and put Mario Kart 7’s unlockable list in the shade. Even obscure characters such as Boo (seriously, how does he even drive a kart) and Funky Kong (yes, Funky Kong) are included – there is someone for everyone. You unlock karts and characters through more challenging means than Mario Kart 7 – beating time trial times, beating cups, even having save games of other Nintendo games in your Wii’s memory! Compared to the standard beat-the-cups and collect-more-coins methods of Mario Kart 7, the unlockable system is much more challenging and encourages you to explore and master every game mode. It feels more like the Super Smash Bros. unlockable system.
There are many control options for Mario Kart Wii, and I would say the Gamecube controller is the best one for people playing competitively. If you want to have fun, however, using the infamous Wii Wheel is great fun. It doesn’t feel too gimmicky and you can still do very well using the Wii Wheel – so try it out!
Finally, a word on the addition of bikes in Mario Kart Wii. Many were afraid they would ruin it, but they simply add another option to players. Being able to wheelie on the straights for added speed (wheelies can also enable you to avoid the full damage of POW Blocks) is great, but bikes cannot produce orange sparks while drifting – only blue sparks, which give a lesser boost. This means karts, which can create orange sparks, are superior in this respect. Really, your choice of kart or bike is down to personal style.
Winner: Mario Kart 7
Mario Kart 7
The graphics of Mario Kart 7 are both very similar, and very different, to the graphics of Mario Kart Wii. While the art styles of the two games make them very identifiable as related games, Mario Kart 7 also has 3D on its side as a 3DS game. The 3D is implemented well – it isn’t an essential part of the game (the game looks great in 2D), but the subtle additions like ink splatter being more prominent and the depth of the screen helping you judge gliding better really add to the experience. After a while, you won’t even notice the 3D – it is implemented so seamlessly that you start to find 2D abnormal!
In terms of graphical quality, the graphics are on a par with Mario Kart Wii. The Wii version of Mario Kart Wii has smoother curves and is probably slightly more polished – but this is only when you start to inspect closely.
The bright colours of the characters, karts and tracks make the game more enjoyable and uplifting to play – this is a feature of most Mario Kart games and adds to the experience.
Mario Kart Wii
The graphics of this game are some of the best on Wii in terms of execution. The game consistently plays smoothly, even online, where lag is very rare. The game looks crisp in motion, and this is the thing that puts it slightly above Mario Kart 7 in terms of graphics. The lighting and added level of detail just makes it appear slightly better in motion.
The animation is just slightly better, too. More things are active in the background, giving you more to admire while driving around the tracks. Spectators, balloons, and more just seem more… alive. The larger screen a home console brings may also be a part of this – and you have to remember how amazing the Toad balloon of Mario Kart 7’s Toad Circuit is.
Winner: Mario Kart Wii
Mario Kart 7
Mario Kart, in general, isn’t known for epic and emotional soundtracks. The soundtracks are, however, always upbeat and joyful. They reflect the spirit of the game, and while they won’t quite go down as the best songs ever for me, they do add to the quality of the game. The normal sound effects, when you get hit by an item, hit someone with an item, etc. are still present and add to the familiarity of a Mario Kart game.
Mario Kart Wii
There isn’t much difference in the sound quality between these two Mario Kart games – what is said above applies to this game as well.
Mario Kart 7
This game can last you for ages – as long as you are enjoying it, there is something to play that gives you a reward. To begin with you have the single player cups and time trials, before you get into the local and online multiplayer that never ends – your online rating, VR, is virtually limitless and is an accurate representation of the time you have put into the game and the skill you have (winning and losing give gains and losses to your VR, depending on the extent of the win/loss). Also, the communities system previously mentioned in this review adds to the length, depth and quality of the online mode.
Add to this the aforementioned quest to collect coins until you own all the parts for customizing you kart, and you have a game that can last you for years – you will probably only stop when Mario Kart U (or whatever it’ll be called) comes out.
Mario Kart Wii
The online in Mario Kart Wii also has a VR system that will keep you going in the same way as Mario Kart 7’s VR system does. As in Mario Kart 7, you are going to struggle if you are trying to find a limit to how high the VR can go!
While the Wii version of Mario Kart lacks the coin-collecting feature to unlock parts for your kart, it does have the extra replayability given by the more challenging methods of unlocking characters, karts and tracks that are mentioned earlier in this review. The larger list of unlockables in Mario Kart Wii is also an advantage over Mario Kart 7.
Winner: Mario Kart 7
Both of these Mario Kart games will be remembered as strong entries into the franchise – however, in my opinion, neither manages to beat the near-perfect Mario Kart DS, my personal favourite. Nevertheless, they are both extremely high quality games and I must choose between them!
Taking everything into account, the superior graphics of Mario Kart Wii aren’t enough to overcome the areas where Mario Kart 7 is better: more balanced gameplay, superior online mode, and longer game life. Mario Kart Wii is still a great game, which you need to own if you are a fan of Mario Kart (which should be most of you!), but Mario Kart 7, the latest addition to the franchise, is a better all-round Mario Kart game in my opinion.