The release of Mario Kart 7 is only weeks away, and one of its upcoming features is the ability to create online communities and tailor your karting enjoyment. While we were told about this inclusion we didn't get to see it action until now. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with a few people at Nintendo and a couple of other journalists to see just what we'll be able to do online with other fans of the series.
For starters, Mario Kart 7's online gameplay will feature everything you'd expect the game to include. There are Grand Prix race battles, and this time around, we got the chance to race around the game's Rainbow Road course. Expected spoiler alert: It's pretty freaking crazy. Our online experience had seven of us racing the Grand Prix and the performance didn't show any signs of slowdown. In fact, with a few of us in the same room, the sound of frustration was quickly heard when we unleashed a red shell on another player. While online will allow up to eight players to participate in a race, if you don't manage to have a race with seven other players, the rest of the field will be filled with AI racers.
We also had the opportunity to play around with two other online match types. Balloon Battles make its regular return, and this match type was as frantic and crazy as we expected. When playing online, you will play four races, and your combined total of the four matches will determine the overall winner. To keep everyone in the game, you're not eliminated entirely, even if you lose all three of your balloons. You'll incur a small penalty if you've collected other people's balloons, but you'll be able to restart with a fresh set and try to rack up as many of them before the timer runs out.
The other match type we played was Coin Runners. Similar to Balloon Battles, your goal is to collect as many coins scattered throughout each level and try to knock off your opponents to steal their coins. These matches were quite intense because there are only a limited number of coins available, so the necessity to collect as many as possible early on is important. Thankfully, on the maps we played, there were a few out-of-the-way spots with some coins, so if you can find those, they can really help you win the round.
For those wondering, there are six battle courses available. The three classic courses are Battle Course One from Super Circuit; Big Donut from Mario Kart 64; and Palm Shore from Mario Kart DS. The three new courses are Honeybee Hive, Sherbet Rink, and Wuhu Town.
We wouldn't have been able to play these specific match types if it weren't for Mario Kart 7's new online communities feature. This is exactly what you'd expect a community to be: the ability to create a group/room online that has people play a specific match type. As long as you've raced at least once online, you have the ability to create a community and share it with others. Creating rooms is extremely simple. You begin by selecting an icon for the group, name it, and then set up the parameters for your matches. Communities can be created with any of the features and fine-tuned to a great degree. Want to only have banana pick-ups? You'll be able to do so.
The options to create your communities are pretty wide open, but once you've decided on everything, those restrictions are set in stone. You won't be able to modify them afterward, but fret not: You're not restricted to the number of communities you can create.
In addition to not being restricted with the number you create, the number you join will be limitless. When the game is launched, there will be featured communities that Nintendo will showcase on regular basis, and when you use StreetPass, you'll be able to share your online community's ID so that others can join. While sharing a community will require a unique code, this is different from your 3DS friends code, so you won't have to worry about having people on both lists. If for any reason you wish to disband your community, you'll be able to do so as long as no one is using it at that time.
One of the reasons the Mario Kart series is loved by many is the fact that it does such a fantastic job with multiplayer, and this sentiment feels true here. Mario Kart 7 is shaping up quite nicely, and for fans of the series, its December 4 release on the Nintendo 3DS is fast approaching. Expect our full review shortly.