Fun but a little bareboned.
Alright, I always believe that comparing a handheld game to a console is a bit of a daft move since the handheld version is probably most of the time going to be inferior to the console games so any comparisons between Mario Kart WII and Mario Kart 7 aren't going to be here, instead I'm going to compare MK7 to Mario Kart DS. Yep, Mario Kart DS, it was a great game, considered one of the best in the series and since both MKDS and MK7 are on handhelds I think it would make more sense to compare these to instead of a handheld vs console moment.
Graphically Mario Kart 7 is wonderful to look at, the game leaks out bright, colourful tracks and it's rather pleasing to the eye, much like all of the other Mario Kart games, the 3D effect that the game has is perfect, since the game is a racing game it feels like that stuff is wizzing past your face.
As far as gameplay goes it's basically much similar to that of Mario Kart DS, drive around the course, avoid hazards and traps thrown out by your foes and come first place, get gold on all cups, unlock characters, etc. But in order to spice things up a notch there's a bit of customization to be had with this game. You can pick what body, wheels and parachute your kart use, all of which can effect your speed, weight, handling all that crap. The customisation is very barebones and only allows you to pick from three options to change around, I wouldn't recommend this game if you're looking for something like Juiced or some other game that allows to get into the really deep stuff of customising your car.
There are a total of 8 cups in Mario Kart 7, 4 of which contain 4 original tracks each and the other 4 cups that contain tracks from past games and honestly, some of these tracks are great but at the same time I also felt a little disappointed with them. The tracks in Mario Kart DS were absolutely amazing and two of my favourite tracks from that game make their way to Mario Kart 7 which I think is great but really I felt like a bit of the original tracks for Mario Kart 7 to be a bit lacking, not great, not bad, just good at best, but with that in mind I will say that Rainbow Road in Mario Kart 7 is probably one of the best ones in the entire franchise.
There is also the standard 50cc (Easy) 100cc (Medium) 150cc (Hard) Mirror (Enraging) now with 50cc and 100cc I got through these without a problem, got 3 star ranks on all the cups on them two difficulties but 150cc gave me the most trouble and Mirror cup is still something I'm trying to do but keep screwing up. When you finish a cup you're given a star rank which basically tells you how well you did, 1 star obviously means you did **** 2 stars you did okay and 3 stars is great, highest one you can get. Now, no one isn't really sure how ranks are worked out but for the most part just doing really well, going fast, getting 1st on all tracks and avoiding obstacles prove to be the most obvious and best ways to do it, and in 150cc and Mirror since the AI in the game is so brutal you'll find yourself doing well only to get screwed over HARD, I've had to restart on entire cups several times on 150cc and Mirror because I knew I wouldn't get a 3 star rank cuz of how screwed over I got. So yes, your typical Mario Kart frustrations are here and as far as I'm aware of you don't get anything from getting 3 star ranks on all the cups and difficulties apart from 3 stars beside your name other then that nothing! Unlike with Mario Kart DS where you could spam drift boosts Mario Kart 7's drifting works differently. When you're drifting and you pressing in the direction where you want to turn you generate boost, from blue to red being the max, depending on how tight you turn determines how fast you'll pump out a max drift before you let go of the drift to unleash the boost. In a way, this was done to try counter the amount of spam you could do with just drift boosting throughout of the tracks since it was so easy to do in Mario Kart DS and I welcome this change.
There is also a new gliding mechanic thrown into the mix, if you drive over a blue boost pad your kart will take out it's glider and you'll be able to glide throughout the track, as far as you can get it to actually go, this is a nice idea and can be used in shorts and getting the edge over your foes in terms of speed Aside from the Race Modes Mario Kart 7 actually feels incredibly bareboned compared to that of Mario Kart DS, MKDS had a mission mode which was a blast to play but in Mario Kart 7 all you really have is racing, coin battle, ballon battle and time attack, Mario Kart DS had more features, even a create your own emblem feature which was a neat little feature and in Mario Kart 7 you don't even have a options menu to work with, NONE at all and that to me is just dumb.
The online in Mario Kart 7 is much improved from Mario Kart DS, instead of racing against 3 other people you now go up against 7, or less depending on how many connect but 8 is the maximum amount, luckily the AI doesn't take up spots that were not taken so it's only you against other human players without the AI pulling off wrong timed usage of items. You also have a point system, depending on what position you come in after a race you get a certain amount of points, kinda like in Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition or other fighting games, the more points you have, the more you've played or you're just better. Online races are an absolute blast can be really frantic if everyone is up and close each other, trying to take each other down, now in online mode I don't get frustrated as I do in offline mode against the bots because with them I was trying to get a 3 star ranking, but in online it's really just for fun and points don't really mean nothing to me, and since all players gain some points anyway no one really ever loses, you still get rewarded in the end, which is nice. Sadly, there appears to be a bit of a issue with leavers and people who just 'rage quit' when someone leaves a match as far as I'm aware there isn't any punishment apart from losing points which again isn't a huge deal and there was a moment where a player who was in last place randomly spotted his kart and didn't move, at all meaning I think that everyone was forced to sit and watch some guy just sat there in his kart doing nothing.
I kinda wish there was some kind of punishment feature added into the game, like not gaining points, not being able to join a match for a certain amount of time but there appears to be none of the sort, and I honestly feel like if when everyone finishes the track apart from the person in last the race should just end there and the guy in last place should get a DNF, it sounds harsh but having players just stop their kart on the spot and force other players to sit there and watch until they leave is just dirty.
Now, in terms of performance Mario Kart 7 runs at a surprisingly smooth frame rate, and considering the amount of chaos that can happen on screen without in slow down is really impressive, especially for a game that looks good. The online also worked really smoothly for me a lot of the time, there were a few odd moments where if you hit someone with a red shell it took around a second after for them to stumble over but for the most part the online mode ran smoothly and I found a full room of players most of the time and when I didn't the slots would be quickly filled in for the next race.
So, Mario Kart 7 in all is a great arcade style racing game, it's quick and frantic fun that admittedly does feel a bit barebones in terms of content and with a few meh tracks, but with strong online and great gameplay this is easily one of the best games on the 3DS and I highly recommend you pick up a copy of the game.
Solid, fun racing.
A good selection of tracks and good tracks from the past.
Looks visually impressive and runs smoothly.
Great online fun.
Ability to customize kart is a nice touch.
AI can put up a intense challenge.
No Mission Mode.
Some meh tracks.
Lack of punishment for leavers in online.
Overall feels kind of bareboned.
AI's terrible timings with the usage of items.
Final Verdict - 8.0