Mario Kart is a series that has been with me since I was in the single digits. While Mario Kart 7 isn’t my favorite of the series (64 still reigns as king), it’s still an incredible game with plenty to offer. Mario Kart has made several innovative decisions throughout its run. Double Dash was the first big change they made to the series by adding a swappable passenger. Mario Kart Wii was a major change if you decided to use the wiimote. Of course, that was the Wii’s doing, not Mario Kart. If you opt to use a Gamecube controller, the only variation to the game is the ability to do some air tricks.
The biggest alteration to the series was added by Mario Kart 7. That would be the ability to glide and go under water. Adding these features changed the flow of the game, especially hang-gliding. Soaring through the air, using all three dimensions is a breath of fresh air to the series. Going under water is pretty neat, but adds very little to the gameplay. It is nice not being penalized for driving too deep (I’m looking at you, Koopa Troopa Beach).
Another huge addition to the series, is the option to go into first-person and use the 3DS’ gyroscope. I generally opted out of it, though. I feel that Mario Kart is a series where you should constantly be aware of your surroundings. But if you’re a fan of first-person and gyroscopes, it’s fairly smooth if you’re used to using such features. I’d suggest turning off the 3D function, so you don’t go cross-eyed trying to connect the split images. The ability to do jump tricks was carried over from Mario Kart Wii. This gives you a small boost when you land. This is a feature I enjoy. Admittedly, it’s not as fun in 7 as in Wii, where the tricks can be done by jerking the Wii Remote.
Coins make a return to the series, increasing the top speed of your kart and giving you kart pieces for collecting them. It’s a nice homage to Super Mario Kart, and adds a little extra dash of challenge. Despite all these changes, Mario Kart 7 still plays virtually the same as its predecessors. That’s a good thing! Don’t fix what ain’t broken. Add to it. I’d say this is something that the game does quite well. The controls remain tight, the riding is smooth and dukin’ it out with your fellow racers is tense.
Mario Kart 7 looks good as far as Mario Kart games go. It’s a little pixelated in comparison to its predecessor (Wii), but it’s using a weaker graphics card. Besides, Nintendo has never been one to lean towards graphics. The 3D feature adds a nice texture to the background, but like most 3DS game, I prefer to play without it.
There are 16 playable characters from the Nintendo Characters and the ability to play as your Mii, making it a total of 17. This is less than the Wii’s 25, but still a strong number. Where Mario Kart 7 stands ahead of its predecessors is the fact that you can customize your kart, collecting new pieces by collecting coins. There are 1,190 combinations you can build. No, I haven’t tried them all and God bless you if you have.
Level design as always been one of Mario Kart’s strong points. It’s something that has always made the series stand out to me in the ways of kart racers. You get a nice 32 tracks to tread on. You get to see 16 new tracks in the four main cups and 16 returning tracks in their 4 retro cups. It’s always nice to play on some of the oldies for nostalgia, but I prefer playing the new tracks. I can always go to my collection and get the full experience. But if this is your first, you might be just as impressed with the old tracks.
Overall, Mario Kart 7 focuses heavily on level design and gameplay over graphics. It’s very polished, which is something Nintendo strives to do with every release. Each game builds upon the last. There are plenty of ways to keep yourself occupied with this title; whether it be going through the Grand Prix, Balloon Battling (something I wish they’d build upon), Coin Running or getting all the unlockables.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
Being a fan of kart racers, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed caught my eye when I saw it was coming to the PS Vita. I picked it up and was happy with the results. Having never played the first, I wasn’t sure what to expect. If they are in the same vain, then I’d say the first is worth a twirl.
Transformed is the second in the series, and builds upon its predecessor by giving you the ability to transform your kart. The three modes are car, boat and plane; each of which offer a unique experience. Car mode handles the same as before, and it feels quite nice. It’s easy to get comfortable with the simple control scheme and the smooth riding. Going into boat mode, I feel, still needs a bit of work. It’s pretty tough navigated the seas. One cool function is being able to ramp off waves and do some sweet tricks, but I more often found myself getting pushed into a wall or something. Plane mode is a little faster, and can feel a little hectic at first, but it’s my favorite mode simply for the added dimension.
Sonic definitely shines as being one of the nicest looking kart racers out there, if not the nicest. Though, that might get thwarted a little when it gets translated to the technically inferior 3DS. As far as Vita games go, it stands with the best in graphics and programming. There weren’t any points where I felt that the game was too choppy or anything.
You get a whopping 25 playable characters, if you include the Mii on the Wii U and presumably the 3DS. Each character has five stats (speed, acceleration, handling, boost and all-star). Metal Sonic can even alter his stats depending on what style you choose. Many of Sega’s franchises are represented, including Super Monkey Ball, Jet Set Radio, and even Golden Axe!
All 21 tracks are easy on the eyes, offering gorgeous scenery and references to various Sega titles. I did feel, however, that the innovation could have been upped a little. After a while, all the levels seemed to blend, giving no new experience between races. The only tracks that stood out to me were the ones that changed after each lap, causing you to use your transform ability and see areas in a new light. That added a bit of excitement, as you weren’t sure what to expect.
Overall, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is a game that has a lot of flash and pizzazz. The levels may not have a lot of variation, but that is more than made up for by its great use of level changing, its great battle mode and its fast-paced riding.
Compare & Contrast
It’s tough to compare the two, being that they are so similar. There are differences that most core gamers will take into consideration, but the casual gamer will get virtually the same experience from either. I assume that’s what they were going for with Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. That being said, we can look at each game and breakdown what separates them.
This aspect is easy to compare. Sonic definitely takes the cake on this one. In 7‘s defense, it came out earlier, and they may be about equal when Sonic is ported to the 3DS. But, I still feel that Sonic‘s karts, characters and scenery are given much more detail and that should show regardless of what system it is played on.
Winner: Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
This one comes as more of an opinion. Huge Sega fans will get a kick out of the levels based off their games, and the same goes for Nintendo fans. As far as innovation goes, it’s arguable. Sonic makes some inspired moves by having their tracks change mid-race in order to implement using your kart as a boat or a plane. That being said, I still have to give it to Mario Kart. Each level really comes alive and stands on its own. Whereas, all of Sonic‘s levels are more-or-less cut from the same cloth.
Winner: Mario Kart 7
While Sonic offers more characters, Mario Kart 7 utilizes customization. As stated above, there are 1,190 variations of building your kart. Although, what hurts Mario Kart’s case, is the fact that the characters are restricted to solely Mario games. Sonic branches out a bit and offers a wide selection of game cameos. I wish Mario Kart would take a leaf out Smash Bros’ book in that regard. Of course, it is Mario Kart and not Nintendo Kart.
Winner: Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
Another that is a little tough to pick. This is where the two meet. Controls are a little different, but it essentially feels the same, at least to me. Mario Kart has a better selection of weapons, or at least a more unique selection. There’s a little more thought put into it, all of them coming from various Mario titles.
The best way I can break these down would be to go by the three forms your kart can take. Car is entirely the same for both games. Air tricks, boosts on the track, gathering items/weapons and drifting are all aspects that are shared. Going airborne is a little different, though. I feel you get better control in Sonic, where you are actually flying as opposed to gliding. The only thing that puts Mario Kart 7 ahead is the boating aspect. While going under water doesn’t add much for Mario Kart except for a change of scenery, riding on the water feels a little too clunky and awkward in Sonic.
Winner: Mario Kart 7
If you already own Mario Kart 7, I’d say you up your game selection this February and pick up Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. They are both worthy entries into the world of kart racing. If you don’t own it, and can only have one for whatever reason, I’d say Mario Kart 7 is the safe bet. Put Sonic on your wish list and pick up some Mario Kart. Now, I think that Sega has something good going and just need a little more time to adjust it. Mario Kart has been around the block. It has that “this ain’t my first rodeo” feel. It’s something that can only come with years of experience, trial and error.
Winner: Mario Kart 7