It looks like 7 is not always a lucky number, as I am for the first time actually disappointed with a Mario Kart game. But before I start rambling about what went wrong, I would like to first point out the positives.
I really liked the originality, design, visuals and layout of some of the tracks like Piranha Plant Slide, Rainbow Road, Shy Guy Bazaar, DK Jungle, Music Park, Bowser’s Castle and Wario’s Shipyard. The new Rainbow Road is definitely the best and most amazing Rainbow Road in the Mario Kart series as it reminded me of the Super Mario Galaxy franchise. The other tracks that I listed were definitely courses that made me smile, which makes me want to go back right now and race them again! The Battle Mode is tons of fun and the same as always (but no Block Fort. = ‘- ( ). The new cockpit racing system was definitely a change for Mario Kart, adding something that was already done in other racing games… Anyways, the music definitely stands out in this game making this installment of Mario Kart the most unique for its effort in music and remixes. You just might have to take a listen to the music for yourself. ;-) The new items such as the Tanooki Tail and the Fire Flower were well overdue, and the whole item selection is superb. There is a good number of racing courses (The retro courses being my favorite, of course!) to keep you occupied for a little while.
It was so hard trying to hold back on the negatives, and now I am about to blow. First of all, why on earth did the Wuhu Island courses come to Mario Kart, and why are there two? Mario and his gang were not even in Wii Sports Resort. Having two courses that was dedicated to Wii Sports Resort made the game feel like it was not Mario Kart at all, though you can unnecessarily race as your Mii. One Wuhu Island course would probably be enough for a Mii Course, but no more! Also, the two Wuhu Island courses and Rainbow Road did not need to be divided up into sections, as it would have been better to just stick with the traditional 3 laps around. Dividing up the courses into sections made me feel like it took a shorter time to get to the end of the race, which absolutely disgusted me.
Mario Kart 7 has had some strange names for courses as well, even Mario Kart 7 is a strange name by itself. Among the worst names was Neo Bowser City and Rosalina’s Ice World. I would have preferred Vanilla (World, Loop, Lake, Sea) more than the unoriginal name of Rosalina’s Ice World. A course dedicated towards Rosalina was not necessary. Neo Bowser City looks alright and designed ok, but where did this idea come from? The closest thing to Neo Bowser City was Neon Heights in Mario Party 7 (how ironic). Thing is, Neo Bowser City didn’t look like any city that Bowser would take over… it’s stupid.
The glider and the underwater racing did very little in the game play. While the ideas where cleverly integrated into some of the games courses, I felt like it was unnecessary. I don’t think the concepts of gliding and underwater submarine driving (without a scuba suit mind you) will come about in the next Mario Kart… and it better not!! I forgot to mention snaking… enough said about that!
The character selection is weak. Characters like Birdo, Bowser Jr., Diddy Kong, Dry Bones, King Boo, Toadette, and Waluigi's not in Mario Kart 7, so that is a letdown (Dry Bones especially). Characters like the Honey Queen (From Super Mario Galaxy), Lakitu, Metal Mario, Shy Guy, and Wiggler take these characters places it seems. Strange, am I right?
There could have been other ideas that could have made this a better Mario Kart. Though there were some courses that were filled with Mario flare, there could have been more original ideas. I feel like they could have pulled a course or four from the Paper Mario Franchise, the Mario VS. Donkey Kong Franchise, the Super Mario Galaxy Franchise (Better integrated than what was provided), and the Mario and Luigi Franchise. Examples: Sweet Sweet Galaxy, The Great Boggly Woods, Magnet Mania (Mario VS. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again!).
Despite my pet peeves on Mario Kart 7, there is still good content. The track design is pretty nice overall, which means that you’ll have decent races whether you are playing by yourself, online or with friends. If you are expecting originality in this game, don’t keep your hopes up too much. The differences and the negatives in Mario Kart 7 are too noticeable, and I think it really hurts this franchise. Mario Kart 7 is a good example of bad decisions, which makes Mario Kart 7 the black sheep of all Mario Karts. It still is a good game… but barely.
3.5/5 Stars. Review also here: http://www.giantbomb.com/mario-kart-7/61-31747/user-reviews/?review_id=21466
Edit: The score was changed because I wouldn't give a game like this 60%. 70% is more accurate.