Monday, February 27, 2012

Matt's Top Five Favorite Mario Kart 7 Tracks

When we first started this blog, I kicked things off with my list of the ten best Mario Kart tracks in my opinion. In many ways, it was to celebrate not only my love for the series but the then upcoming 7th installment, Mario Kart 7. Well, Mario Kart 7 came out in December and I’ve had plenty of time to play it so I figured I’d go back and list off the tracks I think are the absolute best in Mario Kart 7. 

Sure would be nice if Waluigi was in this game.
Of course, when I say “absolute best,” I mean of the new tracks. While Mario Kart 7 easily has the best selection of retro courses in any Mario Kart yet, it’s unfair to compare the likes of Waluigi Pinball and Koopa Cape, already great tracks that were on my original list, to the new tracks I want to talk about. Also, I’m only going to be listing off five. Any more than that and I’d be listening almost all the new tracks all together! One last thing, and this should go without saying, no Battle mode tracks. I know they barely count to begin with but I just feel the need to remind you that they're not going to be included. Even if Honeybee House is kind of cool.

5. Rock Rock Mountain
Not sure if physically possible...
When it came down to it, I had to decide whether I liked DK Jungle or Rock Rock Mountain better for my number five slot. While DK Jungle has better atmosphere, being based on Donkey Kong Country Returns and all that, but I ultimately gave it to Rock Rock Mountain simply based on track design. Rock Rock Mountain is just a very fun track. From the very beginning where you’re racing through caves and avoiding bats, to the gliding sections where you can either go over or under a fallen tree and of course, the main attraction, the giant slope at the end. It’s almost as if you’re driving straight up vertically while avoiding rocks. Something like that has never been done in a Mario Kart game and it’s just a lot of fun to play. Then, to top it off, you pass the finish line with another gliding section, allowing you to take a path you couldn’t on the first lap. 

4. Shy Guy Bazaar

Where they cut off your ear if they don't like your face.
Much like DK Jungle, Shy Guy Bazaar is all about the atmosphere. The track takes place in a desert marketplace, almost Arabic. It reminds me a lot of Subcon from Super Mario Bros. 2, or Doki Doki Panic in Japan, which is likely while it’s Shy Guy’s home course. In fact, there are the vases you could warp down in Super Mario Bros. 2 located near the end. But atmosphere isn’t the only great thing about the track, it’s also a blast to play on, offering perhaps the most paths in any of the tracks in the game. When you first reach the marketplace, you can either stay on the ground, go above the stands on the roofs or even take an enclosed path filled with coins. Even further down the track, there’s another split path that I’m not sure why it’s even there but it’s nice to have options. Top it off with a gliding section complete with Shy Guy’s on magic carpets and in the end you have one great racecourse. 

3. Music Park

Better than the entirety of Wii Music!
Music Park is sort of this game’s Waluigi Pinball. It’s a concept that comes out of nowhere but ultimately works in the game’s favor. As you’ve likely guessed, it’s based entirely around music that means racing on top of pianos and xylophones, bouncing off of drums and high-hats and avoiding incredibly happy, giant music notes. It’s a fantastic looking track and a lot of fun to play on. I love that every time you cross over the piano or bounce on the drums, you hear music coming from them. It adds a lot of charm to an already charming course. I also love the Piranha Plants located in one of the tunnels who are bobbing their heads up and down to the rhythm, way to go above and beyond, Nintendo. But my favorite part is definitely the smiling, giant music notes. What can I say? I’m a sucker for cute, living objects. They bounce from place to place and make the ground shake and if you pull a trick off at the right time, you can get a quick boost from it. Music Park is a highly original track with a lot of charm and a lot of fun.

2. Wario Shipyard

This has so much to do with Wario!
Nintendo has a habit of naming tracks after characters that have nothing to do with those characters. I still to do this day will never understand why Donkey Kong has not one but two snow tracks named after him. They continued this tradition with Wario Shipyard, a mostly underwater track based on sunken pirate ships. What does it have to do with Wario? Nothing. Does that matter? No, because it’s beyond awesome. Wario Shipyard perfectly shows off why the addition of being able to race underwater should exist and opens the door to all kinds of interesting track designs. Switching back and forth between underwater and out of water makes the track very unique, even compared to every other track in the game. The pirate theme goes a long way, too. Avoiding swinging anchors and being able to glide over masts to receive coins is very cool to look at and offers up some minor strategy when working through the course. There’s also a section with Warp Pipes that blow air and try to knock you off the stage. It tends to work on me a lot. Wario Shipyard is an expertly designed track and would likely have been in my top ten had the game been out by then.

1. Piranha Plant Slide

Sure, Mario can breathe underwater when he's racing.
Here’s a track that would definitely be in my top ten. Piranha Plant Slide is this game’s equivalent of Koopa Cape, which is also in this game but unfortunately gimped, in that there’s a lot of water, a lot of speed and a lot of fun. It starts outside with a retro themed area based on the original Super Mario Bros. Seriously, even the bushes are just recolored clouds. Then, you make your way underwater and come up underground where a rushing current of water, similar to the river in Koopa Cape, takes you along the track at high speeds. There’s some jumps along the way, places to pick up some extra coins and Piranha Plants and Gloombas to avoid. Then, you take a pipe underwater and end up in a place with a bunch of pipes that randomly blow air, one of which even takes you to a higher part of the stage which is good for avoiding a very pesky Piranha Plant near the end. Then, you glide out of the water, pass a few waterfalls and go through an 8-bit brick castle. Make your way around a final corner (or take a cleverly hidden shortcut) avoiding both real and cardboard Goombas and there you have Piranha Plant Slide. I just love the 8-bit design of the outside, rush of the current in the inside, the fact that there’s Gloombas, the use of pipes in the underwater sections to reach shortcuts, the cardboard bushes and Goombas, it’s a fantastic track. One of my all-time favorites and certainly the best in this game.

When it comes to Mario Kart 7, I honestly can’t point to any tracks that I straight up don’t like. Sure, the one lap tracks are sort of lame in concept but the designs make them fun to race on and even Maka Wuhu with it’s terrible glitch is fun to play on. While not all of them knock it out of the park (I’m talkin’ to you, Neo Bowser City and Rosalina’s Ice World), I wouldn’t say any of them are bad. But these are just my picks, let me know how you feel in the comments!

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