E3 2011: Mario Kart 3DS
Players: 1 to 8 Player Game | Genre: Driving
Even if it wasn't shown briefly in video form last year, I think we all knew that a Mario Kart game would be coming for the 3DS. It still doesn't have an official title, but Nintendo uncovered some concrete details with its playable demo at this year's E3.
The main new feature is the kart customization. Before a race starts, you are able to customize the body, tires, and accessories of your kart. In the E3 demo, only one accessory was unlocked, the hang glider accessory. This allows your kart to glide to clear gaps or sudden drops in the track. There did seem to be many more accessories available, but Nintendo is not yet talking about what else we might see. Tires selection affects the way your kart handles on different road surfaces. For instance, some tires are very good on paved tracks, but don't work very well on dirt roads and off-road areas. There is a set of off road tires with the opposite set of characteristics. Hopefully this will affect how practical it is to take certain paths and shortcuts on some tracks, adding some strategy to the gameplay. The tracks we tried at E3 didn't really feature anything like this though. Presumably, your body choice affects the other standard characteristics of your kart, such as weight, acceleration, and top speed.
The racing seemed like standard Mario Kart. These new customizable parts could evolve the gameplay and add some strategy to the formula, but the tracks we played did not really show that off very much. If you don't like Mario Kart now, you're probably not going to care about this new 3DS entry. If you are a fan though, you might be pleased to know that the auto-power sliding from the Wii game is gone. It's more skill based again with the power sliding mechanics of Double Dash and Mario Kart DS. Mario Kart 3DS also brings back the coins which haven't been seen since the original SNES game. Grabbing coins increases your maximum speed, but you can lose coins when you take damage from items or other hazards.
The track in the E3 demo was wide and fairly easy to navigate. It wasn't all that interesting, but it did feature several jumps to show off the hang glider ability. The hang glider pops out automatically when it's needed. It's not something you control. However, in the air, you can steer your kart to try to hit the optimal landing position for when your tires do hit the ground.
The trailer for the game showed off a variety of new and remade tracks. It also showed that some tracks feature under water portions. It seems that the karts will be a bit floaty underwater. In the trailer, you can see karts losing touch with the ground or starting to tilt as they take sharp turns.
The items available in the demo were all standard Mario Kart items: banana peels, mushrooms, shells, etc. The demo didn't feature any new items, and no, I don't know if the dreaded blue shell is in the game or not.
Nintendo states that the game supports SpotPass, StreetPass, local multiplayer, and online multiplayer, but they did not provide any details for these modes besides the player count. The game can support up to eight players. The E3 demo only featured a single player race against AI characters. Hopefully, robust online battle and race modes are part of the package. Nintendo plans to release Mario Kart 3DS by the holiday season of this year.