When it comes to one face being the father of all videogames, it’s a pretty unanimous opinion that that face belongs to the mustachioed plumber, Mario. Featured in countless games, he’s a prime example of a character Nintendo uses on a frequent basis, often in new versions of older ideas. The games are still fantastic, and Reggie promised us new twists during this year’s E3 2011 Nintendo Conference, citing Mario Kart as a specific example. We got a chance to take the game for a road test, so without further ado, let’s delve into now-3D world of a classic franchise.

One of the new features in Mario Kart is that you not only get to select your vehicle type, but wheel type as well. Larger, monster-truck style tires will certainly help you plow through the offroad, but you’ll face limited turning agility as consequence. On the flip side of that, equipping small tires will help you with urban road driving, but you’ll be massively slowed if you fall off the road.

For all of the land racing, the game felt entirely the same as Mario Kart for DS. Sure, there are lots of new courses featuring elements from games like Wii Sports Resort and Donkey Kong Country Returns. You’ll also be able to place your Mii in the game to face off against the cast of Mario Kart regulars. To be honest, it felt like you downloaded a DLC pack for the old Mario Kart – this doesn’t mean the gameplay was bad at all, but it certainly didn’t have the twist that Nintendo emphasize. The handling and AI performed admirably, crafting an exciting race as players switched positions and used items to give themselves an edge in banana-fledged combat. Then, of course, came the gliders.

Mario Kart 3DS Gliders

Gliding activates automatically in the appropriate areas, requiring you to use inverted analog stick controls to glide your character to a smooth landing. You can bring yourself down on the track quickly, or the daring can attempt to keep up in the air for as long as possible, maybe even taking a cliffside shortcut that you couldn’t attempt on land. If you’re pretty disappointed that this is the big new twist of the game, you’re probably not alone — it’s a nice little spark for Mario Kart 3D, but it’s certainly not a game-changing feature.

Likewise, you also transition to underwater racing scenes on some of the maps. It’s a really nice change of scenery which opens up a lot of mapping options, and little propellers replace your kart exhaust pipes as you go full-on Aquaman. Handling your kart underwater is only slightly different, and both casual and hardcore gamers should be able to master it within their first few tries.

The game will also support StreetPass, allowing up to 8 people to face off in multiplayer action locally or line. It’s the usual fun experience you expect in a Mario Kart game, which leaves us nothing shown for the unexpected. That said, it still comes highly recommended as one of the top titles we’d recommend you pick up for your 3DS this holiday season.

When it comes down to the facts, Reggie proclaimed that Nintendo had heard the voices who demanded the same IP with a new twist — but what we saw of the new 3DS version simply doesn’t offer any new twists. The gliding adds a nice 5-10 second section here and there, and going underwater is a nice map feature, but the rest of it is still the same Mario Kart we’ve been playing year after year. This doesn’t mean that Mario Kart 3DS is bad, it just means it’s not exactly new to us, either.

What do you think about Mario Kart 3DS? Would you buy a 3DS to play it?

Mario Kart 3DS will be available this holiday season, exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS.

Stay tuned to Game Rant for more news and updates as E3 2011 continues through the week.

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