The minute you start playing Mario Kart 7 (the new title seems to forget the two arcade games existed) you'll be amazed at how smoothly it runs. The game speeds along at a perfect 60 frames per second in both 2D and 3D modes, and feels like one of the slickest Mario Kart games ever because of it.
The Circle Pad makes handling nice and accurate, and the L and R buttons are used for firing weapons and hopping respectively, the latter handy for going into powerslides.
No Snaking in Mario Kart 7
Speaking of powerslides, it feels different depending on the type of wheels you use. They all make use of the Mario Kart Wii technique (when you hold a slide for a certain length of time a speed boost becomes available).
This means snaking - the cheap tactic that was used to ruin the online multiplayer for many people in Mario Kart DS - definitely won't be in Mario Kart 7.
We've told you before about the different customisation options available in the game, but it's surprising just how much of an effect they have on your kart's handling.
While small wheels make your kart slower off-road and harder to control underwater, they also reduce its weight, letting you float longer in mid-air during the new gliding sections.
Conversely, if you kit your kart out with big off-road wheels their weight means you won't be able to glide so far, but at the same time the greater weight makes it far faster and more stable when driving under the water.
This means you'll have to think carefully about how you approach each race, since many tracks have diversions that let you head off the main track and plunge underwater or launch into the air.
One track we played featured a bridge with water underneath it. If you've got small wheels you'll want to make sure you don't fall off the bridge, because it's tricky getting through the water. If you've got big wheels, however, it might be a better option to ignore the bridge altogether and drive straight into the drink, which you can get through relatively easily and hit the speed boost waiting at the end of the water.
Similarly, objects found at the side of the road can sometimes fling you into the air, giving those with smaller wheels a chance to take shortcuts by using their additional airtime to glide over parts of the track.
Not that you'll be safe in the air, of course. We can confirm that red shells still work while you're gliding, so if you want to pick off someone flying ahead of you then you can smack them out of the sky with ol' red and send them tumbling down to the road below. Likewise, shells also work underwater, though they travel more slowly, so you'll need to take that into account.
There's no doubt that Mario Kart 7 will be the big Nintendo game this Christmas. And even with a few months to go before its release, it already feels like it will be one of the best games of the series. It's time to start saving those gold coins.