Top positive review
402 people found this helpful
Right on track
on November 15, 2005
It seems just like yesterday when the original Mario Kart made its debut on the SNES in 1992. The game was a hit back then, and it isn't difficult to understand why. A racing game that emphasizes on sabotaging your opponents with weapons like banana skins, flying shells and lightning bolts was almost unheard of then, and to do so with your favorite Nintendo characters was, quite simply, pure bliss. Not surprisingly, the game captured the hearts of many gamers then.
Fast forward to the year 2005. Fans of the series have seen a few sequels through the years, but the DS version of Mario Kart was greeted with much more anticipation than its predecessors. The main reason, obviously, is the game's inclusion of integrated online play. For the first time in Mario Kart's history, gamers can now take on players from all over the world as long as they're using a wireless router that is supported by Nintendo. The game also allows up to eight players to multiplay in close proximity with only one copy of the cartridge, which essentially means that a gamer who decides not to buy the game can still perform a download play and race against a friend who owns a cartridge.
Of course, to enjoy the other features in Mario Kart DS, you'll still have to purchase the game, especially when you're interested in taking on the single-player campaign. As with previous instalments, Mario Kart DS has a grand prix mode, which comprises of four races each that are span across eight different competitions. This means a total of 32 tracks for your racing pleasure. 16 of these tracks are brand new, but the rest consists of classic ones from previous renditions of Mario Kart. These include the Moo Moo Farm from N64, Peach Circuit from the GBA and even the original Mario Circuit from the SNES. These will no doubt bring much joy for Mario Kart fans.
Yet, even in the presence of the classic tracks, the newer tracks do not pale in comparison. The innovative minds at Nintendo have once again developed a series of circuits that are visually stunning, mildly challenging and always entertaining. You'll get to race through a pinball machine, a clock and even an airship fortress! The combination of both old and new tracks is indeed a masterstroke that allows you to engage new challenges, as well as indulge in some nostalgia.
Mario Kart DS also has a mission mode that requires you to perform a series of tasks within a certain time limit. These include collecting a designated number of coins, passing through a series of numbered gates in sequence, and even hitting specified enemies with specified weapons. The missions are divided into "worlds", and each world various stages. Completing all stages in a world will unlock a "boss fight", which could involve winning in a race against the boss, or even to knock him out from a platform. Defeating a boss unlocks the next world, up to a maximum of six worlds and a total of 54 missions. Obviously, the missions get tougher as the game progresses, but they aren't exactly impossible to complete. Gamers who enjoy more than merely racing should find the mission mode in Mario Kart DS a fun and captivating feature.
The other modes in the single player campaign include a VS challenge and a battle mode. The VS challenge basically pits you against seven CPU-controlled racers in a never-ending series of races. This is the perfect training ground for learning the techniques of the game. The battle mode consists of a balloon battle and a shine runners game. The balloon battle requires you to burst the balloons of your opponents, while the shine runners game requires you grab as many shines as possible. These two mini-games are quite forgettable when played alone, so it's recommended that you engage them with a friend or two. Bursting balloons has never been so much fun.
A Mario Kart game is never complete without an array of usable weapons against your fellow racers. In Mario Kart DS, the arsenal gets even better with the inclusion of some new items. One of these new weapons is the Bob-omb, which causes an explosion. If used accurately, the Bob-omb's impact on an opponent is tremendous, as it drastically slows down his or her progress. The Bullet Bill is another new item that is extremely cool. Using it will turn you into a flying bullet. You'll find yourself bursting forward with much speed, knocking over anyone who dares stand in your way, and most importantly, covering a lot of ground. The Blooper, one of Mario's nastiest enemies, is the third new addition. It'll squirt ink onto your opponent's windscreen, causing a temporary loss of vision. The range of old and new items more than complement each other, and you'll no doubt find great usage with them as you progress.
The controls of Mario Kart DS are extremely simple, making it a game that anyone could pick up and play without much hassle. Of course, learning more techniques are useful when you intend to go online for some real challenge, and the game does give you a repertoire of skills to master. One of them is turbo drifting, which requires you to drift, and then quickly press the left and right button on your D-pad to cause your tires to catch fire. Releasing the drift immediately after that will result in a temporary burst of speed. This technique is extremely useful in chasing a seemingly loss cause.
The real meat of the game, obviously, is the online feature. Once you get connected, you'll be able to search for players who're also online at the same time. It may take a while for you to get a full quota of four players, but the game works with one or two opponents as well. You'll have to race through a standard Grand Prix in an online game. You'll also get to vote on which track you want to race, so that you can at least gain an upper hand by (hopefully) getting a track that you're familiar with. It's also advisable for you to practise on the various tracks before proceeding, since you won't want to finish last all the time!
As mentioned earlier, you can also play with fellow friends with the use of only one cartridge, but the player who doesn't have a cartridge will, by default, be using Shy Guy as a character. The player only needs to turn on his DS when another player hosts the game, and he should be able to "download" the game into his DS for a quick race. As with online play, it takes a while for the connection to be established, but my experience with multiplaying has found no lag at all during the gameplay, which is definitely great. Beware, however, when you send a bolt of lightning towards your friend - regular attempts at this could possibly lead to a loss of friendship at the end of the races!
If you're a fan of Nintendo-style graphics, Mario Kart DS will not disappoint you. The game retains the usual awesome graphics from the past, and provides a great sense of details even for a supposedly "cartoony" presentation. The DS' dual screen also comes in handy here, as you can watch the action on the top screen, while still referring to the touch screen for a real-time map. The map is especially useful for dodging attacks from behind. The audios are also highly enjoyable, combining great music and sound effects seamlessly. Somehow, the sound of "vroom vroom" seems to blend perfectly to the lively, catchy tunes in the background. If only prime time radio is that good.
In summary, Mario Kart DS is everything you can expect from a Mario Kart game, and perhaps just a little more. The inclusion of online play makes the experience a little better, but even if you've no access to it, the single player campaign should still be good enough to keep you going back for more. Just remember to change your underpants.