"A must-have for any DS owner"

The Mario Kart series has always been one of the most enjoyable series around. The Mario Kart series actually originated on the Super Nintendo in Super Mario Kart. For the Nintendo 64, there was Mario Kart 64 which is considered by many to be the pinnacle of the Mario Kart series. However, Mario Kart: Double Dash for the GameCube and Mario Kart Super Circuit for the GameBoy Advance were not as well done. The Mario Kart series was seeing a decline. That is, until Mario Kart DS came along. Personally, I find Mario Kart DS to be the best Mario Kart game, even better than Mario Kart 64. Mario Kart DS is truly a great game and was the best game on the DS for a while. Mario Kart DS is another game that tries to use the touch feature but really can't. I don't personally consider this a problem because so far, the best of the DS hasn't necessarily come from the touch-screen. The ability is nice but one must remember what the DS's true purpose is – a handheld gaming system with kickass games. So far, the DS has succeeded quite nicely.

If you've played previous Mario Kart games, you'll find that the premise is basically the same. This game is a racing tournament between Mario characters. For the vast majority of the tracks, you'll have to do three laps. You have to do this before everyone else to get the maximum number of points. Each cup has four levels so you don't necessarily have to finish first in all four tracks to get first place overall. Any Mario Kart fan knows how much of a role items play in the race. Throughout the course there are several opportunities for you to grab an item. Items can include banana peels and fake bombs which if an opponent (or you) hits, then you'll momentarily spin out of control which may just be enough to make your opponents (or you) use the lead. Yes, opponents can use items too. Some other items include the shells. Green shells you have to aim, red shells automatically aim at the person in front of you and the winged, spiked, flying blue shell knocks out the person in front. Not all items knock out the carts though; the squid for example creates a black ooze in your screen which makes it difficult to navigate. Also returning is the mushroom which boosts you. Three mushrooms can boost you three times and a golden mushroom can boost you multiple times. In addition, there are also some driving techniques that you can use to enhance your gaming experience. There's the “rocket start” feature which isn't new. During the countdown at the beginning of the race if you press “A” and hold it at the right time, you'll boost at the beginning. A lot of the computers use this so it's important you learn it too so you don't fall behind at the beginning. Drifting is another important feature because it allows you to navigate through corners without reducing your speed. There's also mini-turbos which you use to boost when you are drifting. Doing this takes a little practice but it becomes very helpful against harder opponents and necessary in online play. And lastly, as I mentioned earlier, items play a big role and it takes practice on when and where to use them.

Speaking of the tracks, I found the tracks in this game to be amazing. There are 32 tracks in this game which is a good amount. Some of the tracks are boring but you need a few boring tracks to counteract the amazing ones. The amazing tracks are what make this game shine. One of the tracks is actually like a giant pinball level. How cool is that? Everyone's favorite star Road makes a grand return and in addition to this, this game features some of the old tracks that include some of the best tracks from Super Mario Kart, Mario Kart 64, Mario Kart Super Circuit and Mario Kart: Double Dash. Some old classic tracks are now available all in one game. That was definitely a great feature. I suppose I should mention the three different types of racing. There is 50 cc, 100 cc and 150 cc.These are basically your three engine classes. While this game contains all of the classic Mario characters like Mario, Peach, Toad, Yoshi and Donkey Kong, there are some new characters too like R.O.B. and Dry Bones (my personal favorite).

There is a lot to do besides the main racing and the online play. To start there is Vs mode. Here you have the ability to control the rules of a race. For example, you can choose the difficulty of the A.I., the class, course and rules. You can also divide the drivers into teams. There's also Time Trial mode which I never really used but you can use this to hone your skills by trying to get new records on a particular track. There is also battle mode. Battle mode has two different modes inside of that… mode. First is the Shine Runners Mode. In this mode you are forced to collect shines that are scattered throughout an area (not really a track) within the time limit. Whoever had the least amount of shines loses. It's fairly fun but balloon battle mode is where it's at. To start, you can utilize your DS and inflate your balloon by blowing on the microphone. The object of balloon battle as you may already know is to knock out your opponents three balloons. This is much more fun when there are multiple carts. Balloon mode is definitely very fun. The last additional aspect of Mario Kart Ds is the single player missions which are fun and make the game better. 6 levels with 8 missions and a boss make up this feature. Each mission will require you to something different. They might be driving backwards, collecting items or going under tires in proper sequence. Regardless, single player missions are a nice way to entertain yourself despite them not bring that difficult. Mario Kart DS has very sharp and polished graphics and are a great representation of what the Nintendo DS can offer. The interactions with the environments are great and important when racing. The soundtrack is also great too. The sounds are a bit quirky at times but they're fine. The actual soundtrack is sometimes lacking in diversity but usually each piece fits in with the appropriate course. I liked the soundtrack.

The online play through Nintendo's Wi-Fi connection is a major part of this game too. Personally, I'm not a big online person at all so I've only done some minor dabbling in the online play to this game but I found it to be pretty good. For starters, when you play against other people, you're almost guaranteed to get more of a challenge than you would from offline play. A famous flaw would be “snaking”. Snaking is a infamous term coined by the people who play Mario Kart DS online. Basically snaking is kind of a cheating method that pretty much lets you move at a much faster speed throughout the whole track. A lot of people do do this and that's probably why the online feature of Mario Kart DS ultimately crumbled in popularity. For someone like me who doesn't care about online that much, I was honestly apathetic to the situation but it is a flaw that I acknowledge. The online play can still prove to be quite fun but it is clear that this game was the beginning of an attempt to fully use the online features of the DS. Nintendo can't really take THAT much responsibility for the errors of the online play because most of it really falls on the jackasses who cheat and whine and ruin it for everyone.

Rating Breakdown:

Game Play: 10/10
Character Selection: 9/10
Soundtrack: 8/10
Graphics: 10/10
Difficulty: 5/5
Online: 3/5

Overall: 45/50 = 90% = A

Pros:

32 tracks to choose from
Several playable character
Reasonably balanced
Lots of things to do in single player like the single player missions
Fun verse modes like balloon battle
Some classic tracks return from previous Mario Kart games
Adequate soundtrack
Great, polished graphics
A wide array of items (although that blasted blue shell always makes me mad)

Cons:

Online does have some cheaters and snaking is not a good thing
Another game that has Walugi

I've been a pretty big fan of the Mario Kart series since Super Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo and this game is my favorite out of all the games released so far. Mario Kart 64 comes close but I suppose the fact that this game can play some of Mario Kart 64's tracks kinda gives the prize to Mario Kart DS when it's all said and done. Mario Kart DS brings out the best in what the Mario Kart series has to offer as well as an attempt in the online business. Mario Kart DS was truly gem when the DS was lacking in games. Wait, what am I saying? It still is a gem! Definitely a must have for any DS owner.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/02/07


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