Review by general531

"The best damn kart party period."

I have been and always will be a Mario fan. The Mario Kart series is no exception. Each game has given me joy over the years and I just could not get enough of them. The games in the series had a new feature to separate itself from its predecessor and Mario Kart DS is no exception. This kart party features a "greatest tracks" division, an all-new mission mode, single-player battle and versus modes, and on-line play. This kart is packed with features and you will not get bored.

Graphics:
The visuals in Mario Kart DS are perfect for a Mario game. The bright, vibrant colors and cartoon-ish animation is just right for a Mario game. The backgrounds are drawn nicely and most are borrowed from past Mario games. The elements, such as shells, banana peels, and fake item boxes can easily be detected so you can avoid them. Basically the visuals are a cross between the Nintendo 64 and the Game-cube. The graphics and track design are comparable to the N64, while the animations, especially the explosions, are comparable to the cube. The retro courses are ripped exactly from their original versions, while the S.N.E.S. and the GBA courses were given a three-dimensional look.

The touch screen visuals are not highly advanced, but they were not meant to be realistic. It was designed to be like a GPS. It shows the location of other racers and items on the track. It also distinguishes between eal and fake item boxes so you will not be fooled. The other feature of the touch screen is a course map.

The graphics are not without flaws. The rendering job is below adequate as a result of a low polygon count. The characters look deformed and the curve rendering of the tracks is not up to par. Despite these rather minor flaws, the visuals are great and takes full advantage of the Nintendo DS.

Control:
Mario Kart DS has great control. All you need to get racing is the control pad and the A, B, X, Y, R, and L buttons. That's it. The touch screen is limited to switching between the GPS and the course map. That is welcome news to those of you who are afraid that the touch screen was the only way to steer your kart. Using the pad in a 3-D racer may be a little awkward at first, especially while power-sliding, but with practice the pad will be second nature. The buttons are nicely configured, so holding down the gas, power-sliding, and holding a shell (all at the same time) can be mastered in a rather short time. The response is second to none. Nintendo did a damn good job with the controls in Mario Kart DS. Simply flawless, that is the bottom line.

Game Design:
The Mario Kart game is loaded. I mean loaded. For starters, you got about 32 courses, single and multi-player battle and versus modes, an all-new mission mode, and the ability to play on-line. New items have also been added and new drivers make their debut.

The Grand Pr-ix mode contains four races for each cup. The scoring is set up so you can't rank-out, but you can't win the gold until the end of the races. The AI varies on the engine class you select. If you select a low class, the drivers behave just like they aren't there. On the 150 class get ready to be attacked constantly. There are eight total cups in the grand pr-ix split between two divisions.

The time trial is standard fare in other Mario Kart games. You select your driver, kart, course, and begin your attempt to break a record or to try out a course for the first time.

The battle mode returns in this game. This time, however, it is not exclusive to multi-player. Battle Mode in single-player debuts with 6 courses. You have one balloon at the start, but you have five more in reserve. You must blow up your balloons fast, because when you lose all of your balloons, you lose. Even if you had some in reserve. Reserves can be inflated either by holding select or blowing into the DS mic. The arenas vary greatly. You can battle in a castle, on a sundae, or even on top of a Nintendo DS. The participants can either be individualized or arranged in teams.

Versus Mode can also be played in single player. You can race all of your opponents on any course. The features aforementioned in battle mode are also available in Versus. You can set the criteria for victory by points, first-place finishes, or a free-play style. The participants can either be individualized or put into teams. It is nice to have both battle and versus in single player. Thanks Nintendo.

A never-before used feature debuts in this franchise. The mission mode gives you requirements to meet. The objectives vary. They include but are not limited to driving through item boxes, destroying crates, hitting gophers, and outracing your enemies. It is divided up into seven levels with nine missions, including the boss battles. The bosses are from Mario games of the past. The mission mode is a great addition to the series and works as a tutorial too. A very creative idea from Nintendo and they executed it flawlessly.

Nintendo takes Mario and themselves into a new territory with Mario Kart DS...on-line play. Nintendo debuts their on-line service with Mario Kart DS. The ability to race and defeat another racer from miles and miles away is a welcome addition to the Mario Kart series. Sadly, I wasn't able to connect my Nintendo DS to the wireless service. Nevertheless, Nintendo granted its fans what they wanted.

The courses in Mario Kart DS vary just like its predecessors. One course is set on flatlands while another course is set on hills. The courses are set in castles, ships, beaches, and other locations. There are a total of 32 courses in the game. Sixteen of those are pulled from other games in the series. The retro courses are a nice trip down memory lane and are added evenly from the past games. Mario Kart DS features new drivers and new karts too.

Mario Kart DS also features new items. The squid is one of them. It blinds temporarily the racers in front of the user, hampering their driving. Another new item transforms your kart into a Bullet Bill. It plows through the competition at high speeds.

Mario Kart DS brings loads of features. This is a perfect game for long car trips or flights. The grand pr-ix races, time trials, battle modes, versus races, loads of unlock-ables, and the on-line features will give you loads of play time. There is a lot to do and a lot of driver/kart combinations to try out. The replay value is very deep.

Audio:
The sound effects are accurate and fitting for the game's audience. The sound of slipping on a peel, the impact of shell on metal, and explosions are accurate and doesn't take the action out of context. The engine sounds are accurate also. Overall the sound effects are nicely edited.

The music is also appropriate for a Mario Kart game. It is composed and programmed well. The music of the classic courses is unaltered. The post-race music is catchy as well.

The quality of the voices vary. Some of the voices are pulled off well, while others were annoying and at times made me want to turn down the volume. Nevertheless, the audio in the game is well-done. Nintendo put a lot of effort into the audio and the overall quality is evident of it.

Overall:
Mario Kart DS is just plain loaded. The grand pr-ix modes will have you unlocking content. The time trials will get you addicted to breaking your records. The mission modes are not only a creative idea, but also provides as a tutorial. The single player battle and versus modes are an addition I was waiting a long time for it. The graphics are well-done. I am especially happy that Nintendo didn't dramatically alter the retro courses. I am also glad that Nintendo didn't use the touch screen as the only method to steer the karts. The control pad was the best idea for a game like this. I also appreciate the GPS-like feature of the touch screen. You can spot traps easily and can separate fake item boxes from the real ones.

I have enjoyed arcade style racing games. Other franchises like Burnout or F-Zero provide a tremendous rush of speed, but the Mario Kart franchise is the one I prefer the most. The games in that series are all-around classics, but Mario Kart DS is the best of the pack. It contains new tracks as well as classic tracks that will give veterans a sense of nostalgia. The single player battle and versus modes gives a lone player a shot at other modes outside of time trials and the grand pr-ix. The mission mode is a creative idea. The on-line feature is a nice addition for fans that requested on-line play. Overall, Mario Kart is a classic.

Buy or Rent:
Buy it now.

Score: 10 out of 10 and an instant classic.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 02/27/07


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