Review by SpikeDragon
"Zoom, Zoooom, Zoooooom!"
The Mario Kart series continues on Nintendo's newest handheld system, the Nintendo DS. Characterized by the ability to win a race by means other than being a good driver, the Mario Kart series has been a fan favorite by gamers for the years since its launch. The Mario Kart DS is, clearly, no exception to this characterization.
Mario Kart does not require a story. It is a simple, yet effective, game-play focused experience.
Playing Mario Kart DS is similar to that of the games before, only with its own unique stages and modes. As all Mario Karts do, Mario Kart DS contains the Grand Prix, a mode in which the player selects one of twelve characters and one of thirty-six karts to race against seven computers in a four-stage series. Points are distributed based on your final position as you cross the white and black finish line. Not only does this game have its own original set of 16 stages, but it also contains 16 stages from 4 of the past Mario Karts: the SNES, Nintendo 64, GameBoy Advance, and GameCube versions. The Time Trial Mode allows the player to race solo across any of the 32 stages in an attempt to achieve the best time possible. Three mushrooms are given to the player to use at his or her will, giving anyone the ability to get their fastest time in their own unique way. The Versus mode is similar to that of the Grand Prix, only it allows the player to adjust the setting. The Battle Mode features two different modes playable on 6 different stages; the Balloon Battle, in which players attempt to pop all of the other racers' balloons with items, and the Shine Runners in which players collect Shines in order to avoid elimination. The final mode available for Single Player is Missions, which features six 9-stage levels in which the player attempts to complete each stage as quick as possible in order to achieve the best rank. There are 2 different multiplayer modes featured in Mario Kart DS; Multiplayer and Nintendo WFC. The Multiplayer Mode allows friends and family to connect with each other for races and battle. Players not in possession of the game can still play as a Shy Guy, and will be given access to 8 of the thirty-two stages. Nintendo WFC allows the player to connect with friends, or even random people, across the world, yet contains too many flaws to be effective. Almost every match contains a hacker who exploits the use of glitches that either make it difficult or impossible for his opponents to win.
When it comes to graphics, Mario Kart DS comes second to none on the handheld system. Upon turning the power on, a detailed graphic appears on the top screen, and on the bottom, the options appear upon a checkered background, as you select your game setting, details of the options, as well as pixels and other avatars appear on the top screen. The use of the color blue as a backing for the checkers, rather than using the original black and white, sets a more suitable mood for the player's experience. Blue represents peacefulness, while white means goodness and genuineness, and black represents sadness and negativity, neither of which you should possess during game-play. Furthermore, the graphics as you play do not disappoint. The karts and character don't appear as simple pictures; instead, the kart vibrates along with the engine, and the characters cheer or sulk depending on certain outcomes. The player avatars and names appear conveniently above each racer, allowing everyone to have the ability to distinguish different racers easily. Aside from the bottom-right, the three corners of the top screen are utilized to reveal the position, item, and lap of the player. The bottom screen features not only the positions of every racer and any position changes, but the time and two different maps. One is a more detailed image of the area the player's kart is in, while the other displays a full-screen draft of the stage upon a blue checkerboard background. After a race is completed, final placement and point distribution is executed, and final position changes are shown.
Controlling the kart is not nearly as difficult as the previous games within the series. The control pad is used for directional purposes. As always, the A button is utilized for acceleration, whereas the B button is used as the brake or the reverse. the L button or the X button may be used to make use of any items received from the boxes, and the R button is what creates the sliding. The Y button or the screen can be used for map changes mid-game. While navigation is rather simple, the reinforcement of the touch screen was extremely poor. There is no point in using the touch screen when navigation can also be executed through the use of the directional pad. Of course, it is always an option, but there isn't very much use for it in other situations either. The bottom screen is hardly needed for any game-play, and is instead used for the map, positions, and time, all of which could easily be displayed on the top screen. When the bottom screen may be used, it is not user-friendly. Map changes can be particularly difficult. While there are 2 ways to change the maps, the Y button is in an unusual position, and shifting from the A to the Y button can be a real drag. The touch screen can not be clicked with the stylus effectively without moving your hand from the buttons either, leaving the player with one option; they must use their finger to touch the touch screen. The DS was built with the idea of utilizing the a touch screen along with the same repetitive game-play screen. With no real use of it at all, it completely defeats the purpose of two screens. as previous games in the series have been able to pull everything off with one.
In Mario Kart DS, the sound is not an issue. The music at the title screen is very well-done. It opens up as if you had seen something incredible. The loud booms of the music when selecting mode also sets the mood of the game. Mario Kart DS is meant to be a quick-paced game, after all. Each character sounds distinctively like themselves, much better than most Pokemon games we'd see in stores even now. Little clicks and bumps make selection a bit more enjoyable than the old generic thuds, or even no sound at all. As you enter a game, you can hear the sound of vehicles vrooming throughout, and the momentum of the engine sound increases as you fly through the track. Much like their actions, the characters will cheer or sulk depending on the outcome of a certain event, whether it is passing up an opponent or getting hit by an item. Each item makes it own distinct sound, giving the player time to figure out when an item is coming, rather than an item having a 100% guarantee of simply hitting an opponent. At the end of each race, music will play depending on your finishing performance, whether it is good or bad. Much of the stage tracks flow very well with the stage, though some tracks are extremely repetitive and get annoying after awhile. Much of the time, however, there aren't very many problems regarding the sound.
When it comes to difficulty, Mario Kart DS really hammers in the nail. Not only is the difficulty at a substantial level, but the difficulty can also be customized manually. There are four different kinds of difficulties made available to the player: 50cc, 100cc, 150cc, and 150cc Mirror. 50cc is the easiest of the levels; the speed of the karts are much slower, giving beginners a chance to feel at ease with each course before progressing. 100cc is the "normal" mode; in other words, the karts move at a more considerable rate. 150cc is for the more advanced players, as the karts more at an extreme rate; therefore, it is crucial that the player master the first two difficulties before trying it out. Once unlocked, the 150cc Mirror may be used to test your skill as a gamer. Unlike the first 3 stages, the stages are all mirrored, thus completely inverting every single direction you must take throughout the course. On top of that, it is just as fast as the 150cc. The Versus mode further integrates its ability to alter the difficulties of the computer players. Not only is it possible to change the class of the difficulty, but it is also possible to change the difficulty of the karts; players can select from either easy, normal, or hard. For example, a player who selects 50cc can have hard computers, and a person who selects 150cc will also be able to have the option of having easy opponents. There is also the possibility of changing the course selection method, the rules of the game, and the ability to allow teams.
Not only is the game difficult, but the replay value is near flawless. If you're looking for a game on the road, and all your other games have been completed, Mario Kart DS is always an excellent choice. Not only is it difficult to unlock all the cups and karts again, but it is also difficult to successfully complete the game again. The Time Trial can be re-used over and over again, as there is no limit to how much a player can improve on a given stage. The Missions can, in fact, be played over and over again. Beat up your favorite bosses over and over again, or simply cruise along a stage and attempt to get the coveted 3 star rank. Not only that, but playing with friends and family can be fun on the road as well. At any given time, the only thing a person needs is this game. Playing with anywhere from 1 to 7 other people can be hours of endless fun, and the ability to alter the difficulties, as well as the ability to set up teams throughout a series of different modes, will never get boring. Mario Kart DS was meant to be a party game, and it really did get the job done. The only slight exception to its excellent replay value is the Wi-Fi mode, is it near-pointless with the many glitches that online users enforce to their advantage.
Mario Kart DS is an unbelievable experience that many will be able to enjoy. Much of the controls, despite being overly repetitive and lacking proper utilization of the touch screen, are similar to that of the games before, so it shouldn't be too hard for old Mario Kart fans to enjoy. Much of the rest of the game has little to complain about, as well. On top of that, the Mario Kart series has appeared on the Nintendo Wii as well, so it is far from complete. Whether you're an adult or a child, Mario Kart DS should be a game that will bring fun to the entire family, or even amongst a simple group of friends. Be forewarned; a game is never fun if you're using glitches to win the whole time. Sit back, relax, and avoid the Nintendo Wi-Fi. Mario Kart is more fun with friends and family anyway.
Rent Or Buy?
Mario Kart DS is a relatively old game for the DS, so it shouldn't be too difficult to pick up a copy for a reasonable price, even if it is used. If Mario Kart is a new thing, then it is suggested that a rental should be tried beforehand to see if the series is enjoyable.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 07/09/09
Game Release: Mario Kart DS (US, 11/14/05)
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