Review by Kartman
"Handheld racing bliss which no one should miss."
When I first heard about Mario Kart DS, I had doubts that it'd live up to its predecessors. Oh, how I was wrong. Mario Kart DS blew my expectations out of the water. Now, let's get down to business.
If you're not familiar with Mario Kart at all (shame on you, first of all), it's simple. Characters from the Mario universe compete in weapon-based kart racing (or battles, whatever you and friends want to do). You can stop your opponents with turtle shells, bananas, fake items, and more.
This is primarily what blew me out of the water. The visuals are fully 3D, and while only slightly superior to the N64 Mario Kart, allow the tracks a level of detail comparable to the GCN Mario Kart Double Dash. and in addition, the DS's power allows this to run at a silky smooth 60 frames per second. I have noticed no popup at all (Waluigi Pinball's layout allows you to see all the way across it!).
The top screen is the main gameplay screen, while the bottom can be used to show a birds-eye view of your drive (complete with opponents positions and any items they may have), and a complete track map.
Mario Kart DS has what you'd expect to hear in a Mario Kart title--upbeat catchy tunes for each track, though the music fits each track really well. The themes for the "retro" tracks are remixed versions of their original themes. More on the retro tracks later. The only points off come from the audio quality of the voices, which seem a hair lacking, but saying anymore about it would be nitpicking.
Gameplay 9.8 / 10
Mario Kart DS brings back, of course, the Grand Prix (Compete in a 4-course race, and earn the most points by finishing first), Time Trial (Race solo for best times, and save your "ghost"--a recording of your performance), and VS. races.
This installment of Mario Kart brings to the table 16 new tracks, in addition to 16 tracks brought back from previous MK installments. These are part of "Retro Cup" races, which contain four courses. Each one has one track from each of the SNES, N64, GBA and GCN Mario Kart titles, with graphical enhancements and a remixed theme song, when possible.
Additionally, Battle Mode has two modes: Balloon Battle and Shine Runners. Balloon Battle is standard Mario Kart battle mode fare--bust all of your opponents balloons with items, and you win. But there's a twist: While you start out with five balloons, only one is inflated. You can blow into the DS's microphone to inflate up to a total of 3 balloons (if you run out of inflated balloons, even if you have uninflated balloons in reserve, you lose).
The other battle mode, Shine Runners, is similar to a VS. race, but you must collect Shine Sprites that appear on the track. After an elapsed time period, the player with the fewest shine sprites is eliminated. This repeats until only one player is left.
These modes can be played with up to 8 players, either via normal Wireless or even online!
My reason for knocking off a part of the Gameplay score is for the somewhat limited online functionality, such as only 20 of the 32 tracks being online-playable.
Mission Mode is completely new, and requires you to fulfill certain objectives within a track to proceed (such as pass through five gates in order on one track). I have yet to try this mode, so what it unlocks is anyone's guess.
Controls 9.7 / 10
MK DS's controls are very responsive, as one would hope. This makes this one easy for even beginners to pick up and play. The D-pad steers, A is your gas, B is your break and X is your weapon. My one complaint is the use of Y to switch between birds-eye and the track map, but it's hard to think of a better placement.
Overall, this is another must-buy for any DS owner. By all means, get it. You've been advised.
10 / 10.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/15/05
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