Review by Black_Cheese
"Brilliant game, but not perfect"
Chances are most people have played and enjoyed previous Mario Kart games, so when I first heard that there was a Mario Kart game coming out on the DS, I knew that I just had to buy it. When I finally bought it, I wasn't disappointed, but I wasn't exactly overwhelmed with happiness either.
Well, basically you can choose to play as various characters from the Mario games and race against your friends, the AI, or someone over the Internet. The thing that makes this game different from other racing games, is that you can pick items up to either help yourself, or hinder your opponents. Though, items do take away from the skill part of the game. You can easily get from 8th to 4th or even 3rd by using a star or a golden mushroom. You'll also sometimes find yourself being barraged with items in first place and ending up in 4th place. Though, don't get me wrong, it does take some skill to use items correctly and to dodge items. As you can see, they could have done a much better job when it comes to the item balance. For some reason I seem to be getting hit with as much as blue shells as I do red shells. Of course though, this game just wouldn't be a Mario Kart game without items. It's the one thing that keeps me coming back.
The controls are also a tad annoying too. If you got used to drifting using the L button in MKDD, well then you're out of luck. I also find using items to be a bit more difficult. Though, it is really not much of a problem once you get used to it. Your hands will probably get sore after your first few races though.
Just as previous Mario Kart games, this game has Grand Prix mode. There are 8 cups with 4 courses to choose from in each one, making a grand total of 32 courses. There are 3 different difficulties you can choose from, 50, 100, and 150CC. If you complete the cups, you will unlock something new. Such as a whole new cup, or ever a different character to choose from. This mode is definitely a step up from the GP modes of other Mario Kart games in term of difficulty, though chances are you'll still find yourself far ahead of the crowd, even in 150CC after you've had a little practice. The AI also has seemed to have improved a little here.
There is also a battle mode in this game. Though this time you can play against the AI! Although, the AI isn't all it's made out to be. First of all, they never seem to use items effectively. You'll often see them throw red shells behind their back, or use mushrooms when no one is in even by them. They'll also constantly be running into items left on the ground as the AI all have different set paths. They'll also be missing plenty of item boxes because of this. I've also had AI on my team throw green shells at me when the enemy is nowhere to be seen. Of course, it doesn't happen often, but it will sure piss you off when it does happen. Anyways, enough with the AI, more about the actual mode...You can choose from 6 different levels. Some being taken from older Mario Kart games, such as Pipe Plaza from MKDD. Though, of course there are new levels to choose from such as the Nintendo DS. As I mentioned earlier, you can choose to fight as a team or to make it an all out free for all. You can also choose to make the AI easy, normal, or hard.
There are also two modes. Balloon battle were you have to burst your opponent's balloons by hitting them with items. You yourself have 5 lives (or 5 balloons) which can be blown up by blowing into the mic. The other mode is Shrine runners where you have to collect more shrines then any of the other players. Getting hit will make you lose a shrine, though chances are it'll bounce forward, right in front of you so you can retrieve it right away again...Which makes this mode incredibly easy, especially since it takes a while for the AI to get to the shrines. Also as the clock runs out, people with the least amounts of shrines get booted, last one left wins.
There is also brand new mode in Mario Kart DS, which is also known as the "Mission" mode. In this mode you have to do stuff such as pass the gates in order, collect "X" amount of coins, destroy all the item boxes...etc...When you complete all the missions in the level the "boss" stage will appear. Once you beat the boss, you will be able to go on to the next level. There are 63 missions in all, including the boss fights. Which is enough to keep you busy for quite a while, but most missions can be completed in one to three tries. Though, if you are attempting to get 3 stars on every single mission...well good luck!
There is also a VS. mode where you can set up a quick race. This can come in handy if you want to race on a certain course, but don't want to have to go through 3 other courses to get there. Lastly, there is a time trial mode, where you try to complete the courses as fast as possible. If you are fast enough, you may even get the chance to race against the staff ghost. Likewise, you can record your own ghost and race against yourself.
You also can't forget about online play. Basically you can play against people on your friends list, people at your skill level, people around your country, or even people from around the world. Though it is kind of hard to find people with the same skill...well either that or the pairing system is really messed up. You may find yourself racing against a guy with 0 wins and 10 losses, while you have 40 wins and 5 losses. It's still great though. Or course there are also disconnectors, but I never found them to really be much of a problem. There are also a lot of snakers online too...Not much of a problem if you can snake yourself. But if you can't or are just not too good at it, then you're out of luck. It's pretty much impossible to beat a good snaker if you don't snake. Though of course, not everyone snakes, so you can still have fun racing for 2nd or 3rd place.
If you have played any of the previous mario games, then you should know, that it really doesn't have a story. Though of course this is a racing game, it really doesn't need to have a story.
As for the music, well maps ported from older mario games have the same tune, so it's nothing new. The sound effects are okay, nothing special really. The character noises are good, but they are getting old. I really don't care much for the tunes or most course, so I play with the volume off for the most part.
The graphics are in full 3D. The graphics are good enough to enjoy the game, but it's nothing spectacular. Some characters look pretty smooth, but other's look really blocky. The characters aren't too detailed, but they are good enough. The item animation could use some word too, for example, the shell's kind of slide instead of spin, though it really isn't noticeable, so it's not that big of a problem. Other than that, the graphics are great.
This game may have it's faults, but I'd still recommend it to any DS owner. I would recommend though, that you play this game online. You really can't fully experience the game until you've played it online. But, you should get still get this game whether you can play over the Internet or not.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/24/06
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