Review by HeoandReo

Reviewed: 04/13/07

Would have been a favourite, if it weren't for one fatal flaw...

Mario Kart has had a long legacy. It all started out with Super Mario Kart, a critically acclaimed game that supposedly brought the cash flow to the racing business in the first place. Over time, this little Mario-themed racer grew into a variety of sequels, inspirations, and ripoffs. And here we are at the most recent installment of the Mario Brothers' adventures to go for gold. Mario Kart DS.

Mario Kart DS has a plethora of modes to keep an average player busy for a long amount of time. There's the Grand Prix, where you can now enter up to eight cups (That's 32 tracks!) to get the prize. There's the standard Time Trials to test your ability to race through, there's 'Versus' mode, which is like Grand Prix, but with less pressure to win. There's also a Battle Mode. That's right, a one-player battle mode. Now you can enjoy the heated thoughts of fighting off the other cars without having to make friends and invite them over! Yay! Lastly, there's a Mission Mode, where you have to do various tasks involving your car to get various things.

Now, in these modes, you pick your standard motley eight. From the Princess's finesse to Wario's brash racing skills, and typically Mario himself, there's a racer for pretty much anyone to enjoy. There's a few other characters, too, but I won't ruin the surprise.
Oh yeah, and there's also Toad, Yoshi, Luigi, Bowser, and Donkey Kong. But you already knew that, didn't you.

Each character has a standard car to race in first. Now, other cars may be unlocked, each corresponding to the character, each with slightly different stats to pick and choose to your own style. Each car relies on several different stats. Speed, Acceleration, Handling, Drift, Weight, and Items. Speed and Acceleration show how fast your car and go, and how long it takes to get there. Handling and Drift show how sharp your car can turn, both with and without a powerslide. Weight and Items are somewhat iffy. Weight shows how much your car weighs (And advantage and disadvantage at times.) and Items apparently shows your frequency of getting rare items. (Though it doesn't really affect the game in the long run.)
The cars reflect the character's base strengths and weaknesses. A li'l guy like Toad can get up to speed quickly, but doesn't have much speed to rely on. However, he can turn with the best of them. On the other end of the scale, big ol' Bowser tears up the track with a high top speed, though taking a while to get up to it, as well as having terrible turning. To each their own, though.

After picking your poison and his (Or her) racer, you're treated to a bunch of tracks to test your abilities on. You can practice your sliding on the Figure-8 Circuit, of journey the sands of Desert Hills, or play on a giant pinball field in Waluigi Pinball! That's not all, though. Nintendo's listened to its overly nostalgic fans, and thus, have brought back some memorable tracks from all 4 of its predecessors. Now you can recreate your childhood in places like Mario Circuit (SNES) or Frappe Snowland (N64), or go to the newbies with Peach Circuit (GBA) and Baby Park (GCN)!

Like the other Mario Kart games, this game has Items, and lots of them. The classics like the Bananas, the Green Shells and the Stars come back for the old fans, and newer items to be used are there, such as the Blooper, the Bob-Omb, and the Bullet Bill, among others.

This game sounds perfect, don't you think? Many tracks, new ideas, and full of fun? What could possibly go wrong?

Well, Mario Kart DS, while some may hate to admit it, is FLAWED. And not really in a good way.


Mario Kart DS has a cruel AI. Sure, so you're going in 50cc, and you're saying, 'Hey, this isn't too bad. This idiot writing that review was wrong!' But then you, in your curiousity, try 100, no, evem 150cc! You really have to get your act together to even have a chance of winning those trophies, because the computers are brutal. They gain speed boosts at inconvinient times, use their items very intelligently, and ALWAYS know to fire the items at difficult times, where another one has a Star or Mushroom, or wants a speed boost, or something. It's almost as if that the entire game is against you at times. You're at the final stretch, literally inches before the finish line, until a Spiky Shell reaches you, SMASHES you upwards, just in time to have 2 CPUs fighting for first pass you... and then just as you recover, you get smashed by a racer using a Star, and get smacked around with shells until you get a lousy 5th place. Such synergy can't be coincidental. It's 7 on 1.

7 on 1? That's no fair!

Battle Mode isn't too hot with fixing that either. In Balloon Battle, you start with ONE balloon, while everyone else gets 2 or 3. Hey Nintendo, that isn't fair. Sure, it might appeal to masochists, but it's not really a wise move in the long run. The other type of mode, Shine Runners is fine, though. It's where you collect Shines and play keep-away and get more Shines. Everyone starts out with 0, so it's fine.

So essentially, to get far in this game, you have to memorize every trick in the book, practice them, and strategize about it far before you actually race. So it's mostly skill. And ability. And luck. Especially luck with things like Items or whether the computer's going to be kind to you today. So yeah. Lots and lots of luck. Now, I'm not really a fan of hard games, to tell the truth. I like a good challenge now and then, but I don't want the majority of the fruits of my labour to be tested by LUCK!!!

Nonetheless, it still is a very good game, but if it weren't for that major flaw, it would be perfect.

And now to rate the other things.

Graphics: 14/15. Everything is nice and colourful, beautifully designed, and takes full advantage on everything the DS can handle. Man, it's almost like playing a 96-bit Mario Kart. Everyone is coloured correctly and nicely, and it adds to the designs on the tracks, as well as the new 3D appearances of the ancient ones.

Music/Sound: 14/15. The music is nice and ambient, and it fits very well in every track, menu, and mode that's there. It rings with a nice, calm, beginning tone for tracks such as the Circuits or Yoshi Falls, or can provide a nice dose of adrenaline, such as the tunes in Bowser Castle and Airship Fortress. And just like its predecessors, Mario Kart DS's track songs speed up at the last lap, to heighten the moment, and make you seem faster.

A major treat for the fans is the older tracks, and along with being rendered in 3D, have either a restored version of the old song, or a newer, remixed version, suiting the tracks you race on as you rekindle your memories.

Gameplay: 22/30. A fun, cute racing game ruined by an overreliance on luck to go far, to sum everything up. However, the game is very fun, and will leave you itching to get the next character, the next option, and get the best times. It's also quite fun as multiplayer as well.

(Note: Due to my... uh... 'incompetence' with using routers, this is based off standard wireless multiplayer. Not Wi-Fi.)

Control: 12/15. Everything handles fairly well. You might have some issues getting your car in a direction to drift, and sometimes, you'll think that the handling stats are lies and mockery, but it works well. Trying to get Mini-Turbos by moving the D-pad left and right 4 TIMES (Yep, it's from 2 to 4.) can really put a strain on the thumb.

Story: 2/10. Mario and friends on some race cars. Yippee. Racing games traditionally have no story for a reason.

Tolerance (i.e. Difficulty.): 14/15. As I said earlier, this game is about 20% skill, 20% technique, and the rest, luck. Such a high reliance on luck makes the game lower.

Extras/Replay: 10/10. Despite its shortcoming, Mario Kart DS is a very addiciting game. While the flaw may reduce my enjoyment slightly, I'll just simply practice and squeeze all availible fun from the game until its needed again.

Total: 78/100 = 8/10.

Rent? Buy? Hop on it to get a 1-up?: It's a good buy overall. You won't be sorry.

Closing Words: Mario Kart DS is probably the best 'kart' game out there for the DS at this time. While it does have noticable flaws, it only detracts from the full experience a bit. Nonetheless, that seems to prevent this game from becoming a favourite of mine. So, it's great. Just don't expect this one to become your top game of all time anytime soon.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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