Review by HyperSonicEXE

"Learn the ropes, and this game is THE 'killer app' for the DS."

Going back as far as the Super Nintendo, the Mario Kart series has stayed a very stable, satisfying game for each generation of Nintendo console. Mario Kart 64, Mario Kart: Double Dash!, Mario Kart: Super Circuit; each raised gaming standards slightly for each system. So, how does Mario Kart DS fare? Does it barrel head-first into the finish line, or veer off the road into a blinding crash and burn?

Gameplay - 8.5/10 - Usually the game's strongest point, the gameplay has had numerous minor changes that seriously hinder this game from being greatness, even perfection, in my estimation. As you may guess, pressing A and B accelerates and brakes, respectively, while the D-Pad steers, L Button covers items. That's all good and well, but let's get into the changes that may hinder the experience. First is the fact that each Kart you drive has stats. As it turns out, many karts are well-rounded, but as you progress, only one or two karts wind up getting you the gold. Not a major point, but certainly stinging to people who are fans of one character or another. Next is the AI. Mario Kart DS tends to lean a little more towards realism when it comes to CPUs and items. The rubberband AI, holding back so the player can catch up and providing challenge when the player is way far ahead, seems to have diminished, allowing for more truthful races, but the truth hurts. Combine this with about 2 or 3 annoying Blue Shells or Lightning Bolts per race and TONS of very sizable and nasty track gimmicks to avoid, and you may quickly find yourself frustrated. On all of the karts, the turning radius now matches what it should be; with no difficulty, the player can turn easily on all tracks, spacious and narrow. Beware though. Foes get physically unrealistic boosts from a lack of wind resistance by driving behind the character in front of them. You, however, can and need to do the same, in addition to using the ever-popular drift boost, if you want to get the gold cup and unlock new racers, tracks, etc.

Graphics/Sound - 9.5/10 - Truly the game's shining point. Since this is a racing game, where speed matters, you're usually to busy to nitpick about seeing polygons or pixels on the road. You're focused on the curve that's about to end, or the Chain Chomp behind you, or busy looking at the starry background of Rainbow Road. This is where Mario Kart gets the "two" of its "one-two punch" (the first being the gameplay). The graphics are slightly enhanced over Super Mario 64 DS, and the sound is still the ever peppy, kid friendly, Nintendo-brand experience. Catchy, too.

Play Time/Replayability - 9.5/10 - After the half-hour learning curve, the Mission Modes and all the variations of Grand Prix mode (which also have a ranking system) total up to an estimated 35 hours of gameplay, but that's if you've played Mario Kart before. I'd say 50 hours if you're new. And a note to new players: if you wind up liking Mario Kart, you may wind up playing this single game for years to come. I would still be playing MarioKart 64, but this game has bots for the multiplayer VS. modes, and let's not forget the online play.

Overall Score - 9.0 - In the world of gaming, you can bet your money on Mario Kart; each game has more replay value than almost any other game past or present in the market, putting it pretty high up on the food chain. It's definitely worth a purchase, and you might wind up getting even more.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/17/05, Updated 11/19/05

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