Review by bowser194

Reviewed: 11/19/05

One of the best Mario Kart games in the series.

From the time when Mario Kart was first introduced in 1992 on the Super Nintendo, we have seen many new and innovative race tracks, along with gameplay modes and characters. With this newest edition to the series, you'll find that this game offers so much more than its predecessors, and it can safely be considered the best Mario Kart game ever to hit the market.

My first impressions when I started up a race related to how nice the tracks looked and how well they were designed to blend in with the surroundings. The camera scrolling around different areas of the track before the start was also a nice touch. When it comes to the actual race on the ground, graphics are crisp and clear. Character models are designed well and the same applies to the karts. The menus look fairly decent as well. As a comparison, the graphics in Mario Kart DS are slightly improved over the N64 version.

SOUND - 8.5
I was disappointed to find that some older soundtracks, which would have been a perfect fir for some of the race tracks, had either been altered or removed completely. Regardless, you still get a decent sound selection in both the menus and races. One major annoyance that I must point out, is the music played while in the Nintendo WFC (Wifi Connection) menu, which is extremely repetitive and can play for a while if you're waiting to challenge an opponent. But then again, that's why the volume slider exists.

The controls are fairly simple and the same as previous games - A for Accelerate, B for Brake, and the Control Pad to move. That's all fine and dandy, but when playing for long periods of time, holding the A button at the outside edge of the DS can and will become painful. Customizable control configurations would have solved this problem, but they are not included.

I can say no wrong about the gameplay. It is simply flawless. A perfect combination of 16 new tracks and 16 old tracks from the various consoles gives you the chance to relive the classics, but still have fun on something you've never tried before. Some of the newer tracks are fairly innovative - one of them sends you flying up a pinball table and racing back down, another one allows you to trek through the mountains (similar to DK Mountain from the GCN), and the list goes on.

The game tends to drag on when you're in 50cc or even 100cc, but when it comes to 150cc, you'll enjoy the best Mario Kart racing experience to date. I've found that the pace of the game is much faster than in previous versions, and when you combine that with the random and unpredictable nature of the new tracks, you get a lot of air time and fun jumps. The AI is decent in 150cc, but you'll find it's a breeze when it comes to the easier levels.

The new Mission mode allows to you to attempt over 50 difference challenges at varying difficulties and types. A nice addition to the series, you'll find yourself trying to knock out Cheep-Cheeps by picking up items, or racing against the clock weaving in and out of half tires. It isn't very challenging, but it lasts for a few extra hours of gameplay.

Battle Mode is similar to what is found on the GCN version of the game, but a nice touch is the new ability to challenge computers and not only humans. The Mic on the DS is even incorporated into the game, an example being the ability to blow into the Mic to inflate the balloons once one of them has popped. Try to destroy all your opponent's balloons, race against the clock to collect shines, and more.

All that remains is the Time Trials and VS mode, which allow to race against your own ghost on any track, and also face the computers casually anywhere. You can even select teams or a set amount of wins you must reach to win the game in VS mode, which makes the race somewhat more competitive, even if it is just for fun.

Mario Kart DS is also the first game ever released by Nintendo which offers an online and free Wifi gaming experience. I was very impressed when I first played - the game was lag-free and fairly quick to find players, even though the game was not yet widely available. I've found that your battery will drain quickly when playing online, especially from a distance, meaning you'll be recharging the DS frequently.

Along with decreased battery life, there are a few disappointments with the online play. The first is that you cannot drag items behind you in a race. The second is that only 20 of 32 tracks are available, meaning that some of the best tracks cannot be used. Finally, you cannot play battle mode online, which would have been a nice edition to the game. All of these are likely due to technical reasons, but it is unfortunate that nothing could be done. All in all, though, the online play increases replay value and allows you to get away from the computer opponents once in a while.

As I just mentioned, the online play allows for nearly infinite replayability. That, along with the many unlockables, tracks, karts, and characters, makes this a long-lasting and fun game.

Buy, unless you've found yourself disliking the previous versions of the game, in which case you should at least rent it, if only to try out the online play.

There are some glaring issues when it comes to control configuration and small annoyances with the online play, but regardless, this is still one of the best Mario Kart games to date, and a top five game for the DS. Online play, classic tracks, many unlockables - everything you know and love has been mixed into one small package, and it's definitely worth a look.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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