Review by Galactus21

"Start your engines!"

Racing? Rivals? Friends? It feels like high school again. Mario returns with his friends and rivals, and are ready to get it on once again. Mario and the gang are wild, and ready to duke it out on the tracks. Like the previous Nintendo systems, Mario Kart has always been a presence. With each Mario Kart release, people would go wild with the opportunity to play it with their friends. Mario Kart has always been one of the best multiplayer games around. Unlike simulation type racers, Mario Kart has weapons and items, along with plenty of obstacles such as spiraling fireballs that can knock you off your boots. One thing that has been unique about all Mario Kart games is the unique style of racing that it offers. There's going to be random nuances in the middle of the track, shells and bananas all over the place, and plenty of bumping and unconventional racing. It's got plenty of fun surprises along with many nostalgic themes that bring back pleasant memories. Mario Kart DS continues this trend, and is another fine addition to the series.


Upon firing up this game up with my newly bought Nintendo DS, I quickly noticed the slick presentation, and well organized menu screen. I was in awe of the dual screen and how well everything worked. Besides the slick presentation, what's especially noticeable at first is the fine tuned graphics. I was amazed at the lush and colorful environments. The game runs in a steady and fluid frame rate, which is a testament to the system's capabilities because with all that is going on in this game, it continuously runs with no frame rate issues. Each track is varied and offers plenty of colorful themes with a lot of nice scenery. The background also holds up quite well, as there are plenty of little things that just scream “attention to detail”. I especially liked how the animation works. The animation in the game is especially smooth, with bananas making the karts spin, the cool and slick presentation of turning into a flying bullet, or perhaps racing down Rainbow Road's colorful and highly chaotic track, but one thing is for sure, this game looks fabulous considering the system it is on.

While the game is a bit simplistic by nature, it more than makes up for it with an abundance of features and with hectic action that is a thrill in itself. The game has a wide variety of tracks, and each one has a special theme that adds plenty of variance. For example, there's a level where you are racing on a pinball track and you will have bouncing pinballs going back and forth. Consequently each level offers so much that the game itself has an abundance of replay factor. What's especially neat is the obstacles on these levels match the corresponding level. In Luigi's Mansion, there are ghosts and an overall creepy feeling in the level. There are also some throwbacks in level designs such as some levels from previous consoles like the Gamecube or the Snes. And To keep things fresh, the game will throw a few twists here and there. Occasionally the player will play in a level that is so wild and ingeniously designed that one cannot help but marvel at the conceptual designs.

Mario Kart's racing feels slick and easy to control, but on the other hand your driving skills are going to be truly tested when you have shells and humongous bullets flying at you. The weapons in this game include bananas and blocks that are used to slow down advancing karts. Shells are separated into two kinds. There are green shells that require you to manually aim, and the red shells automatically locks onto a kart. Then there are also boosts that help you such as mushrooms, golden mushrooms, and a bullet that is reminiscent to the Mario bros that allow you to go in rapid speeds. There are different cups that contain a number of tracks. And depending on where you finish for that track, your points will accumulate to an overall score for all the tracks in that cup.

Mario Kart has a plethora of modes with plenty to do. The online matches over Nintendo WiFi alone will keep you coming back for more. The core of the modes is grand prix, which is basically a number of tournaments with four tracks, and at the end of the track, you'll gain a certain amount of points that will accumulate into a final numerical number after the fourth track in that tournament. At the start of the grand prix, only 4 tournaments are opened to you, but as you finish each tournament more tournaments will be unlocked. Also as you advance further in the tournaments, the tracks are also noticeably longer and with more obstacles and complex turns. Also before choosing your character to race, you will also have an opportunity to choose between 50, 100, or 150cc matches, which dictates the difficulty in the races. In the 50cc, the A.I is a bit lacking with karts just running into your bananas without trying to avoid it. As the difficulty gets higher, the player will also notice that not only are the races closer, but the A.I does a great job at dodging your weapons and more accurate with its own weapons. Thus the difficulty is nicely balance, as the difficulty is slowly raised.

Besides the grand prix, there are other modes such as time trial that allow you to shoot for the best time possible. Time trial is a mode where you can constantly get practice in, all while improving your driving skills in the meantime. And upon connecting with Nintendo Wifi, there are different types of matches that you can have. The player can choose to race against people worldwide or face opponents on similar levels. However, the pool of players doesn't seem large enough because playing people on my own level still put me with people who had a far better record. Over Nintendo WiFi, up to 4 players can race at a time. But there are instances, when it's not possible to find 4 players, so matches will consist of 2 or 3 players. What's especially fun about playing this game online is the competition that you normally won't get from the A.I. While it's definitely better late than never for Nintendo to take one of their systems online, you can't help but wonder why this wasn't more than a 4-player battle. An 8-player race would be that much more hectic and that much more intense. But despite all these simple trivialities, Mario Kart still remains as one of the more enjoyable online experiences.

There are several moves during the course of the race that adds a little spice to the action. When racing, the player can start drifting and by turning the d-pad left and right, the wheels will spark; thus unleashing a quick speed of burst. Mario Kart requires player to utilize all the game's capabilities to be successful. So if you're able to place well placed bananas at the right places, or you're more accurate with the green shells than others, then you fare a good chance with this game. But despite what skill level you are, Mario Kart remains fun at all times. I have a horrid record compared to others, but matches are fun; especially when it comes down to the niddy-gritty.

The musical soundtrack consists of Mario themes that you're accustomed to when growing up. BIG SHOCKER THERE. But even at the present moment, these themes continue to hold up well, which is a testament to Nintendo's longevity. It's been a while since I played some of the older Nintendo games, but the soundtrack brought back memories of good times and good vibes. During races, the characters will also blurt out some cute little lines. Mario says something along the line of yee-haw when connecting with a shell or a banana. Not to mention my favorite line is when Yoshi gets picked in the menu screen, he says his name that is reminiscent of his cuddly ways.

Mario Kart in itself may not seem like a long game, but with a plethora of modes and a fun online environment (you can't hear the whiny kids), there are plenty of things to accomplish, and more importantly it's a great experience in doing so. Each mode individually shouldn't take you very long, but considering the addictive gameplay, it keeps sucking you back for more until you unlock the last character and bested your times. Not to mention, you're probably going to try to constantly improve your skills so that you can be a challenge to your peers.

And you have a winner!

Mario Kart DS may not be the flashiest racer around and it may not be the most realistic, but it has plenty of charm with an addictive hectic style of racing to match. Like its predecessors, Mario Kart is easy to pick up, but it's packing with depth. What's not to love? You got Mario and the gang, and you can pit them against each other in an all out racing battle! With a nostalgic soundtrack, plenty of wittily designed tracks, hectic racing, and online multiplayer, Mario Kart DS is surely one of the reasons to own a Nintendo DS. While the online matches could have used a few added players and with a few more unlockables, it could have been even better, as it stands, Mario Kart is still one of the best games on the market. And more importantly this game will not only quench long time Mario Kart enthusiasts, but it will also satisfy newcomers as well. Mario Kart DS is the very definition of fun. And it's only logical to check it out.

+ Hectic action
+ Plenty of features
+ Nostalgic themes
+ Catchy soundtrack
+ Nintendo Wifi
+ Plethora of tracks
+ Brilliantly designed tracks
+ Friendly to enthusiasts and newcomers

- Online matches could have been extended to include more players
- Could have used a bit more unlockables

Final Score: 9

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 12/12/05

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