Review by Tai-

"If you're a DS fan, easily a must-have!"

Mario Kart's come a long way in the past few years. From the SNES, named Super Mario Kart to the GBA, which I believe is Super Circuit, to N64, known as Mario Kart 64, which I own, to the GCN's Mario Kart: Double Dash, another classic I own, and now another hand-held system, the DS, gives you a new addition to the collection, Mario Kart DS! Not only do I feel that it's kept up with the quality of it predecessors, but it might be the best game yet!

Gameplay - 9/10 - I've always loved the tracks that the Mario Kart franchise brings; most of them simply remind me of many other classics from the Mario franchise, othersare just flat out a son of a gun, so to speak, to beat because of all the monsters and objects you have to avoid. It's tough to stay in 1st place with stuff like that in your way. The CPU AI, I feel, has much improved vastly from say, Mario Kart 64 and Mario Kart: Double Dash. When I played those games, ESPECIALLY N64, I felt faster than everyone else no matter who I used. As long as I didn't do something stupid, like fall off a cliff or into water, you're usually set for 1st place. The CPU AI, in blunter terms, was atrocious. In Double Dash, the AI improved somewhat, and had more elaborate balance in the karts, which I'll get to later on the DS. But, the AI in DS is ruthless. Now, in 50cc, chances are you'll find it boring. 100cc and 150cc are where it's at, and you'll have a blast on those. Usually, there are one or two "bullies" out of the group that come after you for your precious 1st place. Have fun being kept on your toes. But, speaking of N64 and GCN, did you miss tracks from those games? Oh, no problem! Along with some new tracks, Mario Kart DS also has a handful of old tracks from every Mario Kart Franchise alive! SNES, GBA, N64, GCN, you name it! It brings back an old oldschool feel of some sort. On top of that, another improvement over other games is you can play VS. and Battle mode with the CPU, now! Yep, instead of having to look for friends (who might still be better, who knows?), you can just sit back and kick some CPU butt with items on Battle Mode, or just play on VS mode, where you can play up to 32 races!
Those darn annoying items are back, too. The stars, the lighting, the blue shell, oh my! But, a new addition is the bullet. Yeah, if you see some guy on your map who's cruising through the track, chances are he has one of these. As said, they travel you through the level (which means you have to do NOTHING) up to where you get close to the group fighting for 1st place, which balances off the game pretty well.

Now, the karts..yeah, about those karts. The developers did a find job of trying to balance them off well. The problem is, sadly, is that once you play the game, unlock all the extra characters and try out all the karts, you'll probably find that very few are actually good for the game, or will actually win you races. I don't think it's right for me to spoil for you what those are, but a lot of people don't like the fact that you can't use your favorite character or kart, depending on what those might happen to be. But, you can also play Vs. and Battle mode with the bots, a definite improvement over previous systems. Nonetheless, the gameplay is top notch and stays in par with the gameplay of previous games in the Mario Kart Franchise. You still feel the thrill of racing for 1st place.

Sound and Music - 9/10 - Man, I just love the music. It demands itself to be recognized as part of the game. Catchy tunes and remixes (like Wario Stadium and Waluigi PinBall, which seem to be a remix of Mario Circuit to fit for those levels). I'd love to be able to just listen to some of them, but there's no sound room. Oh well. The sounds are also good. You can hear the sound of the kart motor working, whacky sounds when you slip on a banana from the kart or the characters, and very clear.

Graphics - 10/10 - I just wanted to play Mario Kart DS at first because I heard you could play it online. But, damn, when I got the game, and saw the graphics, I couldn't believe how great that feature was as well! The tracks are detailed so well to the last sand grain, practically maximizing the quality of graphics you can get on the Nintendo DS. The characters are very detailed, along with the animation. They look so much more than mere splotches of color. I don't think I could possibly use enough words to describe the graphics to you; you'd have to check it out yourself to know what I mean.

Online - 9/10 - Well, if I told you I didn't buy this game because you could play online, I'd be lying and you could shoot me. But, I did, and it being one of Nintendo's first game to use it's new Wifi System to go online, you probably should too if you're a Nintendo fan, period. All you need to do is have a router, a "hot-spot" in your town, or the WiFi USB connector, and you're good to go. After that, how to find people to play is easy. Also, you can design an emblem to use online to show off to your opponents! But, sadly, you can't chat with your opponents, due to the fact kids may be playing online, and protect them for profane language. Also, you can only play 20 out of the 32 courses online. This is due to the lag that having so many objects in the game would cause. So, the courses that have more obstacles are out, which gives newer players a chance to shine in more clear courses. But, apart from that, hey, you're playing other human beings from your region to all over the world! This should keep you coming back for more all the time.

Replayability - 10/10 - This game is so easy to pick up and play, you'll probably be on it for hours. Some new features that probably isn't on any of the older Mario Kart games to keep you at it in at least the single-player aspect are missions and staff ghosts. In missions, you basically do lots of odd, but loads of fun tasks that sort of train your driving ability. You can only use a specific character in a specific kart for each mission. Staff ghosts are available for you to play in Time Trials when you get a good enough time in a certain race. Those are basically recordings of what some of the best MKDS racers on the staff can do. That's helpful for online, which otherwise would make them useless if you got a way better time than the staff ghost before you face it. But, speaking of online, if you have it, that will probably keep you at this game for a long while. It's definitely kept me. :)

Buy/Rent: Again, if you want games for your new DS, Mario Kart DS is a keeper, especially if you've played another game from the series before. I highly recommend you try your best to get online if you can't. Otherwise, chances are you can consider rent, cause in the end of the day, that is what Online is all about. But, if you can play online, I would definitely recommend that you buy this game. Overall, I give Mario Kart DS a 9.5/10. Happy karting.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 01/30/06

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