Review Review - Mario Kart DS (NDS)

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Nov 22, 2003
New York City
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Mario Kart DS

Mario Kart, nothing short of a perfect kart racer. Not only is Mario Kart the original kart racer, it is the best, and created by the one and only Nintendo. However, this Mario Kart has one leg up over the rest of the series. It’s online. This game was the first Nintendo game to go online, publicly, and produced by Nintendo, on the portable system, the DS. It was perfect in every way. Everything worked, where people could log on and play against people around the world for free. No server charges or membership fees or anything. Mario Kart is the best racing game for the DS as of now, no questions about it.

Mario Kart is most definitely not realistic. It involves blue shells, red shells, green shells, and the whole Mario crew. The game takes place on several tracks, including themes such as Bowser’s Castle, Ice, Desert, and Island. It’s varied enough to keep the levels interesting, but it’s not really the main attraction. The best part of this game is the actual driving and item part of this. You could be in first place for the whole race, but at the last second, 100 meters away from the finish line, get knocked out by 2 red shells, a blue shell, and hit by a lightning bolt, and wind up finishing last out of 8 people. The game is not based on skill, but on luck as well. Each lead can end up losing due to attack and barrage of items from behind. Not only does this give a new random factor to a racing game, it provides a way for less experienced players to catch up to skilled players, since the better items are of course given out more to the racers in the last places. Mushrooms, Boos, and lightning bolts are all but a part of your list of barraging items. The gameplay modes are fairly straight forward.

You have the standard GP mode, where you can race against computers in tournaments to unlock trophies and new courses. There is the Time Attack mode, where you can try to beat the world’s best records. And of course, the cream of the crop, the WiFi mode, where you can race up to 3 others online. Local multiplayer is also great, with single card multiplayer supporting up to 7 other players, though if you don’t have a Mario Kart DS cartridge, you will be subjected to driving as a Shy Guy. The WiFi is a bit crappy, considering people abuse the system by disconnecting when they lose, but this is to be expected from a first shot by any company entering the Internet multiplayer business. You can also play with friends, but you have to be sure you both have your friend codes added to each other’s lists, one of the painful features that Nintendo tacked on for more security, and to the fact that WFC is free.

One of the more useful techniques, or gamebreaking depending on how you look at it, is snaking. It is a technique which uses mini boosts. The mini boosts are actually supposed to be used for corners, such as the N64 version, where one would tilt the control stick left and right to change color sparks or smoke. In the DS version, this technique was broken by noticing that karts with tighter turning could be used to mini boost left and right alternatively on straightaways, giving those karts a higher top speed, theoretically and in practice.

The Battle Mode also makes a return, with the ever class Block Fort. It’s just too bad that this Battle Mode is not available on WiFi, because busting other people’s balloons is probably more fun than racing, and sets everybody on a same level playing field. There is also the Shine Get mode, where you collect shine stars, and the Bob-Bomb lob mode, where you must blow up your opponents with Bob-Bombs.

The graphics of this game is better than just average. The graphics are tight, punchy, and colorful. The game never lags, and it manages to render every level perfectly. It looks prettier than its GBA predecessors and almost better than the N64 version. The level of detail to each kart and character, along with the little things like blue and red sparks, just show the amount of attention paid by the Nintendo crew to truly make this a nice looking game, and to complement the gameplay aspect. There are a few extra effects, like lightning bolts, blue shell explosions, and bullet bill rocket bys, and they all show how much effort Nintendo has actually put into this game.

The sound is magnificent. Each character has their catch phrase (mama mia) and the music contains all of the classic Nintendo tunes known by all. The music and sound are both excellent, and none should expect any less from Nintendo, which is notorious for remaking old tunes for new games.

Lasting Replay
The lasting value of this game is above average. With the addition of WiFi racing, there should be no exhaust of willing racers to race. However, might want to get a few reliable friends who aren’t jerks to race against because most people now just disconnect when losing. This takes away from the experience because it takes a bit to connect to a game with 4 people. Most of the time, it is one on one, and it shows the tenacity of the game. One of the quirks that doesn’t fit is the fact that the skill levels are not the same. Some people snake, some people don’t, and this creates a lot of one sided races, where one racer will blaze the other. This is not at all fun and takes away from the lasting value, which could have easily been fixed by a ranking system.

Overall, this game is a must for your DS library. It’s the best racer out there, and mixing in wacky elements lets anybody jump in and play. With the addition of battle mode, WiFi multiplayer, and tons of new and retro courses, Mario Kart DS is a surefire winner with any crowd.




Gameplay - 10/10
Graphics - 10/10
Sound - 9/10
Lasting Replay - 9/10
Overall - 9/10 (Not an average)
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