Nintendo is not well known for its racing games. As a matter of fact, there are only two racing series that come to mind that Nintendo fans can gloat about to non-Nintendo system owners. The first is F-Zero, a hyper fast sci-fi racer that will make you enter elliptic shock faster than you can say “Pokemon cartoon Lawsuit”. The second is Mario Kart, a super fun Kart racer with almost cocaine like addictive multiplayer possibilities. Way back when Nintendo executives decided to put Mario and friends behind the wheel of a go-kart, they bet heavily on the side scrolling plumbers’ popularity to sell this all-new racing series. And boy, was their bet was right on the money. But even the greediest Nintendo executive probably was not expecting the massive popularity that would emerge from this series over the years. Mario Kart has been a best seller since day one on the mode-7 graphic SNES right through the N64 when it jumped to 3D graphics ,then on to the Gamecube with Double Dash and even on the Wii. And now, gamers such as myself look forward to the latest version coming soon to the 3DS with great anticipation. But I am not discussing any of these Mario Kart games today . I am reviewing what I believe to be the best of the series, thus far. Nintendo has perhaps created, for its time, the ultimate Mario Kart experience to date on the Nintendo DS handheld system.
Graphically speaking, Mario Kart DS is one of the most visually impressive games available on the double screened handheld. Much to often in its earlier years DS games came with GBA inspired 2D graphics or poor 3D visuals, but Mario Kart definitely displays the N64 beating capabilities of this unique system. While PSP owners will obviously not be impressed by the fact that Mario Kart DS is slightly superior to Mario Kart 64 in terms of eye candy, Nintendo fans have one nice looking racer on their system. The games 3D engine moves very smoothly with a great frame rate, and while the polygon count is not going to break any records, Nintendo has done a very good job with the textures and colours in Mario Kart DS. Gone are the very ugly bit-mapped 2D characters that plagued the N64 Mario Kart, thankfully. Fully polygonal and textured characters fill the DS top screen. The developers working at Nintendo spent a very long time making sure that this game would be as visually impressive as possible, and their efforts have paid off. Even today its one of the best looking and smoothly playing DS titles you can find.
With the visuals of Mario Kart DS running smoothly you would have to expect that the audio is also just as good, and unsurprisingly you would be correct. Thus, the sound and music quality is great in Mario Kart DS. Its your typical fun Mario Kart sound track and sound effects. The two little speakers on the DS put out some very nice sounds and in “Surround” mode, you can actually tell where the other racers are when they are behind you without taking your eyes off the top screen to look at the map, which helps out in your gameplay strategy more than I thought it would. There is nothing really new here in terms of music and sounds, and Nintendo could have maybe ventured out a little bit with different music styles for the series DS debut, but what is here is familiar and very well done. I suppose it would not be Mario Kart without the typical Mario Kart music and its here and sounds great.
Peach VS a Fish ?
Mario Kart DS does not take advantage of the touch screen as much as I would have thought it would, but it does use it for menu selections and for creating a custom made decal for your Kart. Although the very first thing I drew was a Penis (LOL I am soooo funny), I soon found myself attempting to paint all sorts of pictures. There were even websites at the time that allowed you to take a picture file and it will create a pixel by pixel rendering of it for you to try and copy onto your Kart using the paint feature in the game. The top screen of the DS shows off the 3D graphics during gameplay, while the bottom touch screen is used for the menu, painting, and a map during gameplay. The map is useful, when it is safe to actually scan it with out crashing that is, because it will show you when certain hazards are ahead, the position of other racers, and turtle shells that are being shot at you. The two screens are also occasionally used together as one big screen during each tracks intro and during the end of each grand prix and the effect is pretty nice.
The game plays like all Mario Kart games before it. So, if you are one of the few Nintendo fans out there that does not like the game, there is unfortunately very little here that is unique enough to change your opinion. That of course is a good thing for most of us, and this means the game is very fun in both single player and multiplayer modes. Single player has over 32 tracks for gamers racing pleasure, divided into the Nitro Grand Prix and the Retro Grand Prix. The all-new tracks such as Luigi’s Mansion and Desert Hills are very fun and look great. The retro tracks are taken from previous Mario Kart games ranging from the SNES , GBA , N64 and Gamecube. By wining Grand Prix races and obtaining good race times, you can unlock many hidden characters such as R.O.B. the robot, and new Karts. Also included is a battle mode, which allows players to battle it out for Shrines or pop opponents balloons on crazy levels such as a giant cake, a gigantic sized DS and a tropical island with a very fast tide. New to the series at this point of Mario Karts history is a Mission mode. In this single player only mode, gamers will have to perform various tasks per mission such as shooting down enemies, driving through hoops in specific order and performing multiple powerslide-turbos, all within a specified time limit. If the player is good enough to pass each mission on a level, a boss is unlocked and it must be defeated in order to move on to the next level of challenges. Although not as fun as the racing modes, this new gameplay element is a welcome one and it adds even more employability to an already replay chocked full game and all these racing gameplay modes had me enjoying this title for a very long time. And ,of course there was that one other gameplay mode that finally came to a Nintendo game after a MUCH too long delay. Yes I am talking online gameplay.
Online gameplay finally came to a Nintendo game! "Gamer Dicks" soon followed!
After making an almost fatal mistake by not giving players the option to go online with the Gamecube, the sleeping giant known as Nintendo finally woke the hell up up to the world of online gaming. Without a doubt, Nintendo was defiantly exploring uncharted waters when it came to online multiplayer in Mario Kart DS. Considering the facts that the DS is not a very powerful system and the wi-fi network is absolutely free of cost, I had fears of a choppy, problem filled online gaming experience. Luckily, Mario Kart’s wi-fi multiplayer has taken away my worries, and replaced them, for the most part, with sweet satisfaction. Simply put, the game plays smoothly online and most of the time you will honestly not be able tell the difference between the online game play and the single player mode in terms of frame rate. For the most part , online multiplayer is trouble free and most importantly, very easy to get going. All you need to do is touch the bottom screen in the wi-fi menu of the game, then choose if you want to play with your friends on the friends list, play regionally, globally or against rivals of the same skill level that you race at. And that’s it, Nintendo gamers were in the game. We were online. FINALLY.
We all know by now that the Nintendo wi-fi network is not perfect, however. And even after all these years since Mario Kart DS has been released, it hasn’t been improved which really is a shame. There are some occasions where the game will freeze up, or a player who is losing will just disconnect, and thus also freeze the entire game for the other players. Yes Wonderpod video game podcast listeners, Mario Kart ” GAMER DICKS ” did and still do exist on the Nintendo wi-fi network. And although Nintendo did fix its network-disconnection problems that plagued eager gamers on the fist few days of releases, the network will still disconnect upon occasion, even now. Also, Nintendo could have made the wait to find friends and opponents, which sometimes seems to take a while, more entertaining for those of us with short attention spans like myself. You will be stuck just watching a dull menu screen and listening to some very annoying elevator music until you have found someone to play against. And of course now, years later after its release, there are less and less gamers to play against online and most of them do the annoying “snaking” technique which eliminates the fun factor of picking up power ups immensely. I will be the first to tell you that Nintendo needs to really improve its online services. However, for its time, the online multiplayer in Mario Kart DS was more than satisfactory,mostly fun and unlike PSN plus ands XBL, it was and still is absolutely free.
One of the best games on the DS, period. Cant wait to see what the 3DS version has to offer!
Mario Kart DS is an absolutly must have game if you own a DS. And it was more than enough reason to justify buying the unique two-screened handheld system back in the day. The graphics are still some of the best you will see on this portable, the sound and music is top notch, and the game play is as addictive as ever. I bought this game brand new back when it was released and it was well worth its price tag. Finally, Nintendo woke up and entered the wonderful world of global multiplayer gaming and I cannot think of a better game to debut the wi-fi network online with than with a Mario Kart game. And not just any Mario Kart game, but quite possibly the best one yet. Now I wait and hope that Mario Kart 3DS will be every bit as fun as its predecessor is, it has a tough hill to climb but if anyone can do it, its the Big-N!
PatMan Gives Mario Kart DS a 9.2 / 10