Review- Mario Kart DS
Mario Kart DS was one of the most anticipated games in development for the DS and with good reason too. First of all, it would be the latest in a series of excellent racing games, that being the Mario Kart series. Secondly it is the first DS game to feature online gameplay. Has it lived up to the Hype? You’re about to find out.
The graphics are the best the DS has had to offer in its short life span, but still they don’t even come remotely close to anything seen on the PSP. Still this game looks a lot better than Mario Kart 64 does.
Most of the Characters and the carts are well designed and look great although they are a little blocky. A lot of details to the characters faces etc have been added and they weren’t present at all in the N64 version, which featured fuzzy 3D characters.
The Tracks look great too. There’s a giant pinball machine, an airship, a castle surrounded by lava and even a rainbow. Also the tracks which are borrowed from other games in the series look better than their counterparts did for the most part. The only exceptions are the Gamecube tracks but that is expected, as the Gamecube is the more powerful console.
Nothing out of the ordinary here, just the regular Mario series groans, one-liners and music. The music for the new tracks is very catchy and nearly all of them suit the theme of the track well. The quality is also good, better than a lot of the music on the N64 (and by that, I mean almost every game).
All the retro tracks have also got the original music and it sounds better than ever.
Now the voices of the characters, there’s a sight problem as some of them do sound quite muffled, and their nothing out of the ordinary, like Mario yells out ‘ yippee’ and ‘momma-mia’ and bowser roars his trademark growls. But that’s OK because we don’t want Mario barking like a dog now do we?
This is where MKDS really excels. This game is a pleasure to play, it handles like a dream, and a hell of a lot better than the dodgy analog sticks of the N64.
When you first boot up the game, there are many different modes that you can try out, none of them bad at all. First you have the traditional Grand Prix. This is where you race a series of four races, gaining points towards those valued gold trophies. And unlike previous Mario Karts where getting golds on Grand Prix only unlocked maybe a new cup or two or a new kart, you will really want to complete everything this time around. No more will the Mario Kart veterans be able to Skip straight to 150cc, because you have to complete 50 and 100cc to unlock new karts and characters this time around, so you cant really miss out anything. Time trial is the same as usual, pick one of 8 characters (more as you unlock em) and race 3 laps solo around the track and record as good of a time as you can. But continuing the tradition of this game, it has added something, which will keep you playing for a long time. For each track there is a staff ghost, which while you don’t get anything for beating them, they will keep you occupied for a long time as they are rather difficult to beat. But a new character for beating them all would be nice as well. Oh well…
Now for the newest addition to the Mario kart series, the Missions. 63 missions, progressively getting harder is sure to keep you occupied for a long time and it will. They arrange from collecting coins to racing some oh so familiar Mario enemies. you only have a limited amount of time to complete them too, so you have to be on your toes. It wont take you that long to complete all of them but it might take a while to get triple star rankings on all them, which only adds to this mountain of replay value developing.
There are eight characters initially and most of them are very well designed in terms of look and performance. There’s a character to suit everyone from Toad, who has high acceleration and off road handling to bowser who has high top speed but low acceleration and off road handling. To complicate things, each character has their own carts, to add a little more individualization to each character. Not only that, but also they vary in speed acceleration and even item luck, so choose wisely.
Now to the tracks. Like most racing games, some tracks are a lot better than others are. My favourites are Waluigi’s Pinball, a race inside a retro pinball machine, Airship Fortress, the level from Super Mario Brothers 3 and Luigi’s Mansion- a track set in the Gamecube game of the same name. The old Favourites return as well including Wario Stadium, Mario Circuit, Bowser castle and the Mario Kart Signature Track, Rainbow Road.
Mario Kart Veterans Can Rejoice because there are 16 ‘retro tracks thrown in the mix as well. I think that the choices of track were fairly good too, with the exception of a few like Luigi Circuit (GBA), Choco Island and Baby Park, but then again, it is inevitable that not everyone will be pleased with the choices made with the old tracks. Where’s Ribbon Road and DK’S Jungle Parkway? Oh well, but the rest of the choices are very good with Moo Moo Farm, Luigi Circuit (GCN), Mushroom Bridge and Sky Garden just the few making a more than welcome return to glory. To add to the nostalgia, each of the tracks has their original tune too. Sweet!
Multiplayer has always been the stronghold of the Mario kart series, and DS is no exception. Up to eight players can play local wireless. You can also play up to eight players if only one character has a MKDS card but the options are limited. If everyone has a copy however, this is sheer multiplayer bliss. Finally you can play championships (a.k.a GP’s ) with more than two players. Also if you don’t have eight players, you can chuck in some AI as well. The AI’S difficulty can be set as well, so it is great if you need a few more racers.
The other component of MKDS multiplayer was one of the reasons why this game was so anticipated, and it’s the wi-fi online play. Mario Kart veterans have been salivating over this since it was first announced. And Ill tell you now, it isn’t as good as it should be.
It is unfortunately very limited. First of all, you can only choose 20 tracks. And unfortunately it is some of the best tracks like Waluigi Pinball and Bowser Castle left out, which is a shame. Secondly, you can only race with four players. Thirdly and the most damming of all, is that there is no battle mode. Despite the occasional lag and limitations, This is a good shot at online play from Nintendo, who are very new to the whole online thing. It is best though if you have no friends with DS’S but still want to play Multiplayer. But if possible, play local wireless, since everything is accessible.
Replay Value 98%
Yes, it is reasonably easy to beat the game, unlocking all the characters and karts. It is easy to get through all the grand prix and missions with a C ranking. However it is not easy to get *** ranks, and it is something which will keep you playing for a long time. The staff ghosts are no push over either, meaning you need to perfect your game in order to truly clear the single player mode. But then there’s multiplayer mode. The possibilities are endless. You will be versing your friends locally or online, weeks, months or even years to come, trying to own everyone and everything that crosses your path. Your head begins to say, I better do some work, but there is something else somewhere that’s saying one more one more.
Even if the multiplayer was nonexistent, this category would still score a nine. But as it is, and as I said before, this game will keep you occupied in those otherwise boring school lessons or even on the bus by yourself on the way to work.
Replay Value- A+
Overall- B+ Pro’s
-In-depth single player, a first for the series
-Tracks are very well designed
-3 Player + GP, Yay
-Endless multiplayer replay value
-Poor sound effects
-Limited online content
Mario Kart DS is the only good racer on the DS. This is the best Mario Kart yet, with more content and better gameplay than ever before. Saviour this, as this is the DS'S first Killer App.