Return to the Review: Mario Kart DS

Back in 2005, the DS was finally picking up steam in the game department as better games got released. Back then I wrote a reader review for Mario Kart DS. It was a pretty good game, that and it’s focus on Nintendo Wi-Fi connection, made playing Mario Kart online fun, despite it’s flaws and easy exploits. It’s a shame that the 3DS game didn’t interest me in the slightest…

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Possibly one of the most wanted games on the DS this year is Mario Kart DS because it is the first time that Nintendo opens up Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, an online play service that is free to use. On the other side features a great single player and multi-player modes too.

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The single player Grand Prix mode now has two championships, the Nitro Grand Prix (a Championship with new original level) and the Retro Grand Prix (a championship with various levels from the previous Mario Kart games including Double Dash). This gives you the opportunity to play courses that have never been seen before, and play the SNES and GBA circuits in glorious three dimensions, instead of playing them in mode-7. Like in Double-Dash, drivers can use either a typical racing kart, or a unique vehicle suit to that character, e.g. Mario can use the B-Dasher that looks like a cross between a 1940’s style racing car and a formula one. Each character have their own statistics on how well their acceleration, top speed and handling, but this can change on what vehicle you choose, in some cases the original kart can be better then the unique vehicle, later on in the game you can unlock other vehicles for your characters to drive in. In addition to this there are 8 characters to choose from with an additional 4 more characters that can be unlocked later on in the game depending on what Grand Prix you complete. The controls in the game are almost like the controls you get in Mario Kart on the SNES, except it moved around 90 degrees anticlockwise, accelerate is A, break is B, changing the map is Y and to fire weapon is X (you can also use the L button instead to fire). The control of the vehicles in the game is a lot easier then the cars found in Double Dash that in my opinion had handling like a runny egg. Drift turning too is a lot nicer too, you can master it quite quickly and discover you’ll use it a lot often to get every turn right and take advantage of the little boost it gives you after it.

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Battle mode now isn’t just a multi-player affair, you can now play it with you and 7 other CPU controlled rivals, and there’s a new battle mode game too, Shine Runners. This is a lot like Shine Thief in Double Dash except there’s multiple shines and a countdown ticks, the people with the least amount of shines get booted out and this repeats until only one person remains who becomes the winner. The Original Balloon battle game has a slight twist too, instead of 3 balloons to start with, you only get one balloon; however you got 4 in reverse. What this is, is that you’re meant to hide somewhere and then blow on the DS’ microphone to pump up more balloons, you can only pump up more balloons where you’re not moving, so you can’t cheat. The Levels included for Battle mode includes Block Fort from Mario Kart 64, Pipe Plaza from Double Dash, and 4 new levels including an oversized DS, The Twilight House that feels like a maze, Palm Shore, and open out arena with water and Part Top, an arena made out of a huge cake where you use a ramp to get up to the cream and cheery to get to the item boxes.

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The one thing you will want to do on the Mario Kart DS is to use it’s first ever use of the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection. It’s very easy to use; you don’t need to worry about signing up for usernames; the nickname that you assigned on the DS will be used for you Nintendo Wi-Fi account, all you need is a wireless router, a known local hotspot or Nintendo’s Wi-Fi dongle to get online. After that you’ll get on and you’ll get the choice between four ways to play, Regional, Worldwide, Friends and Rivals. Regional allows you to play others from your continent, this depends on what version of the game you own, I own the US game; therefore I get to play with American players; Worldwide allows you to play with anyone around the world; Friends allow you to only play with people who you have traded friend codes with (I’ll explain this later) and Rivals allow you to play with others with the same amount of wins and loses. Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection doesn’t allow you to play with people who you want to play, it’s picked out randomly; however when you make a Nintendo Wi-Fi account you get a friend code, if you enter other people’s friend codes into your account and them entering you code in, when you select “Friends” on the Nintendo Wi-Fi match up. Your friends can then join you in a race match online.

There are some limitations when playing online, firstly you can only have a maximum of 4 players, battle mode is not available, and only 20 of the 32 tracks are only available to race online. Although there are limitations it didn’t feel like the end to the world. What is cool though is that this time you not limited to be all playing different characters, you can now have 2 or more Mario’s racing each other; however I find this annoying and try to play as someone different.

My conclusion to this game, it’s very good, and for being the first Nintendo Wi-Fi connection game it’s a great introduction for Nintendo’s new online future. Even it there’s some slight limitations on the online side of it, the Single player and local Multi-player is very solid, this doesn’t mean that the Nintendo WFC isn’t, it’s still very good, it did “slightly” disappoint me at first, but I got use to it and I love it, plus it’s free, so what’s the pain in that?