I have been waiting for Mario Kart DS to be released since I bought my Nintendo DS last November, so I might get a little carried away with this review.
For the uninitiated, Mario Kart DS is a go-kart based racing title which features characters, locales, sounds and items based on the Super Mario realm of gaming. Mario Kart has been a staple of Nintendo's racing line-up since the Super Nintendo back in 1992 and every Nintendo console since then has had a great version for its system.
Now, if you are one of those who think that great graphics and an exclusive soundtrack is what makes a good video game these days, think again. Though simple in game play, it holds a myriad of advanced features and techniques that must be mastered if you want a chance of placing in the top 3 spots in the higher difficulty settings.
So lets take this racer for a spin, shall we?
There are several options to choose from in 3 overall game types: Single player, Multiplayer and Nintendo WFC.
From Single player, you can choose from old favorites such as Grand Prix, Battle and Time Trials. In Grand Prix, you must race in 4 different locales and rack up points to be the overall leader. Battle places you and your computerized opponents in an arena with balloons over your go-karts and items in the arena to burst your opponent's balloons. Time Trials pits you against yourself, as you race to achieve the fastest lap time on a track. After every lap, you will have a ghost image of your fastest lap time for you to race against and beat to gain an even faster time.
In addition, a new Mission mode tests your go-karting expertise with skill-based tasks that unlock new mission leading to a boss battle. The increasing levels of difficulty will definitely bring out the advanced go-kart racer in you.
So, you say, you have heard most of this before from the previous Mario Kart games. If you haven't, you might be saying that these modes are found in other racers. What makes Mario Kart DS worth my time and money?
Simply that this iteration seems to not only have taken the best parts of the previous Mario Kart games, but it also leverages the innovations brought about by the Nintendo DS console itself.
For instance, remember the Battle mode I described earlier? In the previous Mario Kart games, your racer started with 3 balloons. When they are gone, you are out. In Mario Kart DS, you initially start with 1 balloon, and have several in reserve that you blow up, literally. You blow into the DS's microphone like you are blowing up a balloon, and voila! New balloons will inflate and appear, (yes you can push a button if you don't want to look too silly, but it really does get you into the game.) The Time Trial ghost images you made and saves can be sent to friends and challengers through the console's wireless capabilities, so others can try to beat your best time and vice versa. The bottom screen acts as a map, but also alerts you to hazards and item weapons on the map. This map can show the whole course or can zoom in on your racer simply by touching the screen. Add a new drafting mechanic which can make close finishes even closer, the return of the hop slide, (yes go-kart veterans, it is indeed back!) unlockable racers, go-karts and courses and you have a new race in your hands.