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Mario Kart DS Review

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Developer: Nintendo Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date:November 15th, 2005
Also On:None

I wasn’t the happiest camper when I was through with the Gamecube’s Mario Kart: Double Dash. Although I admired some of the elements of the game, like the tracks and the items, I wasn’t very happy with how the game controlled and I thought that Nintendo should take the Mario Kart series back to its roots. With the Nintendo DS’s Mario Kart DS, they’ve done just that. By doing so, they’ve made nothing short of a perfect racing game that shouldn’t be missed by a single gamer out there.

Mario Kart DS is like a naturally-selected melting pot. Nintendo took all of the superior features of their four Mario Kart games (Super Mario Kart, Mario Kart 64, Mario Kart: Super Circuit, and Mario Kart: Double Dash) and threw everything else out. The result is a compilation of some of the best factors in any racing game to date.

I’ll begin with the single-player modes. The four that are avaliable are Grand Prix, Time Trial, Battle, and Challenge. The Grand Prix mode is the traditional race-and-win-trophies stuff that has been in every Mario Kart game. The three difficulties (50cc, 100cc, and 150cc) return as well, and the 150cc difficulty has been adjusted to be punishingly difficult. Time Trial is your standard race to beat the best time as well as ghost racers that can be downloaded through the WiFi feature, which I’ll touch on later. Battle Mode is for single- and multi-player matches, and has a few different kinds of games to play on its own. Basically, the character who is the best at a) killing the others or b) collecting items will emerge as the victor in these matches.

Last of all is my favorite part of the entire game, Challenge. Challenge Mode offers over 60 different missions that require you to collect certain amounts of coins, pass through numbered gates, kill a set amount of enemies, or beat another racer as quickly as possible for an evaluation. The main draw here isn’t only to complete all of the missions, but also to get the best ranking possible in each of the missions. I found myself pouring more than an hour into a few of the missions that I was determined to get a perfect rank on. It sounds frustrating, but afterwards a sigh of relief and anticipation for the next challenge kept me going. It’s fun, it’s tough, but it’s addictive to boot.

The gameplay itself returns to the roots with the powerslides and the item usage as well as the simple execution itself. No longer do you have to pick up coins (*cough* MK: Super Circuit) or switch between two racers. You simply race, perform power slides (which are done by hopping like in Mario Kart 64), and pick up items to stop your opponents. The classic items (like turtle shells and stars) are back, but three new ones round out the collection. The Bullet Bill might just be my favorite, as it turns your racer into a speeding bullet that blasts everything off of the path ahead and propels you forward. The Blooper is another twisted delight, as it spits ink all over the face of every other racer on the track, making visibility very difficult. Last of all is the Bob-Omb, which explodes and causes anything caught in the blast radius to spin out or slow down. I like all three of these items and for that I really can’t find anything wrong with the gameplay at all. Add onto that the 16 all-new, creative tracks (especially Waluigi’s Pinball) as well as 16 classics, and you’ve got a gameplay package that is hard to beat.

Similarly, I can’t find anything to complain about with the visuals or the music. Some of the old music was ported for the updated tracks, and you’ll instantly recognize the tunes in Moo Moo Farm and Frappe Snowland as well as the Gamecube or GBA games if you’ve played them. Of course, the new tracks have music of their own that is as easy to hum along with as the old music. The visuals are among the best on the console so far, as they reflect the Nintendo look and feel perfectly. The game feels a little slow, but it’s a speed that invites technical skill rather than twitchy luck. Like the gameplay, there simply isn’t anything wrong with this game in terms of presentation.

Is Mario Kart DS the perfect Nintendo DS video game? I’d say so. Despite the fact that I haven’t gotten the chance to play WiFi Multiplayer, everything else about Mario Kart DS is flawless. The controls are spot-on. The new tracks, combined with the classic ones, are superb. The visuals test the DS’s hardware more than most DS games at this point. The music is catchy, the gameplay is addictive…what more could you want from a handheld racing game? If you own a DS and didn’t already have this pre-purchased, you need to get on the ball and buy this game now that it’s out on the market.

Graphics: 9.5
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 10
Creativity: 9
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 9.5
Written by Cliff Review Guide