Just when many supporters of the hardware and software developer that is Nintendo didn’t think it would ever happen, November 14 proved us all wrong. Mario Kart has been a well-renowned franchise since the SNES era. Whether it’s just having that kooky Mario atmosphere or the intense racing battles against the AI or your friends Mario Kart has done it and done it well. Nintendo has always been a company to focus on family-oriented game titles that can also be played with friends in your living room. Well it’s no different in this case, as we now have the best of three worlds. Single player, local multiplayer and worldwide multiplayer take us into one of the very first Nintendo online experiences we’ve ever had.
If you’re a fan of any of the Mario Kart games, whether it may just be one in particular or every one we’ve gotten, you’re bound to love MK DS. The SNES title relied heavily on a great single player experience while introducing two player battles. Mario Kart 64 emphasized both on a very balanced scale with lots of action to be had in single and multiplayer modes. Mario Kart: Double Dash emphasized the very same thing, but then offered two different Mario characters in one single kart. Mario Kart: Super Circuit relied heavily on showcasing the entertainment value one can get in a single player/portable MK experience. Now with Mario Kart DS, we have everything we ever could’ve wanted in one tiny DS cartridge.
MK DS is a game that mixes old and new elements, and both are welcomed with open arms. With 32 different tracks to spin your rubber on, you will see very inventive tracks such as Waluigi Pinball and Tick Tock Clock. These are split in the Nitro section of cups which are comprised of four series just like the Retro part. The brand new tracks offer a ton of originality and that kooky music we’ve all become familiar with since 1985. The Retro tracks couldn’t possibly make the experience any better. Nintendo took tracks from every Mario Kart they’ve made to date to offer a mix of MK goodness that any franchise fan would salivate over. Whether it’s the very first Mario Circuit track on the SNES to Baby Park and Luigi Circuit from Double Dash, we get a beautiful balance of old and new.
A big surprise is how well the game presents itself graphically. The DS is more than capable of punching out Nintendo 64 quality graphics, but it’s also slightly more powerful to allow more polish and refinement. Granted it’s not a huge amount, but it’s nice to see, especially in games like this. All your environments are very well-detailed and varied, so you will never feel like you raced the same track more than once. The characters (both available and locked) also add to the great Mario atmosphere the franchise has always offered. Of course a number of old faces make their traditional return, while a few new ones make their first appearance. The only small disappointment is that there weren’t a whole lot of characters to unlock, and they really should’ve added more to make it even better. Each character looks like they should, and sticking them in the huge number of karts that are eventually available can be downright hilarious at times. Have you ever wondered what Bowser would look like in a motorcycle-like kart? Here’s your chance to see just that.
Now you may be wondering how the game actually plays since the DS is without analog control. Really, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. Whether you’re more used to playing Super Mario Kart/Super Circuit more or MK 64/Double Dash more, you should have no problem controlling MK DS. Yes it uses the D-Pad, but it’s hardly difficult to master. You really only have to worry about the left and right parts of the pad anyway, as that’s how you do all your steering. Yes you have to hit forward or backward on it when you want to launch a particular item whatever way, but it’s not hard.
Now a huge part of Mario Kart has always been the sliding, drifting/drafting and boosting. In MK DS, if you wish to do a power slide and get that extra boost of speed, you simply hold one of the shoulder buttons and turn in the direction of the bend you’re going through. While you’re holding the shoulder button and turning into the bend, you simply have to drag your thumb left and right on the pad multiple times until you see a red flame behind you. Once you see that, simply let go and enjoy a small boost of speed that could very well be the difference between a position or two when racing. The same applies to the “drafting” technique you can do. Just like in Mario Kart 64, if you follow closely behind an AI or human opponent long enough, you will get a bigger boost of speed than power sliding would do, giving you nice assistance if you’re in dire need of it.
But of course assistance is also offered by the plethora of MK weaponry we’re all familiar with. Virtually all the great items we’ve seen in MK titles of the past have come back, along with the addition of two brand new ones. So yes we do have the traditional red and green Koopa shells, the first place targeting blue spikey shell and many others. But now, we have the addition of the Blooper and Bullet Bill. Now Bullet Bill, that’s what makes a Mario game if you ask me. Users of Blooper will cause the squid to spray ink on the screens of all other opponents in a particular race, temporarily blinding them. Bullet Bill is a little more useful, as the item literally turns you Bullet Bill, and you fly in a straight line through the middle of the track, taking out anything and anyone who may be in your way.