the sound of millions of DS owners starting their
engines? Perhaps it's a low rumble that shakes the
earth to its core or maybe it's simply KA-CHING, like
a cash register. In any event Mario fans everywhere
are pleased as punch to be playing the latest installment
of the grand-daddy kart racer that not only defined
a genre but managed to decimate any competition along
the way. Mario Kart DS doesn't reinvent the wheel
here; it's business as usual and everyone knows what
to expect. Nintendo jammed a lot into this little
card: tons of tracks, half of which are a 'Greatest
Hits' of previous games now done to perfection on
the DS, 4 player online, 8 player Wi-Fi and of course
that trademark quality that goes into every Nintendo
of your favorite characters are included and as per
the commandments established when Mario came down
off Mount Olympus with the stone tablets....err...I
think I'm mixing my history here, sorry....anyway,
the characters and their respective mean machines
are based on Accelaration, Speed and Control. Toad
for example has excellent acceleration, while Mario
has a good balance of all three factors and Wario
and Bowser favor speed. Don't always assume that speed
wins out as it often takes awhile to accelerate after
being hit (and you will be hit). No one character
has it all sewn up and you might be the type of player
who constantly changes characters depending on the
track or goes with brand loyalty. Whatever works.
w hat is the first thing you do when faced with a
game that you've never been able to take online before?
You take it online. Duh! Thankfully the Linksys Wireless
router in my house was compatible and I had little
trouble connecting. I can't say the same for everyone
out there and unfortunately some might require a stopover
at their local Nintendo dealer to pick up the Nintendo
Wi-Fi USB Connector if their router isn't supported.
The Wi-Fi USB Connector effectively turns your PC
(Windows XP required) into a wireless hub which will
allow up to 5 DS systems to connect online (the DS
has wireless built in remember). I've set up wireless
networks in the past and I found Nintendo's system
to be geared to the average person who doesn't know
anything about wireless, which is a good thing since
the instructions are easy to understand and implement.
The only downside as far as taking MK online is that
unlike the XBL service for Xbox, your online 'friends'
list is game/card specific which means you will need
to set up friends codes for each game that you plan
to take online. It's not a huge PITA (pain in the...)
but it is slightly clunkier than if the friends list
could have been saved to the system.
you do connect and get to a race, you'll discover
a few ugly sides of Mario Kart. First off, if you
don't know how to Boost Start, I'd suggest practicing
before you get online or you'll be eating dust right
off the bat. Secondly, if you do manage to pull ahead
of the pack it probably won't be long before the jackass
in fourth place jacks out of the Matrix. Then, since
the third player has been bumped down to last place,
he'll jack out too. That's just unsportsmanlike. Suck
it up! This game does allow you to make some headway
if you're sucking tailpipe in last position. Maybe
you'll get some kick ass weapons like the new Blooper
which goops up the players screens. It's devious and
evil, but it really does mess things up nicely for
the competition giving an unfair advantage to the
disadvantaged. But that's what Mario Kart is all about.
you are playing against friends who don't mind racing
to the bitter end, then you'll have a blast online.
Unfortunately due to lag and other issues, only four
players are allowed per track but that won't make
a difference to you. It's still a lot of fun to play.
Those of you who read my reviews regularly know that
I've never been a fan of splitscreen racing so playing
online or Wi-Fi with other players around is completely
worth the price of admission alone. Online you'll
run into some lag here and there but it's nothing
you haven't experienced before and it's definitely
not a deal breaker.
you do manage to have friends who haven't bought this
game yet, get some new friends. No but seriously folks,
MKDS will allow up to 8 players on one card via Wi-Fi.
Options such as characters will be limited to those
who don't own their own MKDS card, but you'll still
be able to enjoy a lot of what the game has to offer.
Think of it like an extended preview. A few rounds
and they'll be off to the store to pick up their own
Kart fans will be delighted to know that there are
16 classic tracks taken from previous games in the
series. Nintendo tried to pick the 'fan favorites'
and I'm fairly certain you won't be disappointed.
That's not to suggest the new tracks are nothing to
sneeze at. Personally I usually prefer "new blood"
but I can respect that diehards will love tearing
up the asphalt to some of their tried and true favorite
tracks all over again. The Grand Prix mode (50cc,
100cc, 150cc) are present and accounted for as is
the Battle Mode. New to the DS version is Mission
Mode which mixes up the racing by requiring you to
complete objectives as you zoom zoom around the tracks.
New weapons have been added but to say anymore would
be to ruin the excitement. You should be playing this
game, not reading about it!
half of the tracks may be the same, Double Dash!!
fanatics might be wondering if the control is completely
different due to adjusting from the Cubes analog stick
to the DS d-pad. I was surprised at how quickly I
adjusted considering I play a lot of Mario Kart Double
Dash!! with my son. By the end of the first race I
was completely comfortable with the techinique and
adjusted accordingly and therefore I doubt anyone
will have any complications. The map can be found
on the entire bottom screen and it's so effective
you can actually race just watching it.
the game is exactly what you'd expect - bright cartoony
graphics with a great framerate which manages to stay
that way online and over Wi-Fi for the most part.
Musically the game isn't so wonderful, but then I
must tell you that I find some of these Nintendo melodies
a little too sweet tasting for my ears.
course there is some criticism I can level at MKDS.
The online mode would have benefitted from more than
4 players at one time, but that may be a moot point
if you have 8 friends who live close to you and all
own a copy of the game anyway. I would have liked
to have seen more new tracks and less rehashed ones
- as I've played them enough and want a new challenge
- but again, I can understand that some players will
definitely consider this a feather in the cap of the
game. I was saddened to see the two players per cart
mechanic absent from Double Dash!! as I found that
particular innovation to be exactly what the franchise
needed, but I guess I can always turn the Cube on
and have at it. My last and final bone of contention
are the short courses - some are just a little too
short. You just seem to get going and you've done
a lap already. Finally I know this might be going
against the grain, but I would sure love for this
franchise to include other Nintendo icons such as
Samus, Link, Zelda and some of the Animal Crossing
characters down the road. Even though these new characters
would be nothing more than a slight cosmetic change
it would just breathe a bit more life into this classic
yet aging series.
know some of you are really pissed off that Mother
Nature is snowing on your parade and making it impossible
for you to get this game. I'm on the West Coast, the
real West Coast, where the city of Washington isn't,
(but the State is right next door, maybe that's what
he meant...a little injoke for those who know what
I'm talking about....) and this game is readily available
as far as I know. Yeah I know not everyone likes this
series simply because and let's be honest, it can
feel like deja vu after awhile. However there are
those gamers that look at Mario Kart as comfort food.
It's an old familiar friend who has learned some cool
online and Wi-Fi multiplayer tricks. It features over
a dozen new tracks, new modes, new weapons....so what's
not to like? If I were you, I'd curl up with this
one while the elements play havoc with the world outside
because inside the Mushroom Kingdom, it's burning