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Arguably the Greatest Game in the Series - Mario Kart DS Review
Mario Kart has been around for a long time, and the series has seen a lot of changes since its inception. Super Mario Kart on the SNES was challenging and tough to master. Mario Kart 64 streamlined the approach of its predecessor and provided kart racing gameplay that was accessible and addictive. Mario Kart: Super Circuit combined elements from both titles that came before it. And Mario Kart: Double Dash!! changed things up considerably by altering the game mechanics, omitting the ability to jump, and allowing two characters to ride on the same kart together.
That’s when Mario Kart DS appeared on Nintendo’s dual screen handheld. This kart racer provides a deep level of challenge, the same addictive gameplay that's expected of the series, and arguably the greatest track design the franchise has ever seen.
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Mario Kart DS Gameplay
Mario Kart DS features fast-paced kart racing gameplay that mixes the accessibility of Mario Kart 64 with the challenge of Super Mario Kart. All of the standard gameplay elements are here: weapons, drifting, and speed boosts. But what separates Mario Kart DS from its predecessors? The excellent level design. Mario Kart DS includes 16 brand new tracks that are all cleverly designed and feature a nice combination of straightaways, tight turns, and jumps. Each course has an identity of its own, and you’re bound to find yourself challenged and satisfied while racing against other opponents.
Each character controls largely the same, with heavier characters easily knocking aside smaller character but suffering when going off-road. There are a number of vehicles that can vastly alter the way each character plays, though. Having the ability to choose from different karts is half the fun, and finding the one that’s best for you and mastering it is a challenge in and of itself.
In addition to the Grand Prix, Time Trial, and Battle modes that have become a staple of the series, Mario Kart DS also features Missions mode, where you can take on a number of objectives. These range from collecting a specified number of coins in a stage to driving through numbered gates in order. There are also a handful of boss battles against some of Mario’s most memorable enemies such as Chief Chilly and Big Bob-omb (of Super Mario 64 fame). This is a fun mode, and one that adds a nice layer of variety to the game.
Mario Kart DS is the first game to feature online play, and it’s an excellent mode to say the least. It doesn’t take long to find opponents randomly and get some races going. And while you’re bound to have the occasional issue with Nintendo’s not-so-stellar Wi-Fi Connection, the online component in Mario Kart DS is solid for the most part. Additionally, you can register your pals’ Friend Codes and play against them, too. And if you’ve got at least one copy of the game, you can get together with friends for some local cart multiplayer.
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Graphics and Sound
Mario Kart DS isn’t a graphical powerhouse, but Nintendo was able to do a great job with the DS hardware. Everything in the game is rich in color, and there’s a nice level of polish for the most part. There are a number of polygonal shapes around, but there’s no overabundance of 2D objects onscreen like in Mario Kart 64.
In terms of sound, there’s something really catchy about the music in Mario Kart DS. The game’s soundtrack is fast, and the themes stay with you even after you turn the game off. As always, Mario and pals have something to say, and you’ll hear a lot of nonsensical banter and comical catchphrases as you pass other racers or connect with a shell.
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Mario Kart DS is a beefy little cart with a lot of content. Expect to spend a good deal of time playing this one, both due to the game’s content as well as its addictive design. The game comes with 16 original courses, but there are also 16 additional classic courses from throughout the Mario Kart franchise. Add to that the game’s objective-based Missions mode, Time Trial, and Battle, and you’ve got a pretty robust package. And of course enough can’t be said in regards to the game’s multiplayer mode, which can be taken online and offline.
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Mario Kart DS Review - Overall Score
Mario Kart DS is a special entry in the series. It manages to combine a number of elements to create a kart racing experience that’s even more impressive than the more modern Mario Kart Wii. Even after nearly five years, Mario Kart DS is arguably the greatest installment in the long-running franchise. The game’s amazing track design and fun multiplayer make this title easy to recommend. If you own a DS and don’t have a copy of this game, you’re missing out.