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Mario Kart DS is the fifth installment of the Mario Kart series (sixth if Mario Kart Arcade GP is included). Mario Kart DS was one of the first games announced for the Nintendo DS and was pushed back from its originally estimated release of early 2005. Unlike Mario Kart 64, which features sprite-based characters against a 3D background, Mario Kart DS features a three dimensional world entirely.
The action takes place on the top screen while a map is visible on the bottom screen. Unlike the the previous installments, the player can both hop and power slide. The game removes the dual-kart mechanism present in the preceding Mario Kart game: Mario Kart: Double Dash!!.
The racing itself has not changed much from previous iterations of the franchise. They focus on simple, arcade-style controls instead of realism. Players use different weapons from the Mario series, such as Koopa shells and stars against each other, while racing along crazy twisting tracks. Mario Kart DS includes its own unique tracks and throwbacks from preceding instalments, which are recreated to have a three dimensional setting.
In addition to traditional races, there is a revamped battle mode and a mission mode. The battle mode features player-vs-player combat, where each player begins with one balloon that represents their life. In another twist, players can inflate additional balloons by blowing into the DS's microphone or by holding down SELECT.
The other feature is a mission mode, where the player has to meet a given objective within a limited time. Examples include driving through power slides, or collecting certain a number of coins within a time limit. Each stage also has a boss battle, with bosses like Big Bully, who has to be pushed in the water using Mushrooms, or racing Goomboss while it releases other Goombas to slow down the player.
There are a total of thirty-two tracks, sixteen from the previous iterations of the Mario Kart series and sixteen unique tracks which debut in Mario Kart DS. Twenty of the thirty-two tracks are available via online Wi-Fi races.
Nitro Grand Prix
Retro Grand Prix
- Mario Circuit 1 - Super Mario Kart, SNES
- Moo Moo Farm - Mario Kart 64, N64
- Peach Circuit - Mario Kart: Super Circuit, GBA
- Luigi Circuit - Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, GCN
There are six battle stages, two of which are from preceding installments of the Mario Kart series.
- Nintendo DS - Resembles a Nintendo DS. A similar stage is found in Mario Kart: Double Dash!!; in that case, players go head-to-head on the surface of a GameCube.
- Twilight House - A nine-room three-by-three configuration of an old house, the center being filled in as a wall.
- Palm Shore - A beach with a central island and some stretches of dry land all around it. These stretches are separated by a sand-filled sort of basin that the tide fills occasionally, causing karts to more slowly underwater.
- Tart Top - A large cake, with all the item boxes floating directly over the cherry-topped center. Frosting and strawberries are dotted around the outer and inner parts of the cake, and bumping into one sprays frosting onto the top screen, similar to the Blooper's effects.
- Block Fort - Originally in Mario Kart 64, this stage features three layers and four massive color coded blocks.
- Pipe Plaza - This battle track originates from Mario Kart: Double Dash!!.
There are a total of thirteen characters, eight of which are available from the start and five of which are unlockable characters. Shy Guy is one of the playable characters, albeit only playable in DS Download Play with a random color.
All items are activated when either the X or L buttons are used. Holding the button allows certain items to be dragged behind the player's kart.
- Mushroom: Performs a turbo boost. It can be used for passing, ramming, or crossing terrain such as sand or grass without being slowed down. There is a Triple Mushroom variation which includes three mushrooms instead of one.
- Golden Mushroom: After the first boost, the player has twenty seconds to perform as many mushroom boosts as possible.
- Banana: Driving over this item causes the player's kart to spin. It can be set behind the kart, or thrown forwards. Hitting the dragged banana has the same effect as driving over it. It can even be carried behind the kart. There is a Triple Bananas variation which sets off three bananas.
- Green Shell: This item is a shell which travels in a straight line, and it bounces on walls a few times before it breaks. If it hits a kart, the kart spins over. There is a Triple Green Shells variation, which allows the player to utilize three Green Shells at once, as the name implies.
- Red Shell: A homing version of the Green Shell. If racers are too close together, Red Shells don't always lock on to the racer and continues around to the next racer. There is a Triple Red Shells variation which spins three Red Shells around the kart, similar to the Triple Green Shells.
- Bob-omb: This item can be held by the back of a kart. If a kart touches this item, it flips in the air, and all other karts that come in contact with the explosion instead spin out. If a Bob-omb is dropped behind and not touched, it automatically explodes within a few seconds, and it affects karts the same way.
- Fake Item Box: This item looks like a regular item box, except it doesn't spin and it lacks a question mark. Driving into one causes the kart to flip over.
- Spiny Shell: A large, blue, spiky shell that zooms straight to the racer in first and creates a large explosion. Like the Bob-omb, the player targets flips into the air, as does the other players within the radius of the explosion. The short aftermath of it can cause others to spin around.
- Blooper: Sprays ink onto the top screen and the drivers and their karts ahead the user. CPU players hit by a Blooper usually drive in an erratic zigzag pattern. If used while in first place, no enemy karts are hit; Blooper instead sprays ink on the driver in first instead. Ink can be cleared of with the use of a Mushroom or driving over a boost pad.
- Boo: Makes the user simultaneously invisible and invincible temporarily. It allows the user to drive through and over any terrain, with the exception of walls, items, and other karts. If an opponent has an item, Boo steals it and gives it to the user. Boo does not protect the user from falling off the course.
- Star: When used, the user is invulnerable to item attacks and terrain effects. Driving into another kart while using this item causes the opposing vehicle to flip over. The effects of a Star fade after a short period of time.
- Bullet Bill: This item temporarily transforms the user into a Bullet Bill. Players are then automatically navigated through the main road of the course and knock over any karts in the way. Bullet Bills do not take shortcuts, but finish going through a shortcut if activated in one.
- Lightning: All racers ahead of the user temporarily shrink and move slowly. The music and voices are distorted too. Drivers in lower places take a shorter time to return normal than those in higher places. The farther a driver is, the longer it takes for that racer to return normal.
Triple Bananas, Triple Green Shells and Triple Red Shells do not appear in Wi-Fi Races due to potential lag problems. Dragging items behind one's kart is disallowed for the same reason.
Obstacles and Hazards
The Mario Kart series have many obstacles in almost every course. This section lists all of the obstacles and hazards in the tracks:
- Boxes: The player can first find these items within Delfino Square. If the player crashes into a box, it breaks and the player temporarily stops. An item sometimes may come out when hit.
- Cheep-Cheep: Cheep-Cheeps are hopping around in the water or on land, specifically at Cheep Cheep Beach.
- Crab: Crabs are mainly found at Cheep Cheep Beach. If the player runs into one, he or she spins around for a couple of seconds. Crabs appear near the end of the level.
- Monty Mole: Monty Moles lounge about in multiple tracks, such as Peach Gardens. These foes jump out of small holes in the ground and try to spin drivers.
- Piranha Plant: Piranha Plant appears in some courses, such as Mario Circuit. It spews fireballs at drivers while poking its head out of a pipe.
- Pokey Pokeys are mainly found at Desert Hills. They sway back and forth in one spot. If drivers crash into a Pokey, he or she flies upwards and collapses back down.
- Rocky Wrench: Rocky Wrenches are found at Airship Fortress, where they pop out of manholes and try to spin out racers, similar to Monty Moles. They do not throw wrenches like they do in Super Mario Bros. 3.
Emblems are one of Mario Kart DS's new features. An emblem is a decal or picture which appears on the player's kart.
The emblem appears only at certain places on a kart, and depending on where its put, the emblem may be smaller, bigger and/or stretched out. The player can customize the emblem and choose from various patterns such as Starman, Thunderbolt or Mario's face. The player can also use the default emblems and not have a customized one. Emblems are displayed during VS matches and online matches via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.
- In the Japanese version of the game, R.O.B. is red and white and has the name HVC-012. HVC-012, or better known as Famicom Robot, is the original Japanese version of R.O.B. and has the colors of the original Famicom. Additionally, HVC-012 is the true staff ghost on Desert Hills and Rainbow Road, not R.O.B. HVC-012 has the same karts as R.O.B., even down to being the same color.
- Mario Kart Slot Cars were created as a promotion for this game.
- When players play Mario Kart DS on the original Nintendo DS system, Mario says "Wahoo!", but he says "Here we go!" in later models and the Nintendo 3DS.
- The American version of Mario Kart DS is one of the few American DS games to have a multiple language option. Depending on the language of the DS, the language on the game will change; it will not change to Japanese, though.
- Mario Kart: Super Circuit tie-in: When the Nintendo DS is turned on with "Mario Kart DS" in Slot 1 and "Mario Kart: Super Circuit" in Slot 2, "Super Circuit" is listed as an "Option Pack" and cannot be played. Users have yet to discover if and how this effects "Mario Kart DS".
- Mario Kart DS still maintains a 9.2 average at GameStats, #1 on the Nintendo DS (as of 15:40, 22 December 2006 (EST)).
- GameSpy reviewer Bryn Williams admitted that online, Nintendo "trimmed it back a little too much for my liking", but was certain that "Even with a few online flaws, this is the best Mario Kart ever.." (5/5; Multiplayer: Great)
- GameSpot reviewer Justin Calvert had similar quips with the online feature: "Whether these opponents were leaving voluntarily or because of network problems is anybody's guess, but it's equally irritating either way." Yet, he finished up similarly by saying "Mario Kart DS is without a doubt one of the best games to hit the Nintendo DS to date." (9.2/10; GameSpot Editor's Choice; DS Game of the Year)
- IGN reviewer Craig Harris commented that "it's just hard to ignore just how limited the online presentation is." But again, his closing line was this: "The only way to finish this review is just to say it: this is the greatest Mario Kart game ever developed, and is without a doubt the best DS game of 2005." (9.5/10; IGN Editor's Choice Award; DS Game of the Year)
Scores received in the major gaming review sites:
- GameRankings - 93%
- GameSpot - 9.2/10
- IGN - 9.5/10
- Joystiq - 9.0/10
- Nintendo Power - 9.0/10