Good old fashioned racing fun but finally with online gameplay. An essential buy for any DS owner.
A lot! The gameplay is fast and smooth and, to put it simply, just as it should be. Most of the old power-ups return, such as banana peels and shells, but there are also two new ones. There's Bullet Bill, which temporarily transforms you into a bullet that crashes through everything, and Squitter, a squid that covers the top screen with ink obscuring your sight. The tracks are well designed and are full of stuff fans will recognize immediately, including turbo-tiles, pipes on the track and more. There are 32 tracks in total. There is the Nitro GP. This consists of 16 tracks that are all new in this version including Tick-Tock Clock, Delfino Square and the totally crazy Waluigi Pinball. Also available is the Retro GP. Long-time fans will love this since it consists of 16 tracks from previous games. There are classics such as Mario Circuit 1 from Super Mario Kart and Moo Moo Farm from Mario Kart 64. Some of the older tracks are by far not as spectacular as the new tracks but they are still great to play. It's still pretty amazing to see how well the SNES and GBA tracks have been transformed from old mode 7 graphics into 3D. Besides Grand Prix there is time trial to break records and the VS mode which is a single race on a track you choose yourself. The Battle Mode is back, too. There is balloon battle, the winner is the one that is the last one standing. You die if you lost all of your 5 balloons. A nice touch is that you can blow them up by blowing in the microphone, instead of using the select button. There is also Shine Runners. The winner is the one with the most shines. Now and then a counter starts. When it reaches zero, the one with the least shines dies. The Battle arena's include a giant Nintendo DS, an enormous cake, a big plaza with the famous Mario pipes and more. These are just as great as the tracks and are very varied. Finally there is the Mission mode. These are set on the tracks and arena's and have missions such as driving through gates in order or hitting five fish before time runs out. After you defeat a world you will even have to battle a boss from Super Mario 64 DS, which is a very cool touch to an already great addition to the series. The graphics are some of the best on the DS so far. Especially the new tracks and NGC tracks look great and are detailed. There is a lot to see from a swinging clock pendulum that blocks the road and a Mario sculpture to a market and cars driving in the opposite direction. As mentioned before, some of the older tracks look a bit too inferior to the new tracks, but it's still very nice to look at. The main characters are all present again and, just as the tracks there are some that need to be unlocked. There are not as much characters as in Double Dash on the GameCube but it's still a big gang of your favorite Mario characters. There are really a lot of karts here, such as Donkey Kong's friend Rambi the Rhino as a car, Mario's 50's style race car and Peach's Bigfoot. Eventually you'll even be able to use cars that don't belong to your selected character. But there is one addition that dramatically improves the series and it's replay value. This is the Wi-Fi play enabling you to play with people from around the world. You can create your own icon (which appears on your kart) with the build-in paint program and a nickname. These are visible in both single and multiplayer sessions. With the Wi-Fi play the series finally reaches it's full potential. Off course there is also the LAN connection with both single card play (with all players but the host playing as Shy Guy) and multi-cart play. (so you can play with all characters.) The sound is excellent, too and you'll find yourself humming along with the tunes soon. All sound effects and tunes sound crisp and clear and, if you put on the stereo sound and put the volume in the highest position, you will in pure fun-racing heaven.
Some of the older tracks look a bit dated mostly because there is not so much to see. The creators could have put some more scenery in them. The biggest complaint about this game, however, is that only 20 of 32 tracks are playable online. I wonder why.
The Bottom Line
This is easily one of the best DS games so far and some people say it's the best Mario Kart ever making it one of the best racing games ever. This could very well be true. It looks good, plays good, sounds good, has some innovations and, most importantly, it's multiplayer supports online play, making the replayability virtually infinite. What more could you want. A gem that no Nintendo DS owner should miss. Why are you still reading this? Go buy it, NOW!