Indiana Daily Student

Not quite 'perfect'

Daniel Herman
Daniel Herman

When Satoru Iwata, the president of Nintendo, delivered his keynote address at E3 2005, he demonstrated Mario Kart DS to punctuate Nintendo's emphasis on innovation and fun as opposed to impressive hardware specifications. But as I watched his speech, I wondered just how a new iteration of a franchise that hasn't missed an entry in each successive Nintendo console since the SNES could bring anything interesting to the table -- especially on the heels of the only lukewarm and largely superficial innovations of the GameCube's Mario Kart: Double Dash. I'll be honest: I just plain wasn't excited for this game. \nWhile it's not a marvel to behold, its steady 60 frames per second keeps the action moving as smoothly as ever; and some of the new tracks really do an impressive job of showing off the DS hardware. The game uses a look similar to the Nintendo 64 version, but opts for entirely polygonal characters. As a result, Mario Kart DS might not look as good in screen shots, but when seen in motion the game clearly outshines its N64 predecessor. \nMario Kart DS maintains the core feel of a Mario Kart game, with players using items like homing red turtle shells to blast opponents, and plenty of outlandish track designs. If anything this DS installment makes something of a return to the roots of Mario Kart, abandoning the two characters per kart aspect of Double Dash and featuring a "Retro" class with tracks from every previous version of the game, jacking up the number of total tracks to 32 -- twice as many as any other Mario Kart. \nEach character has plenty of karts to unlock, giving players something to work towards. Since the karts are well balanced (some faster, some nimbler, some with better items) this creates a new aspect of strategy simply in selecting your kart.\nAdditionally, the game makes use of the touch screen as an intuitive map, which proves useful while avoiding the gimmicky feel of some DS games.\nThe real highlight here lies in the multiplayer feature. Up to eight friends can compete wirelessly in a local setting with only one cartridge, and CPU bots can fill in the blanks. But owners of the game can compete online with Nintendo's brand new WiFi service. This is a ton of fun, but sometimes requires a bit of patience to find opponents. Also, there appears to be a problem with people dropping games once they start losing.\nHaving played Mario Kart DS myself, I'm sure any of those lucky members of Iwata's audience called up to try the game left knowing exactly what he was talking about; Mario Kart DS exudes fun and won't drain your bank account with pricey next-gen hardware requirements.

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