Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Hands-On Impressions

Nintendo shows off a new version of the anticipated GameCube racer.

Nintendo shows off a new version of the anticipated GameCube racer.

At its press event today, Nintendo showed off a new version of Mario Kart Double Dash!!, the latest game in the highly addictive kart-racing series that started on the SNES. The game was first shown off at this year's E3, where it received something of a mixed reaction from onlookers. While most agreed that the game's dual-rider system (which puts you in control of two characters at once) seemed cool, the sense of speed, or lack thereof, in the game was not. Fortunately, the new version of the game that was shown handily addressed the latter concern. From what we saw, Double Dash!! now seems to provide a great sense of speed, and we were able to see some new gameplay mechanics as well.

During a morning press conference, where the game was first shown, it was revealed that multiplayer support in Mario Kart: Double Dash!! would include the ability for co-op play, in which each player is put in control of one of the two riders in the game's two-man karts. In addition, the demonstration revealed new details on the game's network support: Double Dash!! will let a total of 16 players play on a network setup by allowing up to eight GameCubes, with two human players on each, to be linked together. The press conference also revealed the game's multiplayer modes, which will include a standard racing mode along with three battle games: the returning favorite, balloon battle, plus the two new modes, shine thief and bob-omb blast.

Later in the day were able to get some hands-on time with the game to see how it handled. We're pleased to say that the game's control seems tight, and while it might not seem exactly like another Mario Kart game, it's got the manic pacing and solid control we're looking for. The cooperative multiplayer mechanic seems like an interesting addition to the gameplay, as well. When we first started a co-op game, it seemed that each player's role was pretty straightforward: The player in the driver's seat handles steering, while the player in the rear deals with attacking. However there's quite a bit more to it, thanks to some interesting mechanics that will ensure that both players work as a team. Actions such as gaining a miniturbo out of a powerslide, switching character positions, and shooting out of the starting line with a speed burst now require both players to work together. During a turn, the driver can initiate the powerslide, but the rear occupant is responsible for actually building up the speed burst in time by wiggling the analog stick from side to side. Once the burst is ready, indicated by the color change in the engine exhaust, the driver must initiate it. Switching the position of both characters, usually done by a simple press of the Z button, can happen only when both players press the button at the same time. The same rule applies to gaining a turbo boost at the start of a race, which requires both players to hit the A button at the right moment in tandem.

The multiplayer battle games seem to retain the addictive qualities that the series is known for, and the new modes seem interesting as well. Balloon battle seems pretty similar to the way it was in the previous games in the series, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Shine thief is essentially a game of keep-away that requires you to hold on to a shine from Super Mario Sunshine for a set amount of time. Bob-omb blast seems like it could be the most addictive of the two new games. You drive around arenas, collecting bombs to throw at your opponents. Every time an opponent is caught in a blast, you'll earn a star, and if you earn five stars, you win. However, you can lose your stars when you yourself are caught in explosions. This evil little twist ensures that anything can happen during a match.

In terms of graphics, Double Dash!! looks even sharper than it did the last time we saw it. The biggest improvements seem to be in the game's new special effects, which are used for power-ups and are used in the environments around the tracks, plus the excellent sense of speed the game now conveys.

Based on what we've seen so far, the game seems to be coming together nicely. The improvements made to the graphics since the last time we saw it, along with the assorted game modes, should help make the game quite a solid package when it's finally done. Mario Kart: Double Dash!! is currently scheduled to ship this November.

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