Currently scheduled for release on November 14, Mario Kart DS is the long-awaited Nintendo DS incarnation of Nintendo's ever-popular Mario Kart series. Following our lengthy demonstration of Mario Kart DS at a Nintendo event yesterday, we've now received a finished retail copy of the game, and have spent a few hours exploring its combination of classic and all-new content to bring you some impressions ahead of our upcoming review.
The first thing we did when Mario Kart DS arrived in the office was to get a multiplayer game going, despite the fact that we have only one copy. There are plenty of Nintendo DS-owning Mario Kart fans in the GameSpot office, and sharing the multiplayer game content with them all via the handheld's Wi-Fi functionality took only a minute or two. Our single copy of the game let us get up to eight players racing simultaneously on all available circuits, and it also supported both of Mario Kart DS's battle modes: balloon battle and shine runners. The battle modes both make use of the same six arenas, which include a giant Nintendo DS floating in space, a haunted house, a beach, the top of a giant cake, a block fort, and a more generic-looking level with raised platforms and pipes.
When playing multiplayer games with only one copy of Mario Kart DS, our host player had complete control over gameplay options and was also the only player able to play as one of Nintendo's A-list characters. The rest of us were all forced to play as Shy Guy, which was a little disappointing but not unreasonable, given our lack of multiple game cards. Players in our group without their own copies of the game experienced a little lag occasionally; while that sounds like a great excuse for losing to the host, the truth is that the lag really wasn't that bad, and it certainly wasn't dramatic enough to have an adverse effect on the performance of certain racers--who shall remain nameless.
Another favorite excuse of losing Mario Kart players, of course, has always been that they simply didn't get the items they needed to facilitate their comeback from eighth position, despite the fact that players at the back of the pack invariably pick up better weapons. The Mario Kart DS arsenal includes all of the requisite bananas, mushrooms, green shells, red shells, spiny shells, stars, and fake item boxes that made previous entries in the series great, along with a handful of new items. Our favorite new weapons at this point are definitely the blooper, which sends a flying squid to every kart in front of you and squirts ink all over that player's top screen; and the bob-ombs, which explode shortly after you throw them and have a quite large damage radius.
When you're playing Mario Kart DS solo rather than with friends, you'll likely be either attempting to beat the grand prix competitions (which feature both new and classic circuits) in 50cc, 100cc, and 150cc classes, or taking on the all-new challenge mode. The challenge mode comprises six levels, and each level comprises eight missions that you need to beat before you can take on a boss and then proceed to the next level. Missions typically involve racing around a track while passing through numbered gates, collecting coins, destroying boxes, or performing a certain number of powerslide boosts. Each mission is played against a time limit, and you'll be awarded a grade at the end based on your performance.
Anyhow, we've got plenty more circuits to unlock and check out before we can bring you a full review, so we'll bring this preview to a close and get back to it. See you back here in a week or so.