Up Up Down Down: Mario Kart DS
We're prepping for the launch of Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U, and what better way to do so than by revisiting older entries in the long-running franchise? Mario Kart DS was a significant installment in the popular kart racing series. It was the first 3D Mario Kart to land on a handheld, and it was the first game in the series to feature online multiplayer. The latter has since become obsolete following the end of the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service, but even then, this is still a great racer, and truly one of the best offerings to date.
On this edition of Up Up Down Down, we revisit Mario Kart DS, my personal favorite Mario racer. Not everything about it is perfect, but even after nine years, this is some of the best kart racing you'll get from Nintendo.
Up Up: Some of the best track design in the series' history
The first time I played Mario Kart DS, my mind was totally blown. I expected to have fun with the game, but I never expected the track design to be as intricate and delightful as it turned out to be. You had your standard circular courses, but there were also a large amount of more deliciously gimmicky tracks. DK Pass, Tick Tock Clock, Waluigi Pinball, and Airship Fortress are among the standouts, and they truly raised the standard for what creativity in a kart racer is all about.
Down Down: Local multiplayer still doesn't beat playing on the same screen
This is totally nitpicky on my part, but I'd much rather play with someone else on the same TV screen than be relegated to playing on my own small screen while my opponents race on their DS systems. Sure, that same couch multiplayer spirit is still there to some degree, but there's nothing quite like seeing your opponent's characters getting tossed around and failing to reach the finish line before you.
Up Up: Missions make for a great single player experience
While Mario Kart has often been heralded as a multiplayer-focused series, Mario Kart DS was able to change that. The game introduced Missions mode, which offered a variety of different objective-based challenges. These ranged from using only certain types of items to collecting coins. The missions that really stood out, however, were the boss battles, which starred major villains previously seen in Super Mario 64.
Down Down: Online multiplayer was a mess at times/doesn't exist anymore
Online multiplayer in Mario Kart DS was always a mixed bag. At first, you could play against opponents who based their game solely on skill. Later on, however, trickier players began exploiting glitches and mechanics to race circles around you. Suffice it to say it was pretty annoying. I suppose we don't have to worry about that anymore considering Nintendo's shut down its online service for the DS.
Up Up: Raised the bar for the series
Its inclusion of awesome single player modes and incredibly addictive multiplayer makes Mario Kart DS a great portable racer. As previously mentioned, the course design is also a major factor in terms of this game's quality. It's so good that it effectively raised the bar for what this series should offer as far as content is concerned. Whenever a game does that, it successfully manages to set itself apart from its series (and oftentimes genre) brethren.
Down Down: Raised the bar so high that Mario Kart Wii felt lackluster
I was a bit disappointed when I played Mario Kart Wii. It's not that the game is necessarily bad. In fact, if you get together with multiple players, it's pretty fun. But after witnessing the splendor and awesomeness of Mario Kart DS, it's always been impossible for me to enjoy the limited modes and lackluster course design in Nintendo's foray into kart racing on the Wii.
Left Right Left Right: Mario Kart DS is one of the finest examples of mascot-based kart racing
I jumped back into Mario Kart DS for the purpose of this feature, and I was elated to find out that it's just as much fun now as it was in 2005. The tracks are glorious and prove to be among the best in the series. In addition, the inclusion of an enjoyable single player component adds another layer of impressive delight to this magnificent package. Sure, you can't play online anymore, and the fact that you're not playing these phenomenal courses on a TV is a bit of a bummer, but this is still a true spectacle in mascot kart racing.
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