Monday, May 19, 2014

The Mario Kart Retrospective: Mario Kart DS

I remember back on Christmas of 2005 when I first got my DS. I got it with a copy of Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, Mega Man Battle Network 5: Double Team DS, and of course, Mario Kart DS. I played through all five games and loved each other them, but the one game that I still bring out every now and then to play through has to be the big MK. Or MKDS because of brand confusion... this is Mario Kart DS.

I'm going to be honest when I say this, but as of this writing, Mario Kart DS is my favorite entry in the series hands down. It comes close with another later entry, but I just find that this one has everything that I'm looking for in a Mario Kart game. It has insane power-ups, it advances the series like never before, and it's probably the most replayable game in the series, and that is not an easy statement to make. If I could pick one reason as to why this game is so good, it would have to come down to the courses. Good lord the courses in this game are just sublime. Each course is visually creative, and some are just downright amazing to play. Anyone that's ever played this game can testify how much fun Waluigi's Pinball is.

But what really stands out about this game is the introduction of retro courses. Super Circuit tried to do this with the original Super Mario Kart, but Mario Kart DS refined the idea to a science. Retro courses were 16 courses from previous games in the series, each tailored to fit the DS. What do I mean? Well out of the four games that came before DS, each game had four tracks picked from it, remade for the DS, and then was combined with the other courses from the other games into four new cups, effectively doubling the game. The best part was that usually it were the best courses from each game that were remade, and the new features from the latest game in the series would help to develop the courses for modern audiences. Bottom line, retro courses are good.

Another cool focus about the game was the increased focus on kart stats. In previous games, the only thing that was a factor when choosing racers was their weight class. The heavy the character the less acceleration they had, but they had a lot better control. Here, each character had a whole variety of karts to choose from, each of which giving various stats. You can have Wario drive around in a car dedicated to lighter individuals if you wanted, because each character had a huge variety of karts to drive in. So you can choose your favorite character in your favorite vehicle to get the best stats and dominate race courses.

There was even a single player mode in this game that while it didn't amount to much, it encouraged learning more advanced skills like drifting and using items at specific points. There were even boss battles in this game and while they weren't anything special, it was still fun to race against a giant King Boo or beat Wiggler with shells.

But the biggest feature that was added to this game that no other game in the franchise had before it was online gameplay. For the first time in the series, you can race against opponents through local and wireless multiplayer! While I never took advantage of the wireless multiplayer, the fact that it was a prominent feature was unheard of at the time, let alone on a handheld. For the longest time, Mario Kart DS was the place to be for online multiplayer up until newer entries replaced it. Even then I still think a lot more people came to play Mario Kart DS than Mario Kart 7. I can go into a Gamestop and bet you dollars to doughnuts that they're still selling Mario Kart DS's on the shelf, with other Mario Kart games taking the sidelines. Hell, go onto Amazon and type in DS games. The third game to show up is Mario Kart DS, and that's an impressive feat given the DS's prominent library.

Mario Kart DS is probably the best entry in the franchise by far for me. It just does everything I ask of for a Mario Kart game. It has great courses, replayability, and is just plain fun. It's so good that as of right now, it's the 20th best selling game OF ALL TIME, with over 20 million units sold. However, it hasn't sold as much as Mario Kart Wii, clocking in at over 35 million units and being the FIFTH best selling game of all time. Hot damn. Still, I love the DS edition of Mario Kart, and sales be damned, it's my favorite game in the franchise.

Previous entries
Super Mario Kart
Mario Kart 64
Mario Kart: Super Circuit
Mario Kart: Double Dash!!

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