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Game: Mario Kart DS
Platform: Nintendo DS
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: EU: 11/25/05, JP: 12/8/05, NA: 11/14/05
Genre: Racing
ESRB: E
Players: 1-8 LAN, 1-4 WFC

What is it!?

Mario Kart. It's been a staple of the Nintendo library since the SNES days, and before that we had RC Pro Am on the NES so it's all good. The 16-bit era brought us Super Mario Kart, the jump to true 3D gave the world Mario Kart 64, and when everybody else was shooting for photorealism, Nintendo gave us good cartoony fun with Mario Kart: Double Dash!!. And for those of you that absolutely needed to race on the go, the GBA's Mario Kart Super Circuit harkens back to the days of the original SNES Mario Kart. There's even an arcade edition: Mario Kart Arcade GP.

What does every console need? A killer app, that's what. Fun games move units, and the DS is more than capable of pushing a few polygons (it's more powerful than the Nintendo 64, but that topic is better suited for the Nintendo DS node). What else do gamers like? Competition, and lots of it. If it's free, all the better. Enter the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection (WFC), a free (so far) service used to play some of your Nintendo DS games with people all over the world. So far we've got a console to sell and a service to debut. Mario Kart is the perfect way to sell more DS units and get people using WFC. Gamers know Mario Kart, and they love racing their buddies. Now when there's nobody around, you can still race real people instead on the AI opponents. I get a fun racer, and Nintendo makes some money. Everybody wins.

How does it work!?

A makes you go. B makes you stop. Steer with the control pad. Those three simple sentences are enough to start somebody on the 50cc Mushroom cup. And after you've won that you'll want to go back for more. L and/or X throw an item if you have one. R lets you hop and then powerslide, and if you alternately press left and right while powersliding you get a quick boost. The controls are simple, and that's part of Mario Kart's charm. There's no need to worry about damage to your kart or overheating your engine. Just race and have fun.

For the more advanced racers, however, there are some extra tricks. Many of the courses feature shortcuts. Watch out though, many of these shortcuts require a mushroom to make a long jump, and you're not prone to receive one right before you need it. You can also draft behind your opponents when you aren't in the lead, which is handy for regaining the lead. The last trick I know about is called "snaking." Snaking is continually powersliding to receive turbo boosts. If you're getting beaten repeatedly at online play, you've probably found somebody that's very good at snaking. Don't worry though, the AI racers don't do it.

Where can I race!?

There are four weight classes to race in. They are, in order of difficulty:

  1. 50cc
  2. 100cc
  3. 150cc
  4. Mirror 150cc
The heavier your engine, the worse your kart's accelleration and the off-track handling are. The Mirror 150cc is the hardest weight class of all because not only is your kart heavy but you're probably memorized the tracks, and now they're all backwards.

Each weight class features eight cups to win. The first four feature brand new tracks, and the second four feature retro tracks.

The new tracks are, in order of difficulty:

  1. Mushroom Cup
    1. Figure 8 Circuit - Simple figure 8, a beginner's track.
    2. Yoshi Falls - Two waterfalls grace this almost perfectly circular track.
    3. Cheep Cheep Beach - The water is pretty, but it slows down your kart.
    4. Luigi's Mansion - Tree monsters, a swamp, and you get to drive through a house!
       
  2. Flower Cup
    1. Desert Hills - Watch out for sand and fireballs!
    2. Delfino Square - Race around the town from Super Mario Sunshine.
    3. Waluigi Pinball - Avoid giant bumpers and flippers as well as your fellow racers.
    4. Shroom Ridge - Weave through traffic as fast as you can!
       
  3. Star Cup
    1. DK Pass - Up and down the mountain we go!
    2. Tick Tock Clock - Watch out for the minute hand!
    3. Mario Circuit - Normal track except for the goombas in the road.
    4. Airship Fortress - Speed through that which caused so much trouble in SMB3.
       
  4. Special Cup
    1. Wario Stadium - More jumps and bumps than you could possibly need!
    2. Peach Gardens - Does that castle look familiar?
    3. Bowser Castle - No? How about this one?
    4. Rainbow Road - A Mario Kart staple.
       
And the retro tracks are, in order of difficulty:
  1. Shell Cup
    1. Mario Circuit 1 (SNES) - The first Mario Kart track. Ever.
    2. Moo Moo Farm (N64) - Sadly, there are no cows on the track. Only some moles.
    3. Peach Circuit (GBA) - Normal track; very flat (the GBA couldn't handle complex tracks).
    4. Luigi Circuit (GCN) - Two-way traffic!
       
  2. Banana Cup
    1. Donut Plains 1 (SNES) - So. Many. Turns.
    2. Frappe Snowland (N64) - Frappe. That's a funny word.
    3. Bowser Castle 2 (GBA) - Man's got a lot of castles. Bowser++
    4. Baby Park (GCN) - It's an oval. At least there are plenty of items.
       
  3. Leaf Cup
    1. Koopa Beach 2 (SNES) - Watch out for the deep water!
    2. Choco Mountain (N64) - Mm. Choco Mountain. *drool* I'm sorry. What was I talking about?
    3. Luigi Circuit (GBA) - Ha! Mario's only got one circuit in this game. Who's more popular now?
    4. Mushroom Bridge (GCN) - They nerfed the bridge. The boost pads are gone!
       
  4. Lightning Cup
    1. Choco Island 2 (SNES) - Obstacles, mud, and bumps everywhere. *growls*
    2. Banshee Boardwalk (N64) - The giant ghost cheep cheep alone makes this track great.
    3. Sky Garden (GBA) - I've never won this track. Ever. You fall of the edge. A lot.
    4. Yoshi Circuit (GCN) - It's shaped like Yoshi!

What characters can I use!?

Mario Kart DS features 13 racers, but when you first begin the game, you'll only have access to eight. Don't worry, you'll unlock the rest as you win cups in the Grand Prix mode. Each character has a weight class, and his or her weight affects each kart's accelleration, speed, and power.

The lights racers at your disposal are:

The average weight racers are: And finally, the heavy racers are: Each character initially has two karts to choose from. This will be upgraded along to way until each racer has access to each of the game's 34 karts. Each kart handles differently. Some have terrible accelleration but a great top speed. Some are good for powersliding. It's all about finding a kart you like. Some of the more notable karts are Luigi's Poltergust 4000 (from Luigi's Mansion), Waluigi's backhoe, Bowser's airplane (adapted from his SMB3 copter thing), and R.O.B.'s legs!

But I want to hit people!

Then you've come to the right place. All the old standards are back. Green shells, red shells, banana peels, bombs, and many other weapons are at your disposal.

  • Banana peel - make your opponents wipe out.
  • Triple banana peel - make them wipe out three times. Also makes a handy shield!
  • Blooper - New to MKDS, Blooper covers the screens of those ahead of you with his ink!
  • Green shell - Dummy fire projectile.
  • Triple green shell - Three dummy fire projectiles or a handy shield.
  • Red shell - Kart-seeking shell.
  • Triple red shell - Three kart-seeking shells. These could be a shield, too, but I've never hung on to them long enough to use them as such.
  • Blue shell - Always hits the racer in first place (at the time of firing). Always.
  • Bob-omb - Blows up and can affect more than one racer.
  • Boo - Makes you transparent and steals an item for you.
  • Bullet Bill - Rocket through the race as Bullet Bill for about six seconds.
  • Fake item box - Makes racers wipe out.
  • Mushroom - Get a speed boost. Handy for shortcuts.
  • Triple mushroom - Get three speed boosts.
  • Gold mushroom - Get unlimited speed boosts for about ten seconds.
  • Lightning bolt - Make all your opponents tiny!
  • Star - Top speed increases, and you're invincible for about eight seconds.

What about multiplayer!?

Mario Kart DS allows eight people to play on only one game card. Single game multiplayer is the best kind. As long as everybody has a DS nobody gets left out of the fun. Local multiplayer is lag-free in my experience, and it's just as fun as playing on a television. WFC play takes a bit longer to set up because you have to find opponents and such, but my experience online has been mostly positive. As with any online game there are some folks that would rather disconnect than lose, but real people will always present a better challenge than the AI racers, it's great to be able to race real people no matter what time it is or if I'm the only one in the house that wants to play, and I've only had somebody disconnect from a race twice.

But is it any good!?

Mario Kart DS is fantastic. It feels like the next edition of Mario Kart even though it's on a handheld. I liked Super Circuit, but it just didn't feel like a successor to Mario Kart 64 to me. The tracks were all flat, and the environments were nearly non-existant. Mario Kart DS has plenty of racers, challenging tracks, wonderful environments (I'm especially fond of Airship Fortress), and a new item (Blooper). When you consider that it also has online play, it becomes evident that Mario Kart DS really is one of the games that every DS owner should have.


* Unlockable character
** single card multiplayer character only

Reference: http://www.gamefaqs - release information

Mario Kart DS Walkthrough And Hints

Okay, I’m a Mario Kart DS nut. I thought to myself, I’d better start using my vast (okay, limited) knowledge and putting it to good use. What better place to start than here…

TRACKS

Figure-8 Circuit 1:36.481
This is actually quite an easy course – just a figure of eight with one straight road over the other. It is certainly very easy to navigate – especially so in 150cc Mirror. However, in 150cc Mirror, the competition is tough nuts and there are no complex turns or obstacles you can lose your opponents over. Just stick to hugging the corners and taking a diagonal line across the straights. (A Mushroom or three always helps.)

Yoshi Falls 0:57.677
Steer clear of the water. It is tough nuts to navigate as well as drive across. In any case, this track is another piece of cake – basically a circuit of bridges and waterfalls, as the name suggests. After the first bridge and before the second bridge, cut the corner by going down to the lower level.

Cheep Cheep Beach 1:43.654
I can think of very little tips for this one, except follow the path and use the jumps. Especially if the water is up. If the water is down, however, there is a point where you can cut two corners. Cut them. The CPU characters won't.

Luigi's Mansion 1:59.357
The mansion consists of three 90-degree angle turns. Drift round the first two, then get a drift bonus (if you're good enough) around the third. Be warned that there are obstacles there that may impede your bonus. The mud is also a shit to get around – just aim your kart up with the next patch of dry land *before* driving onto the mud. This will take practice.

Desert Hills 1:31.262
Follow the track, avoid the Pokeys, watch when the sun releases his sun spots. Elementary stuff, really. Other point: when you get to the area near the end where there are four sharp curves and three of them have item blocks, leave the lot. Hug the corners, and any boxes are a bonus.

Delfino Square 1:54.601
At one point, the track branches off. Theoretically, they are the same lengths, but I have my doubts about it. In any case, pick your branch. When you go around the nearby corner after the branches converge, you may smack into a crate. A mushroom will pop out if you do this, but it is best to actually leave it alone altogether. The crate slows you down.

Waluigi Pinball 2:23.288
I spend a crapload of spare time doing time trials on this track – it is second only to Tick Tock Clock and Rainbow Road as my favourite track. If you can, hug the corners on the 270-degree loop after the second jump pad. In the actual 'play field', there are two sets of item blocks. Go for the first one, bash 'X' or 'L', let loose the item (whatever it may be) and then take the second item. If you're in first place – all the better for you, all the worse for your opponents.

Shroom Ridge 2:05.123
This thing has two-way traffic. That can be tough to navigate, so just imagine you're driving. Drive on the left and avoid the cars ahead. If you have to, go right into the middle. In any case, on the right-hand side, sometimes blocks sidle up to you. Take them.

DK Pass 2:14.607
This isn’t too bad – just swerve when you need to and drift-bonus your way through appropriate corners. Watch out for the snowballs – they gain in size (and supposedly power) the more they roll.

Tick-Tock Clock 1:54.903 (my record is 1:54.209)
I can never lose at this track, mainly because of all the time I have spent on time trials. No pun intended. In any case, when you get to the first clock face, go along the left rainbow pads. When you get to the gears, hug the centre. When you get to the spinning gears just before the start line, go onto the one going forwards. Also, the pendulum can be deceptively fast.

Mario Circuit 1:56.533
Piece of cake. The thing to remember is to drift-bonus around the first and third U-bends but not the second. Take the quickest line across the S-shaped corners and you should be OK. Even the Piranha Plants’ fire is easy to avoid.

Airship Fortress 2:07.748
This one can get annoying as all hell, but just so long as you have a kart that can drift-bonus well you’re set. Careful of the Monkey Wrenches, they can get a bit nasty at times.

Wario Stadium 2:14.868
This looks familiar… Anyway, USE THE RAINBOW PADS. If you don’t the mud will slow you down HEAPS. Take the closest line to the centre when going through the rings of fire, i.e. the very edges of the rainbow pads. That’s about it for here.

Peach Gardens 1:52.989
The Chain Chomps are actually quite easy to avoid, and if done correctly, you can slip underneath them. Although I wouldn’t try it. Particularly in time trial mode, if you have a mushroom to spare, use it to cut across the keyhole-shaped patch of grass. The moles are a cinch to avoid, as are the hedges.

Bowser Castle 2:19.661
In mission mode, you get to drive across the neat spinny bridge backwards. If you find “right to go left, left to go right” difficult to remember to use, just tweak the D-pad in the direction that the bridge is spinning. Trust me. You’ll thank me. In other modes, follow the track and *try* to stick to the spinny bridge. If you fall off you lose time, but thankfully, not a kart.

Rainbow Road 2:16.246
I cannot think of a less drift-bonus-friendly track, but this is made up for with its neat rainbow pads (no pun intended) and the loop-de-loops. Everything else there is mainly for decoration. When I’m doing a VS, I try to do SNES Mario Circuit 1 first (THE original track) and this one last (mainly because of its toughness, decoration and heroic music). Just try to hit all of the rainbow pads.

SNES Mario Circuit 1 0:50.668
THE original track. Five turns, wide road, three or so pipes on turn 2. One mission is to do 4 drift bonuses in one lap – use what you learned from that in Grand Prix and time trial modes. This is the second-easiest track to run on and the third-easiest track to navigate in Mirror Mode.

N64 Moo Moo Farm 1:17.751
You have to hand it to Nintendo for creating a racetrack on a dairy farm. This is a piece of cake to do, as are most of the Retro tracks. Anyway, the main thing is the bridge. Take it quickly but make sure you’re aligned with a hole. This is the only tip I have to give asides from common sense.

GBA Peach Circuit 1:12.001
The Nintendo DS is the first console to allow what I call ‘complex tracks’, which have a lot of dips, turns and big jumps (like in Airship Fortress and Waluigi Pinball). The GBA circuits are all flat. However, they do have obstacles that ‘help’ along the way – this one has very few, so just stick to the basics for this track.

GCN Luigi Circuit 1:29.759
If you prefer not to name your Retro circuits with the console names, you may get mixed up between this circuit and the other one for the GBA later on. This is a simple course – follow the arrows. Just don’t go for the rainbow pads on the outside of the curves unless in time trial mode – you will be overtaken.

SNES Donut Plains 1 1:08.027
Ohh noo, I hate this course. “So. Many. Turns.” is about right. Problem is, I am quite crap at drift-bonus-ing, so this is my nemesis. I have come first in 150cc and Mirror 150cc only twice, and that is what won me the Banana Cup both times. If you have mushrooms, use them to get across the dirt bits.

N64 Frappe Snowland 2:08.781
Another one where lack of dips is quite obvious. Admittedly there is one dip but that is pretty sucky. Apart from that, avoid the snowmen and drift-bonus around the U bend at the end as much as possible. You’ll be surprised at how much one drift-bonus can affect a race.

GBA Bowser Castle 2 1:52.258
How annoying can one track get? After avoiding the Thwomps, the jumps and the lava, you’ve still got a horde of racers to contend with! But enough of that. Take every single arrow pad you can, and leave as many jumps as possible. They actually slow you down.

GCN Baby Park 0:50.920
THE easiest track to navigate. THE hardest track to win on. If you’re doing the 150cc Grand Prix Banana Cup, make sure you’re on 30 points, or at least 26 or higher. I find that 36 or higher usually wins me the cup. Anyway, drift-bonus as much as you can. That’s about it… just don’t forget that there are five laps, not three.

SNES Koopa Beach 2 0:54.847
Take the most direct path you can across the water with the gaping holes. If there are a heap of karters around you, skirt around them – take an indirect route if you have to, because even if you drop a few places you’ll get some very decent items.

N64 Choco Mountain 2:15.571
Mmm. Chocolate. The main thing to avoid on this track is, again, those big balls about 2/3 of the way through the track. If you can, use a mushroom on the first of the three rises immediately after that part and just before the finish. Apart from leaping over the competition and getting a better placing, it feels pretty cool.

GBA Luigi Circuit 1:46.581
This is much, much harder than the GCN equivalent. The puddles are pretty hard to avoid – in fact, you will hit them at least once on your first round. Apart from that, don’t let the rain distract you.

GCN Mushroom Bridge 1:30.600
This is actually quite easy. It is similar to Shroom Ridge, except with one-way traffic heading in the same direction as you, and a rendering of the Golden Gate Bridge. There is a short cut after the first tunnel, so take it if you can. I realize that this is the only time I mention short cuts, but short cuts I find may not be the best ones. There may be other, better ones.

SNES Choco Island 2 1:01.620
This has absolutely nothing to do with chocolate whatsoever. Anyway, beware of the jumps. They really can be a pain. Again, use mushrooms on the mud to get across quickly.

N64 Banshee Boardwalk 2:14.403
Don’t be afraid of either the bats or the giant Cheep Cheep – they can’t hurt you, and the bats will just jostle you. Just drift-bonus as much as you can and use your items as much as you can.

GBA Sky Garden 1:44.400
You’d think they’d have someone other than Luigi on the blimp, but whatever. Avoid all the rainbow jumps except for the one where you get an item (if you’re not first). Drift-bonusing is pretty worthless here.

GCN Yoshi Circuit 1:48.793
I could never pick out the picture of Yoshi from the map, until I figured out how to change it. Anyway, don’t drift-bonus around the U-turns unless you are VERY good. Avoid the Piranha Plants (this is elementary, I know) and relish all the lead you get.

BATTLE ARENAS

Nintendo DS
This is one of my favourite arenas. The best thing to do is to set block ‘traps’ (as I call them) up the top screen. There are less blocks there, and more chance of hitting your trap.
Twilight House
This one is annoying. I just do a circuit inside and avoid going outside if I can help it. I never use this track when playing Shine Runners.
Palm Beach
Steer clear of the water, as slowing you down makes you an easy target. I love showing off by drifting across the water as it is filling up.
Block Fort
My general strategy here is to go up to the top, go around the circuit, and throw items from there, especially in Shine Runners.
Tart Top
I love this one. It makes my opponents think about things, as they can only get items from one place. (Also I love the cream effects.)
Pipe Plaza
The pipes are great places for losing Red Shells (and, to an extent, Green Shells) that are on your tail. I prefer this track for team battle racing rather than individual.

UNLOCKABLES

Prizes

  • 50cc Nitro Grand Prix: Unlock Dry Bones
  • 50cc Retro Grand Prix: Unlock Daisy
  • 100cc Nitro Grand Prix: Unlock each characters’ 3rd kart
  • 100cc Retro Grand Prix: Unlock Waluigi
  • 150cc Nitro Grand Prix: Unlock 7 karts for each player
  • 150cc Retro Grand Prix: Unlock Mirror Mode
  • Mirror Nitro Grand Prix: Unlock R.O.B
  • Mirror Retro Grand Prix: Unlock all karts for all racers
  • Missions: Get one-star ratings or higher for each mission to unlock Level 7

In all Grand Prixs, you start off with the first two cups (ie. Mushroom and Flower in Nitro, Shell and Banana in Retro). When you win a gold trophy in each of these events, the next level will open up – Star and Leaf. When you win a gold cup in those events, Special and Lightning respectively will open up. Winning the Special Cup unlocks something, and wins you the Grand Prix. Same with Lightning Cup.

Staff Times

I have written a time next to each track above (format m:ss.ttt where t=thousandths of seconds). This is the time, on Time Trial mode, that the Mario Kart DS staff have clocked up. They are shown as ‘ghost times’, or a shadow of their accomplishments. Your fastest time will remain as a separate ghost time, so don’t panic!!

Apparently, you need to get your best time to within 5-10 seconds of the staff time to unlock it. This is my current mission, having found obtaining one star in missions too tough-nuts, and obtaining gold cups too pissy. If you haven’t unlocked them all yet, I wouldn’t try to beat them – just unlock them. They are hard enough anyway - I have only beaten one and come close to one more. I have shaved about half a second off of Tick-Tock Clock and am trying on GCN Luigi Circuit for size.

Most of all, have fun!!!

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