Mario Kart DS
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Mario Kart DS is a Nintendo DS racing game developed and published by Nintendo. It is the fifth installment of the Mario Kart series and the second game for a handheld console. It was released first in North America, in November 14, 2005, being the first and only mainstream Mario Kart game to be released first in North America. Unlike its predecessor, Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, it retains the traditional single-driver kart racing elements in the Mario Kart series, where players race against seven competitors in obstacle tracks, using item-based weaponry to gain further advantages over their opponents. It is the first handheld Mario Kart title to use live-rendered 3D graphics for most of the objects in the game, including characters, vehicles, and race-tracks.
Mario Kart DS expands and introduces mechanics that would later become the standard in future titles, with the most standout and notable being the Retro Grand Prix, and the advent of retro courses in general, that revamps tracks from all previous titles from the Mario Kart series. Mario Kart DS is the first Mario title to support Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, allowing players to race against opponents using online services across the world. Mario Kart DS's unique mechanics introduced include its single player-oriented mission mode that tasks players to complete objectives in a short series of special events, including defeating Mario franchise bosses and the ability to create custom emblems for their vehicles. Mario Kart DS takes advantage of the Nintendo DS features as well, using the bottom screen to display other HUD elements such as two types of maps, character order, and what items their opponents have.
On April 23, 2015, the game became available to purchase on the Virtual Console service for the Wii U, via the eShop, coinciding with the near 10th anniversary of the game's initial release, and the 2nd DLC pack for Mario Kart 8. However, the Virtual Console version of the game is only playable in single player mode.
A total of 12 characters (13 including Shy Guy) take part in the fifth installment of the Mario Kart series. Only eight can be chosen at the beginning, but the player can win gold trophies in the Grand Prix mode to unlock the other four drivers. The eight starting characters, Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, Toad, Donkey Kong, Wario and Bowser were taken from Mario Kart 64 and Mario Kart: Super Circuit, while two playable characters, Daisy and Waluigi, return from Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, and two playable characters, Dry Bones and R.O.B., make their first Mario Kart playable appearance.
Download play only
The following characters appear in the game as spectators, hazards, or obstacles of certain courses.
Wii U Menu controls
Wii U Race controls
As in Mario Kart 64 and Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, sixteen new courses were added in the game for the four main cups: Mushroom Cup, Flower Cup, Star Cup, and Special Cup. However, the game also includes sixteen courses that appeared in earlier Mario Kart games, each of which has an abbreviation which referred to the game console where it debuted. The Super Mario Kart tracks were represented by the abbreviation SNES; the Mario Kart 64 tracks by N64; the Mario Kart: Super Circuit tracks by GBA; and the Mario Kart: Double Dash!! tracks by GCN. The order of the tracks by game is the exact same as the order that the games themselves were released: SNES, N64, GBA, and GCN. Mario Kart Wii and the successors added on to this, with DS, Wii, and 3DS the appropriate abbreviations for those games respectively.
These classic courses make up the retro cups: the Shell Cup, Banana Cup and Leaf Cup, as well as the Lightning Cup from Mario Kart: Super Circuit, and these cups are sorted by difficulty in the exact same way that the nitro cups are, with the Shell Cup being on par with the Mushroom Cup, the Banana Cup being on par with the Flower Cup, the Leaf Cup being on par with the Star Cup, and the Lightning Cup being on par with the Special Cup. There are a total of thirty-two courses in eight cups. In addition, four new battle courses appear, while N64 Block Fort and GCN Pipe Plaza appear in this game as Retro Battle Courses.
In Grand Prix mode (single-player only), a player competes in each cup in 50cc, 100cc, 150cc, and Mirror 150cc engine classes, with ascending speed and difficulty. The game takes the point system of Mario Kart: Double Dash!! by awarding 10/8/6/4/3/2/1/0 points for first to eighth place respectively. Also, a rating of how well a player performed is shown after the trophy presentation: ⭐⭐⭐, ⭐⭐, ⭐, A, B, C, D and E (E, being the lowest ranking and ⭐⭐⭐ as the highest). An overall "game ranking" of ⭐, ⭐⭐, or ⭐⭐⭐ is shown in the Records area if the player has earned the designated ratings in all cups and all classes; for example, if the player earned three-star rankings in all cups and all classes, then they would have a game ranking of three stars, but if they only got two-star rankings in some cups or classes, then they would only have a game ranking of two-stars, and the same applies for all other ranks.
In Time Trial mode (single player only), a player goes for the fastest time on a course. The item rating of a kart determines how many mushrooms a player can have when the race starts. Vehicles with low item rate can only use one Mushroom; the ones with average item rate use two and the ones with high item rate use three. Players can choose to race against their best time as a Ghost, the Staff Ghost (raced by a Japanese Nintendo staff player with a * game ranking), or no Ghost. The game is also able to download records from other players and let the player race against their Ghosts.
In VS mode (single or multiplayer), player(s) choose their Karts and head out on the race track. They can earn points based of their finish position in each race. The player can also choose what course they race on (provided they've unlocked it). Up to eight players can play locally via wireless - simple mode only uses one game card but is limited. The essential requirement is that everyone has a DS or 3DS system. In VS mode, the player can choose the engine class, the CPU's difficulty level, the way the courses will be chosen - by the player, in order or random; the rules to win races (either free - infinite races; number of wins from 1 to 10 - where only the first racer earns points, or the number of races from 1 up to 32 (functions similarly to the All-Cup Tour from Mario Kart: Double Dash!), and team race mode.
It is possible to have up to eight players play using just one Mario Kart DS game card - using the DS Download Play locally. Here, only the Mushroom Cup and Shell Cup tracks are playable, and everyone must play as a random color of Shy Guy, in which he becomes playable then. If everyone has a game card, all tracks are available and there are no limitations.
When playing in VS races where players place for a set number of races rather than for a set number of wins, players score points based off their finish position. If the game is being played in teams, the amount of points each player earns for each race is multiplied by about 1.5. The point system is the same as the one used in Wi-Fi when playing with 2-4 players and the one used in Grand Prix when playing with 8 players or with CPU opponents. However, when playing with 5-7 players, the distribution is as follows:
In Battle mode, players play a different aspect of kart racing that was born from Super Mario Kart on one of six stages, two of them from past Mario Kart games. The stages are the following:
Tracks listed with * above are not playable in the simple version of multiplayer mode. In single player mode, the user faces CPU controlled racers, whose difficulty can be set in the battle's setup menu. All racers drive their respective standard Kart only within this mode (note that all the standard karts have the same stats in battle mode and only the weight will differ, depending on the weight of the character chosen). Additionally, other players can join a battle locally. However, Battle Mode is unavailable on the Wi-Fi mode. Like in versus, battles can also be played in teams, and rounds in team battles end when all of one team's players have been eliminated.
Mario Kart DS is the only Mario Kart game that have the name of the retro battle courses that do not state the abbreviation of the game console version of the Mario Kart game they were from; in other words, the game does not list Block Fort and Pipe Plaza as N64 Block Fort and GCN Pipe Plaza. Additionally, its retro battle courses do not have the same music as in their original appearances. Instead, they have the same music used for nitro battle courses.
The classic battle mode seen in all Mario Kart mainstream, gets a new twist in Mario Kart DS. From previous games, racers begin a match with three balloons. In this game, however, all players begin with a single balloon, though they can get more by blowing up their balloons using the microphone feature on the DS, or just holding the button. Each player has four balloons in stock (five in total) and racers can hold up to three balloons in battle. On the other hand, the less balloons a player has, the more powerful items will obtain from the Item Boxes. Racers may also take possession of a balloon from their opponents if the thief has used a mushroom and made contact to the opponent's kart. If the player loses all their balloons they are eliminated.
The following is what the game describes this mode as:
Burst your opponents' balloons with items! If all your inflated balloons burst, you lose! Blow into the mic or press to inflate your balloons!
Adopted from the Mario Kart: Double Dash!! version, nine Shine Sprites are scattered onto the course at the beginning. Players need to capture the Shine Sprites, and to avoid being hit, as it causes a player to lose one sprite. The sprite then moves to a random spot for someone else to grab. In the meantime, a clock ticks down to zero. Anyone with or tied with the lowest Shine total when the clock hits zero is eliminated. The clock resets itself to a lower time and the battle continues until at least one is left (there are nine sprites to avoid a tie, but it is possible to have two players with four sprites each or four players with two sprites each or all eight players with one sprite each trying to get that last one on the course when time expires, or have three players with three sprites each; in either case, no one is eliminated and the clock resets as usual). The less sprites a player has, the better an item is obtained (Spiny Shells and Bullet Bills remain out). Shine Runners is almost the same as Coin Runners in Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart 7, but instead of Shine Sprites, they use coins.
Collect more Shines than anyone else! Steal opponents' Shines to add to your total. Those with less Shines get booted over time.
Missions mode is a new single-player mode for Mario Kart DS which the player must complete some tasks and earn a ranking similarly to that in Grand Prix mode. It involves seven levels, each containing eight "missions" and a boss battle, most of which are taken from Super Mario 64 DS. Almost always the ranks depend on how much time is left or taken. There are varying mission types:
There are some one-time isolated missions that are self-explanatory. Each mission takes place on a course, often blocked off in some areas (sometimes even a battle course) and players are given a character in their own standard kart (CPU players are also in standard karts). None of the unlockable characters are playable, and Bowser and Donkey Kong do not fight a boss. Sometimes mushrooms are laid across the track to help the player to complete the mission. When at least a * ranking is achieved on all missions and bosses in the first six levels, Level 7 is unlocked. Boss battles are unique. They have their own battlefields and different strategies are used to beat them. When the boss battles of Level 6 and 7 are completed, the first version of the staff credits will roll. All of the bosses come from Super Mario 64 DS.
The following table includes the mission number, in-game mission description, time limit for the mission (0:00 signifies it's a race, and the mission finishes at 2:00 if the race is not completed), course, and character the player plays as.
Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection mode
Mario Kart DS is the first Mario Kart game to ever support online play; though it's worth noting that it's the second Mario Kart game to support online connectivity, with the Japanese version of Mario Kart: Super Circuit being the first. (The use of online connectivity for this game was made primarily to exchange ghost data with other players.) Being one of the first Nintendo DS games to feature wireless connection, the game mode required some technical changes in order to avoid connection malfunctions and long time loads during online play.
The following changes and restrictions have been applied to prevent excessive lags:
Players connect using a wireless connection or a Nintendo Wi-Fi USB Connector (preferably high-speed.) Racers choose to search for other players in "Friends" (more info below), "Rivals" (players with a similar record), "Regional" or "Continental" in Non-American versions of the game (players in same country or continent), and "Worldwide", the latter possible to cause long lags. Other racers searching in the same category are randomly grouped. The game tries to find four players, but will eventually settle for three or two if necessary. Players choose their characters, karts, and the course they want for the first of four races.
In addition to the 20 courses listed in order of when it is encountered, there is also a random button. After everyone's selection is placed, a course is chosen based on the responses. If all players each pick a different course, the system randomly picks one. If four players choose two courses, two each, the game randomly picks from those two. On the other hand, the most voted course by a group of users is selected to race. It goes like so for four races, then the points are tallied up, and after the match, a player's wins and losses are totaled.
Each player receives one "win" for finishing ahead of a player and one "loss" for finishing behind of a player. If a player ties with another player, it does not count as a "win" or "loss". For example:
Players can continue after the match to play the same racers again or quit to restart the process to find other players.
Problem: Trouble with friend codes
Problem: Disconnecting racers change the outcome of the match; it is later reflected in the match records.
In addition to the sixteen standard courses, Mario Kart DS is the first game in the series to include the Retro Grand Prix, which has been carried over into every future installment in the series to date. The Retro Grand Prix consists of sixteen courses from past Mario Kart games updated and compiled into four additional cups. Four courses are taken from each previous game, and are ordered according to the release dates of the previous games. Mario Kart DS is the only Mario Kart game where there is no Mario Circuit in the Flower Cup, unlike other Mario Kart games.
This is the only Mario Kart game to have three Grand Prix introduction fanfares; one for Figure-8 Circuit, Waluigi Pinball, Mario Circuit and GCN Luigi Circuit, one for Wario Stadium, and one for the other courses.
Nitro Grand Prix
Retro Grand Prix
* - Was playable on Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection
Mario Kart DS includes the main element preserved in every Mario Kart created; power-ups that allow the racer to take certain advantage over their opponents, obtainable by running through an Item Box. Afterwards, the item Roulette in the top left of the screen will choose a random item. While most of the power-ups are the same since Super Mario Kart, the game also features some additional items to increase the challenge. There are also two new items: the Blooper and Bullet Bill.
Normally, lead racers receive less powerful items than stragglers in the rear. The variety of items to receive is also determined by the Items stats ratio granted to a kart. While a kart has a higher items ratio, the player has more possibility to obtain rare items to use. In subsequent games, this stat was removed so the only factor influencing items is position.
The game gives the player an indication when they receive a more powerful Item. When the Item Roulette has chosen a normal Item, it will make a simple plong sound. However, if the player receives a more powerful item from the Item Roulette, it makes a more special sounding plong.
NOTE: These artworks - except Fake Item Box, Boo, Triple Banana and the new items - are reused from Mario Kart: Double Dash!!
Throughout the entire series, the Rocket Start allow drivers to give them an extra speed boost and get a head start when a race begins. To use the technique for this installment, players should stay at the starting line and wait for the countdown to hit two. When it does reach that number and when it starts to fade, players should hold the button to rev up the kart's engine. When START appears on the race screen, the kart receives a small boost of speed out from the starting line, which is a very helpful move to get first place early on in a race. But, there is a risk to this move. If players hold the button before the two fades, it may make the player's kart falter, and takes a few seconds to get back up to normal speed. If the player holds the after the second "ding" sound is heard and end, the player can get a boost that is a little faster than the normal small boost.
Drifting and powersliding
In the entire Mario Kart series, players drift by holding the button on a turn. Gray wisps come out of their kart as they turn around corners, possibly tighter or better than normal turning.
The next step up is powersliding. While drifting, players can move the +Control Pad to the right, left, and vice versa to produce sparks behind the kart. If done correctly, the sparks change their colors and intensity from blue to orange on each alternated move. After the sparks turn orange, the player releases the button to stop drifting and release a brief Mini-Turbo after powersliding. This can be used to dodge Spiny Shell if combined with a hop only during 100cc and 150cc races.
A player can perform a useful technique known as snaking by performing consecutive mini-turbos in a zigzagged direction, which offers a player the boost they need to get further ahead. This technique is much easier to perform with karts with higher handling, especially with Dry Bones.
Back from Mario Kart 64, slipstreaming is simply moving just behind another player. If racers can stay behind their opponent's vehicle for about four seconds, players get a momentary speed boost that is strong enough to pass the other player.
Multi card play
Up to eight players can play via the wireless connection of the Nintendo DS. There are little to no restrictions while activating this. Players can access any character and kart combination they want as long as they unlocked it. All tracks unlocked on any copy of the game can be selected as well.
Download Play can allow up to eight people playing the Mario Kart DS game using one (or more) game card(s). In this mode, players can only choose tracks from the Mushroom and Shell Cups. Also, instead of six battle tracks, players are only able to race on Nintendo DS, Tart Top and Pipe Plaza (chosen randomly by the system). Only the people with the game can pick their character, while the others use Shy Guy only. Shy Guy is not playable in other modes. When the players that want to Download play begin to race, each player will have a different color of Shy Guy, randomly generated with each Download Play.
In Mario Kart DS, there are 36 different karts in total.
Every kart shows six ratings:
For all stats, one or more karts will have a rating of one-hundred for that stat; for example, the Hurricane and ROB-BLS have speed ratings of one-hundred, the Dry Bomber has both acceleration and handling rates of one-hundred, the Tyrant has a weight rating of one-hundred if normally paired with Bowser, the Light Tripper has a drift rating of one-hundred, and each character has one kart each with an items rating of one-hundred (one of the Exclusive Karts), an items rating of sixty-six (all of the Standard Karts), and an items rating of thirty-three (one of the Exclusive Karts).
Originally, only two karts are available for each character; an Exclusive Kart and a Standard Kart. As the player wins gold trophies in the 100cc Nitro Grand Prix, the player will unlock a second Exclusive Kart for each character. When the player wins a gold trophy in either 150cc Special Cup or Lightning Cup, four Exclusive Karts from different characters will become available, bringing the total to seven karts for each character. After winning gold trophies in all eight 150cc cups (to unlock the Mirror) and all cups in Mirror Mode, each character can be paired in any of the 36 karts, making 432 combinations (excluding Shy Guy). CPU drivers will only use their characters' respective exclusive or standard karts in races and battles.
The following ratings are from zero to one hundred, directly obtained from the values used by the game to fill the bar in the kart selection screen. On a side note, it is worth noting that a kart with a high items rating will usually have lower overall stats than the standard karts. Likewise, karts with a low items rating will usually have higher overall stats than the standard karts. Karts with a high items rating tend to be heavier than the karts with a low items rating. Karts with high items rating also receive more Mushroom boosts in Time Trial mode. The player will get one Mushroom boost if the items rating is low, two if the items rating is normal, and three if the items rating is high. The weight class of the character does not play an important role in Mario Kart DS, as the weight does not create Kart use restrictions.
Mario Kart DS features several in-game statistics, some of which are not shown in the kart selection menu. There are three types of Tires, either Small (S), Medium (M) or Large (L). Just like in Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, there is a Mini-Turbo statistics that corresponds to the length of the Mini-Turbo boost in frames. Acceleration is determined by three triplets of values, that are presumably related to the acceleration while drifting and the acceleration in all other conditions; there is also a deceleration value that determines the speed of the next frame as fraction of the current speed when not accelerating (such as when the kart is spinning or the acceleration button is not being held). There are four different types of off-road terrains, and accordingly the karts have four off-road statistics that are the relative top speed in each type of terrain.
The options menu lets the player make their own emblem and name for racing throughout the game. They also have an option to make the emblem show up on the kart they are driving. Additionally, this emblem will show up next to a player's name while driving in a multiplayer or Nintendo WFC race. Other options include audio options and deleting data.
Pre-release and unused content
There were two unused items: the Chain Chomp and Bowser's Shell, although the Chain Chomp was the only one found in the item roulette. The Chain Chomp would have likely functioned the same as in Mario Kart: Double Dash!!. Professor Elvin Gadd was planned to be playable and would have had the Poltergust 4000 as his kart. Birdo may have also be planned as a playable character as there is a pink version of the Egg 1 found in the data.
Choco Mountain boulder glitch
In Choco Mountain, if the player goes to the lake and the water splashes before they fall, the boulder should hit them. If done correctly, they should start flying. The screen will then turn black as if they fell into the water. Lakitu will then pick them up. This glitch rarely works after the first time it's performed.
Delfino Square boardwalk glitch
When the player goes up to the boardwalk that has the one item box, they must press when they are on the wall. If timed correctly, the player can float on the side of the road. This will work in any mode.
Pipe Plaza Bob-omb glitch
In Pipe Plaza, if the player has a Bob-omb and drops it near one of the pipe holes, another player or a CPU should hit the Bob-omb. If done correctly, the player should go through the pipe hole and he/she will fall. Lakitu will pick the player up as usual. This can also be done with a Super Star, but is harder to pull off.
Luigi's Mansion Freeze glitch
To perform this glitch the player must pick the Luigi's Mansion track in any mode with any character and kart. Once the race starts, the player must then park their character on the stairs at the entrance of the mansion. After that, hold down both and to drift in place. If the player tries to turn, the game will sometimes freeze. This glitch was fixed on the Wii U Virtual Console release.
Mini-Spin turn item glitch
To perform this glitch, the player must drive towards an item box in any mode (battle mode is preferred) and sit themselves right in the center where it appears so that they continuously break it open when it appears again. Then, the player should hold either left or right on . When the item box appears again, it will break as usual, and the player will turn a very small amount in the direction pressed. Given time, so long as the player doesn't move, the player can turn all the way round in the direction pressed.
Mission-Run Mode Director
Wi-Fi Mode Director
Mario Kart DS was well received by game critics. It currently maintains a 9.2 average at Gamestats, the highest score for a Nintendo DS game on the site (as of December 2006).
Gamespy reviewer Bryn Williams said that online, Nintendo "trimmed it back a little too much for my liking", but was certain that "Even with a few online flaws, this is the best Mario Kart ever." With a rank of 5 out of 5 and describing the multiplayer experience as "great".
GameSpot reviewer Justin Calvert had similar quips with the online feature: "Whether these opponents were leaving voluntarily or because of network problems is anybody's guess, but it's equally irritating either way." He finished up similarly by saying "Mario Kart DS is without a doubt one of the best games to hit the Nintendo DS to date." Mario Kart DS received a score of 9.2 out of 10 and was regarded as GameSpot's Editor's Choice and DS game of the year.
IGN has given an overall score of 9.5 out of 10, granting the game the IGN Editor's Choice Award and DS game of the year. Reviewer Craig Harris commented that "it's just hard to ignore just how limited the online presentation is.", but ended the review with this: "The only way to finish this review is just to say it: this is the greatest Mario Kart game ever developed, and is without a doubt the best DS game of 2005."
Mario Kart DS is the 3rd best selling game for the Nintendo DS, selling 23.56 million copies worldwide.
Notable mistakes and errors
References to other games
References in later games
Names in other languages