I had a chance to play around with a US copy of Mario Kart DS today which was absolutely excellent, and seems to be one of the best handheld games of this generation. My time was spent thrashing around the tracks in various multiplayer modes which impressed me a lot – you get a lot of options for single cart multiplayer and the battle mode is as much fun as I remember it from the N64 version. With the full complement of eight human players I’d imagine that it’s even better, but I still had fun with two people and AI racers making up the numbers. Amusingly, one of the tracks was a giant Nintendo DS that you could tear around on.
Graphically the game is very nice and smooth, and somewhere between the full 3D of the GameCube game and the sprite characters on 3D environments of the N64 game. It’s not incredibly detailed but shows that the DS really does have some graphical horsepower behind it and is more than capable of making a game like this run well. I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed with how it looks.
All that’s fine, but what has most people interested is the online play, and it works great. Setting it up is a cakewalk (annoyingly it only supports WEP encryption so I won’t be playing in my WPA2-encrypted home) and although it took a few minutes to match me up with someone – I assume that would be better at a time when there’s more Americans on as it’s not out anywhere else – when I was actually racing it worked almost completely lag free and brought me right back to the old 4-player MK64 sessions. It was especially impressive that it was running on a system which has kind of added online play as an after-market extra. Hopefully all online DS games keep the same interface.
I’m definitely going to be getting a copy of this on the UK release, and it’s another reason why the DS is starting to leave the PSP in the dust as a games system.