Nintendo has finally entered the online games market with the release of its long awaited and much anticipated Wi-Fi Connection service that links gamers together over the Internet. Mario Kart DS is the first game to be released that incorporates the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection for online play among a plethora of game play options sure to satisfy even the most discriminating tastes.
Ask anyone familiar with the Mario Kart series and you will get no argument that the franchise is among the best Kart racers ever made. Spanning five (5) consumer hardware platforms: SNES, N64, Gameboy Advance, Gamecube, and now the Nintendo DS, the venerable Mario Kart has made important and timely appearances on almost every piece of hardware Nintendo has released. And for good reason: Mario Kart moves more than just go-karts, it moves hardware.
And the DS version will be no exception to that tradition. With its 32 different race tracks, including tracks from every version released thus far, customizable karts, 8-player wireless multiplayer mayhem, and 4-player online play, the latest incarnation fills those illustrious shoes with shining stars to boot. The game is pure unadulterated fun for gamers of all ages.
Connecting to the Wi-Fi Connection was extremely easy for me, as I already had an Apple AirPort wireless router with broadband Internet access for connecting with my Mac Powerbook. For those that don't already have a wireless network in their homes, or one that is not currently supported, you can purchase a Nintendo Wi-Fi USB Connector if you have a PC connected to the Internet and running Windows XP, or play at any of the 6000 worldwide McDonalds hotspots that Nintendo has partnered with. Once connected, finding three other players was fast and simple and before I knew it I was in a Grand Prix style race throwing banana peels and Koopa shells at my human foes. Interestingly, there is an equally greater satisfaction to winning against human opponents over computer opponents as there is devastation from losing. So far my losses outnumber my wins.
What I didn't like about the game: the controls. Nintendo almost nailed this game with the DS button controls. The touch screen is used only for selecting menu options and for viewing an overhead map during play. What I've yet to master is the dextrous handling of the A & X buttons, a requirement for simultaneous acceleration and throwing of items. Lift your finger off the A button even for a split second and your Kart slows to a crawl while any racer behind leaves you in a cloud of dust. An alternative to the X button is the L shoulder button, but using that one to throw items behind you requires similar dexterity. Overall a smallish complaint, one that may become moot with further practice.
If you're considering a game for that special gamer someone in your life this holiday season, Mario Kart is a hands-down winner among choices vying for your hard-earned cash. The addition of Nintendo's accessible and fantastically simple Wi-Fi Connection raises the bar for the series, and puts you in the driver's seat of a joy ride you won't soon forget—nor easily put down.