Mario Kart DS is shaping up to be one of the biggest titles of 2005, and not just in America. Across the Pacific, Japanese fans are getting set for the game, and Japanese gaming magazines are already providing weekly updates. The latest comes from Famitsu, which scored an interview with Mario Kart DS producer Hideki Konno.
Konno first discusses some of the basics of the game, most of which we've already figured out having played Mario Kart DS at game events such as E3. This first DS Mario Kart follows up on the Game Boy Advance version rather than the recent GameCube Double Dash. Double Dash got rid of the series' jump element, but it's back for DS. Konno states that the game's control is meant to be similar to Mario Kart 64, and even though you use the D-pad, Nintendo has been able to achieve control that compares favorably with analogue control. Karts are included in greater variety with this title. When racing, karts can be differentiated in terms of handling, drift, driver weight and even the unique ability of some karts to draw out better items. It's all a balancing act, as we've come to expect from the series, and Nintendo is currently in the fine tuning process. While you can have a heavy kart/character combination, making collisions a bit easier, you end up moving too slow. Similarly, if you opt for a kart that draws up better items, you'll find that your top speed is limited. You'll actually find that certain karts can move faster over certain courses.
Drift mechanics take their expected role in Mario Kart's DS racing system. You can view stats for your kart prior to starting a race, and if the kart's drift parameter is low, it will take time for your car to recover grip following a turn, making it easy to under steer. Previous Mario Kart games let you know that you were in a drift by changing the color of smoke coming from your kart, but with MKDS, sparks and flames emerge from below your tires.
In addition to drift, you'll also need to use opponent slip streams in order to achieve the fastest time. This was featured in previous titles, and makes it easy to turn the race around even without the use of items.
A few new details are also revealed on the game's Online mode. The game will allow players to use a decal editor to design their own 32x32 decal and show it off to opponents. On the topic of friend lists, Konno reveals that the DS will store up to 60 people in this list. Once you've played someone in a local WiFi match, he's automatically entered into your friend list, although you can exchange friend codes with distant players in order to manually build up your list as well.
Multiplayer play includes classic modes such as time attack and balloon battle, with the game allowing you to equip five balloons to your car. New for MKDS is the "Atsumete Shine" (Collect Shine) mode of play where players race to collect the most Shines (those star-like happy-faces from Mario Sunshine). By hitting your opponent, you can reduce his Shine count.
But Mario Kart DS isn't just about multiplayer play. The game will feature a new Mission Run mode where players are given a specific kart and asked to perform tasks on the raceway. Missions include making your kart move through tire-shaped gates in order and using items to take out crabs in a free-roaming battle stage. Your goal is to beat pre-set times, and doing so earns you new karts.
Nintendo is packing the game with new elements. In addition to a reappearance of all old items, you'll have access to new items. One item splashes an opponent's screen with black ink. Players who've been struck with this item are encouraged to drive by looking at the bottom screen, which shows the race from an overhead perspective. Another item turns you temporarily into a Bullet Bill. In this form, you lose control of your kart, but automatically strike opponents.
As for courses, in addition to a retro cup featuring classic courses that were selected by the developers, the game includes the Nitro Cup, featuring a set of new, challenging courses: Puku Puku Beach (filled with crabs that, if touched, make you spin out), Luigi's Mansion, Eight Cross Circuit (shaped like an 8) and Yoshi Falls (which is banked to make falling off the course easy).
The wait is almost over! Mario Kart DS is set for Japanese release on 12/8, to be preceded by American release on November 14.
I will be first at the store when this comes out. on Nov 14th