Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mario Kart DS ~Lap 7~ Abundance of Modes and the Introduction of a Moneygrubbing Anti-Hero


Just wanted to let you know: The post will be somewhat shorter then normal. Full details at the bottom.


The one thing that's definitely improved with the games of this generation is the abundance of content offered in each and every one of them. No longer do we have just single player, multiplayer, sound tests, and options. We have online gameplay, achievement points, downloaded content, utilizing systems' clocks, and incredible variations on your typical game modes. Nowadays, games are so chock full of content that we often don't know where to start, and as such us gamers can feel quite overwhelmed!

Before, Mario Kart games didn't have too much to choose from in terms of game modes. You had your Grand Prix, and your Time Trials, and your Versus, and your Battle Mode, and that was it. Not that this was a bad thing, mind you. I mean, it is a racing game. How much could one expect?

One of the winning factors in Mario Kart DS' critical acclaim was that there was so much to choose from from the various game modes. And I'm not just talking about the abundance of karts a player can combine with various characters, either. Mario Kart DS, as Shigeru Miyamoto or Satoru Iwata would say, upended the tea table and not only revitalized its previous mode staples, but brought fantastic new elements to the franchise, most of which we'll go into today.

Battle Mode

Who can forget the wacky diversions of Mario Kart's Battle Mode? To those unfamiliar with the mode, it's quite different from your usual racing shenanigans. In this mode, combatants are placed into an entrapped arena and drive around hitting each other with the series' various weapons. Each racer has three balloons embedded onto their kart, and lose a balloon each time they're hit.

Sounds frantic enough, but players will soon learn to employ various nasty tactics, most of which involve taking advantage of the stages' layout. For example, in Mario Kart DS my favorite arena just so happens to be a recreation of Mario Kart 64's Block Fort. As seen above, it's composed of four different colored block structures, all of which with different floors. I'm going to be upfront in saying that my favorite items in the series are the ones you can drop (Banana Bunches/Fake Item Boxes), and I also love the devilish strategy of placing these guys in the actual item boxes where racers can get their items. As long as you remember where you placed them (that's what the map screen is for!), you're set in watching the ensuing hilarity of your opponents unsuspectingly fall into your trap.

Then you have the long, giant bridges that connect the different structures. This is where the level design comes in handy, as I often powerslide repeatedly around the four lower bridges and fire away at any passerby in sight and then immediately drive off the ledge before they can retaliate. Of course, one can place the dropping items on the bridges as well, as the hapless CPU often can't swerve around it in such tight space.

Mario Kart DS' battle mode is without a doubt the best in the series for various reasons. For one thing, this is the first game in the series to employ the use of CPU (Computer) opponents for the mode. This is actually a big deal, since before the DS entry, the mode required you to employ the presence of multiple players, so you couldn't play it whenever you want, and as such it limited the modes' appeal. But now, you can drop by whenever you want and play against the CPU with whatever rules you apply, whether they're set on hard or split into teams, all at an easier convenience then setting up local Wi-Fi to play with other gamers. Plus, since it uses the CPU, the game ups the original count of combatants from four to eight. All in all, it serves as a great timekiller.

Then there's the stages involved. While a couple were lifted from 64 (Block Fort) and Double Dash!! (Pipe Plaza), the stages included are all great fun to play in. You have the chaotic Tart Top, which involves the racers all scrambling to the cake mountain in the middle, since it provides a thrilling Dash Panel to launch players into the air to grab suspended Item Boxes. Next, there's an actual replica of the original Nintendo DS...IN SPACE. Finally, you have my favorite of the original stages: Twilight House, which is an abandoned building full of unfenced ledges and a spooky forest background.


Finally, you actually have an extra reserve of balloons. To pump them up, you must blow into the DS microphone. Totally gimmicky, but I love it.

There's also another mode involving collecting Super Mario Sunshine's Star Sprites, which are scattered across the field....but know what? I don't think I've ever played it! I'll have to fix that.

The only flaw to the mode? It's not on Wi-Fi. Booooo.

Mission Mode

Ah, the mode unique only to Mario Kart DS.

Mission Mode provides a series of "missions" that the player must carry out. What are these missions, you ask? Well, they're all some variation of stage obstacles, mechanics, or standard gameplay. To those confused, I'll provide a list below so it makes more sense. Watch how it gradually becomes more creative.

-Collecting all ten coins on a racetrack

-Perform six powerslides in one lap

-Reach to the finish before the Chain Chomp

-Drive through all five numbered gates in order while going backwards

-Bomb five Pokey cactuses in Desert Hills

-Grab all the coins while avoiding the nearby Chain Chomp.

-Drive backwards in the interior of Airship fortress while navigating through the wooden box made and avoiding the flamethrowers sprouting from the ceiling while collecting coins.

Pretty neat, eh? Thing is, there's actually no reward in doing all of these. Well, as in nothing you can unlock, anyway. The game scores you on how well you accomplished these missions, the minimum being a C and the maximum being three stars. This all depends on how fast you do said missions according to the time limit given.

Completionist heaven? I think so.

To add a bit of variety, a boss is unlocked once you finish a set of mission. They're all based off of the guys found in Super Mario 64 and its DS remake, and most provide a serious challenge. Some are just your standard "attack the enemy to win" type, but some are focused around racing to the finish. Goomboss, for example, rampages around the diminutive Baby Park while growing bigger and faster in each lap, and will throw Goombas in your path. It's incredibly fast paced and I still have yet to grab a three star ranking against him.

Also, when you unlock a boss, the music grows silent, and the boss panel glows red with an eerie noise. It's accompanied by whatever grunts the boss makes.

Super scary stuff.

Mission Mode is awesome. Why didn't they bring it back for Mario Kart Wii?

Versus Mode

This mode is essentially Grand Prix without the bells and whistles; in other words, no rewards or 40-point scores. The big difference here between that and Versus Mode is that you can pick tracks in any order without following the structure of the cups. For example, want to race on Baby Park after your trip through Bowser's Castle? Go right ahead.

There's also a ton of customization for the player to utilize. Naturally, you can select the difficulty of the CPU racers, but you can also choose between the various engine classes of the Grand Prix. You race as many as thirty two times, and also select teams so that each team member can compete to grab points for their teams by earning first place.

You know, back when I first played this game, this was the only mode I completely ignored. I suppose back then it had to do with the strong attractiveness of the other modes, what with the new Mission mode, the bot-filled Battle, and of course online Wi-Fi. Diving into it now, though, Versus presents a world of opportunities I had missed previously. For starters, this is actually the best mode to to polish your racing skills. While time trials are great for practicing on a course alone, they don't quite match the level of chaos that regular races provide, and as such aren't a fully adequete source of training. Here, you're free to race at your heart's content with other racers while not under the pressure of earning a gold trophy or a timed rank. I mean, just look at what you can do here! You can race on Mirror Mode racing Hard CPUs separated into teams while racing 17 times!

...actually, you know what? I haven't done that yet. I gotta make room for it one day.

Finally, Versus mode presents a very useful opportunity that I've been taking advantage of. I've already discussed the wide variety of karts you can use in the game, all with their strengths and weaknesses. Now, as much as I love the Mushmellow, it's kind of boring using the same kart all the time...which is why I've been expanding to other karts! Every day, I've been picking one kart to practice with, usually one I've never really used, and . Is it easy to powerslide with? Will I constantly slide off course? Can I catch up easily? All of these factors add up to whether or not I'll use the kart, and I'm having a great time picking from the gargantuan ranks of rides.

Personally, I've found that I've grown quite fond of Daisy's Light Dancer and Wario's Brute...when used with Toad, of course.

Diversity is fun!

So...there's the other three important modes of play. Mario Kart DS veterans will no doubt realize I've skipped over one.


This is Wario.

Perhaps best described as the anti-hero version of Mario, Wario is the complete opposite of the heroic plumber. Lazy, greedy, crude, disgusting, selfish, and just downright nasty, Wario has all of the traits of a jerk all rolled up into one. Unfortunately, like every jerk, he is proud of his status of being the biggest bully around and loves causing trouble. It is perhaps what is an uncommon trait in the Mario series that has led to him gaining a huge fanbase.

Despite being a slob, Wario is overly ambitious when it comes to money, and will do anything to grab some cash. The various Wario Land titles usually spin a yarn of him going to great lengths to nab treasure, of which he accomplishes by utilizing brute force and unique transforming powers. These days, with the exception of Wario Land: Shake it!, Wario has settled down from his adventuring days and prefers to exercise his strength via Mario's sporting escapades. In the meantime, he's made some serious cash with his company, WarioWare Inc., which produces a popular line of five-second microgames.

Wario kicks ass.

-Wario's exact relationship to Mario and Luigi has never been defined, or at least not by the Big N themselves. Nintendo Power has claimed that he is their cousin, but there is no evidence of this found in the games. It's obvious that the Bros. don't get along with Wario, which can be noted by his first appearance as the final boss of Super Mario Land 2 on Game Boy, in which he took over Mario's island estate.

Adding to the confusion is Wario's acquaintance with Waluigi, a rather demented doppelganger of Luigi. The two became fast friends after the latter's appearance in the N64's Mario Tennis, and are always seen paired together in the gang's various sporting adventures. They have been rumored to have been siblings, but again, there is no evidence. Charles Martinet, the voice of both Mario Bros., Wario, and Waluigi, settled the matter by humorously stating "I think they're just two nice, evil guys who found each other."

-Despite his antagonistic nature, Wario is quite the hit in his residence of Diamond City, the setting for the WarioWare Inc. games. His repertoire of microgames, which are addicting series of five-second games, were hit with both the fictional populace and with gamers the world over. The corporation was populated by his friends, of which included Jimmy T., a dancing sensation; Mona, a peppy girl who's always changing jobs; 9-Volt, a young boy obsessed with Nintendo games; and Dr. Crygor, an eccentric scientist who designs many of Wario's projects. There are, of course, much more.

The only catch? Wario doesn't pay his employees.

-In Mario Kart, Wario is, like Donkey Kong, a heavyweight racer. While he doesn't have the greatest speed in the world, his karts aren't so easily knocked around; in fact, they're great at pushing other racers around! Perhaps one can view this as perfectly complimenting his bully nature. While he is tricky to master, his popularity makes him a favorite choice in the series.

Also, many of his new karts are based off of jalopies and motorbikes. CHECK 'EM OUUUUUUT



As you might have noticed, I haven't included a retrospective piece this time around. The reason? My schedule has gotten insane lately, and I've been under pressure with working in two internships, working on my homework. That, and not only will I be embarking on a college meet this Friday, but something that's uh...shall we say important is going to happen next week, and with that looming over my head, I'd like to get this series over quick. Not that I'm not enjoying it, but I gotta move on.

Worried that I'm rushing this? Don't fret, read below for what you can expect:

-The next post will actually be a big retrospective piece in itself, and is actually rooted to a certain mode in Mario Kart DS. You don't want to miss this one.

-The last two posts afterwards will probably be smaller than what I've offered already, but will be incredibly vital to the themes I've expressed/hinted at in my Mario Kart DS Laps.

-What I had planned for this post is something I've actually decided to move into the final Lap I'm planning. I did want to post it here originally since I have made a habit of contrasting the themes of my retrospective pieces to the characters I've been talking about, but I felt that its impact would be better realized in a more meaningful post. You'll probably know what I'm talking about when you see it.

And that's about it. See you then.

So...anyone else feel like strangling Square-Enix? Jesus Christ, what's up with them closing down prolific game music accounts? I have to keep going back and editing my older posts...*grumble grumble*

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