With the launch of Mario Kart DS on November 25 in Europe, it's not that long at all until the first stages of Nintendo's online Wi-fi Connection service rattle into action. It's no surprise then that a steady stream of new details Mario Kart have been leaking across the internet, threatening to form an oil slick of information for anyone careless enough to thunder straight by.
The most recent entrant on the starting grid comes in the form of fresh new details from an interview with producer Hideki Konno in Famitsu magazine. It looks like Nintendo's been putting in the overtime to give Mario Kart fans the ultimate high-speed plumbing experience, with brand new modes for both single and multiplayer games.
First up, solo players can take on the Mission Run mode where you're given a specific cart and set an objective to complete in order to earn yourself some spanking new vehicles - examples given include having to drive through tyre-shaped gates in order and using items to slam the brains out of crabs roaming across a battle stage.
Speaking of items, alongside the Mario Kart classics, it looks Nintendo's managed to sling in a couple of new ones for the game's latest iteration. As we've mentioned before, there's a squid power-up which unleashes a torret of ink onto your opponent's top screen, forcing them to use the bottom map for navigation for a short time. There's also a new Bullet Bill item which turns your racer into the nefarious Mario baddy, removing control over your character but striking opponents automatically.
In multiplayer, all the classic modes like time attack and balloon mode are back (interestingly, you can now equip up to five balloons per buggy in the latter) alongside the brand new Collect Shine option. Here, you're charged with roaring round the battle arena swiping Shines in a bid to have the biggest stash at the end of the match. Slamming into your fellow racers relieves them of their treasure so expect plenty of dodgem-style trauma.
It also looks like Nintendo's overhauled the kart system too. First up, the company's apparently managed to favourably replicate the analogue control of the N64 Mario Kart on the d-pad - quite how isn't specified, but we'll give them the benefit of the doubt for the time being. There's a huge variety of vehicles to choose from too each varying wildly in terms of handling, drift and driver weight.
It even looks like certain vehicles attract specific types of items, so you'll end up with a skewed stash depending on your choice of transportation - these tend to limit your top speeds though, so it's a tricky balancing act. Finally, it appears that terrain will have different effects on different karts, so this time around, you'll have to plan ahead if you want to eke the best performance out of your buggy.
As for online Wi-fi Connection play, you'll be able to add a maximum of sixty people to your friends list for head-to-head play and there's a 32x32 pixel decal editor so you can tart up your kart and brag to your friends.
Just in case you were wondering about the key differences between the various possible mulitplayer configurations - whether you're using, that is, a single cart, multi cart or online mode to thrash it out with your friends - there's even more Mario Kart DS info squealing around the web too, fresh from a Nintendo press release.
Mario Kart DS allows single cart Download Play and supports between two and eight players in racing, balloon battle or shine thief modes. However, you'll be limited to a choice of only eight racing tracks and eight battle arenas and locked into the 100cc class. What's more, all competitors without the cart will play as Shy Guy. Despite it's limitations, we reckon that's still a pretty good feature list for cartless racing.
If everyone has a copy of the game in LAN mode, things look even rosier with all tracks, characters and classes becoming available. The game will also save and track the win/lose ratio of players and you'll be able to exchange ghost data between DS's.
In terms of online play, races are limited to four players and battle mode isn't available. You'll be able to compete against either friends only, random-selected opponents, recent rivals and players either regionally or globally. Apparently, players cast a vote to select a course pre-race and you'll have access to all characters and, of course, your decal designs.
Finally, confirming that the game won't simply be a retro re-tread of old Mario Kart-ing glories, Konno is keen to point out that the slew of re-modelled old-skool tracks from the SNES, N64, GBA and GameCube games will be joined by some all new offerings in the Nitro Cup. These apparently include a crustacean-stuffed Puku Puku Beach, Eight Cross Circuit, Luigi's Mansion and Yoshi Falls, which is apparently a vertigo sufferers worst nightmare.
Mario Kart is set to release alongside the Nintendo Wi-fi Connection Service in Europe on November 25 and, after all that, we're looking forward to it more than ever.