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New Mario Kart DS details

Online races! And battles!

Hideki Konno, producer of the forthcoming Mario Kart game for the Nintendo DS, has revealed a few more details of what we can expect when the title races into view later this year.

As previously announced, Mario Kart DS will feature at least 15 brand new tracks and a further 15 picked from earlier instalments in the series. Up to eight players can take each other on wirelessly, and you can also participate in four-player online races via the new Nintendo WiFi service.

And that's not all - Konno has now confirmed you'll be able to play Battle matches over the Internet, too. There's no sign of a co-op mode, however.

For the first time ever in a Mario Kart game, competing players will have the option to select the very same character. Different colour schemes and displayed player names will be used to distinguish between them, which sounds eminently sensible to us. You'll also be able to design personalised decals using a simple Paint-style program, but whether or not you can take these decals online is not yet known.

As for power-ups, there's good news for those who miss the Feather which allowed you to hop in Mario Kart SNES since it may well return in the DS version. New features will include a Balloon which you inflate by blowing into the handheld's microphone - Konno won't say why, but we reckon you might be able to pop the blighter at an opportune moment to knock your rivals off course.

As you'll know if you've read our first impressions of the game, Mario Kart DS seems to be shaping up very well so far. It's due out by the end of this year in Europe, and you can bet your biggest, shiniest, goldest coin that it'll be right near the top of our Christmas lists.