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Mario Kart DS demoed in Paris

Nintendo takes the wraps off the DS' killer app, with a world first showing in Paris. Full details inside...

If there's one handheld game destined to be right at the top of gamers' Most Wanted lists this year, it's the DS version of Mario Kart. And right on cue at the European launch for the DS, Nintendo treated the assembled audience to a live eight-player wireless multiplayer session comprised of senior Nintendo execs and hand-picked members of the press.

Showing off the slick ease of the wireless multiplayer facilities of the game, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata lead an impressive demonstration which highlightted the graphical capabilities of the machine as well as the all-important lag-free connectivity which is certain to be such an irresistible draw for the millions of fans of the popular karting series.

Interestingly, just prior to the demo, Nintendo was keen to emphasise it's growing faith in Europe by pointing out that sales of Mario Kart: Double Dash!! were actually higher in Europe - so it was a fitting reward to be treated to a world-exclusive first look at a very significant title for the format.

And attendees can't have failed to be wowed with the few minutes of big screen action that was shown off right at the end of the hour-long presentation, with the fully 3D visuals - unsurprisingly - well in line with those seen on the N64 version, and not that far off the GameCube in truth. The action was fast, smooth and slick, with the map screen proving a useful addition, and allowing a more uncluttered look for racing screen. It's not yet known how much the touch screen will play a part in the racing, but we expect a similar system to that used in Ridge Racer DS, which Tom wasn't wholly convinced about in truth, but we'll wait and see.

In terms of characters, the same familiar roster of Mario-related icons make a return, with Mario, Wario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, Bowser, Donkey Kong and Yoshi making up the standard selectable characters. It's expected that more will be unlockable via the three cups, as ever - but as yet details remain scant.

Asked when the game would be released, a Nintendo spokesman refused to budge, with attendees left speculating over a potential summer launch - a slot that Nintendo has used to great success during the season when many gamers head off into the sun with handheld console firmly in tow.

Indeed, with the PSP looking certain to launch just a week after the DS on March 18th, Nintendo will be pulling out all the stops to ensure it can pepper the market with strong titles to convince gamers to stick with it as the handheld gaming war gets firmly underway. Many more are expected to be announced just prior to E3 in mid May, when it's also expected that Mario Kart DS will get is first playable unveiling.

Until then, enjoy the handful of new shots released today.