While I couldn’t care less about the real-life sport, Mario Golf has been a passion of mine ever since it’s debut on the Nintendo 64 in the 90s. With the perfect mix of fantasy elements and a rock-solid gameplay engine that is easy to grasp with a ton of depth for hardcore players to master. I actually played so much of that game that I was able to score birdies on every single hole.
Mario Golf: World Tour marks the long-awaited return of Nintendo’s iconic characters to the links. It’s also the first in the series to introduce online functionality. Should you be booking your next tee time in the Mushroom Kingdom?
Coming to grips with everything that’s in the package is a confusing endeavour due to the game’s poor navigation design. Part of the game is housed behind a menu option called Single Player, which is misleading, as a good chunk of the online multiplayer takes place here. The Castle Club is even worse, as your Mii has to walk around the castle to find the local tournaments, online tournaments, challenges and the shop. You’ll probably stumble across everything eventually, but it’s very easy to miss large chunks of the game simply because you don’t know where to look.
If only the menus were as intuitive as the golfing itself. From the tee to the green, Mario Golf is a dream. You have all of the tools you need to make the right decisions on the course, from projected flight paths to the ability to fast forward or skip watching your ball in flight so that you can breeze through the game quicker. You also have a lot of different options for striking the ball. By moving the analog stick during your stroke, you can choose what side of the ball to hit to manipulate its flight path and add varying degrees of topspin or backspin to influence its path once the ball lands. It’s fun to simply whack the ball around until you get it in, but the real beauty of it all comes from mastering the systems to optimize your scores.
There are a lot of different ways to test your chops as a golfer. Tournaments are the meat and potatoes of the experience, though the brunt of available tournament content comes from an unusual source for a Nintendo game. Sadly, there are only three standard tournaments to partake in against the computer, but this is offset by the plethora of online tournaments run by Nintendo and other players. On any given day, you’ll have about 10 different online tournaments hosted by Nintendo and countless others created by players. With the number of options available to make challenges unique, online leaderboards and neat ghost functions to see how others fared on each hole, online tourneys should keep this game fresh for a long time.
Having a game from Nintendo rely so heavily on online functionality is a bit unusual – and welcomed. However, their implementation is not perfect. I love the fact that you can play online tournaments offline, as I end up doing most of my portable gaming the subway. The problem is, in order to upload your scores, you have to upload each one at a time by venturing through the myriad of menus and Castle Club locations to do so. Ideally, it would automatically upload results as soon as it sensed an online connection, but it doesn’t do that. Also, private tournaments rely on the sharing of numerical codes outside of the game to invite friends. I really wish Nintendo would bury the “Friend Code” option once and for all, but it unfortunately rears its ugly head here.
To mix things up, there are a number of different modes to play in beyond the standard tournament. You can do head-to-head matches against the computer or an online opponent, speed golf, where you want to finish a course in the fastest time, and dozens of different challenges that range from serious to goofy. One may force you to beat Princess Peach in a 9-hole match, while the next will challenge you to shoot the ball through hoops in specific spots of the course before finishing with a par score or better. For completionists, this challenge is right up your alley.
Mario Golf: World Tour suffers from some silly faults in its design, but it nails the core golfing experience while supporting it with an online infrastructure that will keep golfers pleased for many months to come. I think its problems stop it from surpassing the Nintendo 64 classic, but as a modern version you can play online and on-the-go, it’s not hard to justify adding this game to your collection.