Review: Mario Golf: World Tour for Nintendo 3DS
It’s time to tee off with Mario and friends!
When Mario Golf: World Tour was first announced as part of the “Year of Luigi” during a Nintendo Direct in February 2013 for a release later that year, I was excited. Naturally, when news of the game came and it was ultimately delayed until sometime in 2014, I was disappointed.
But while I was saddened I wouldn’t get to play the game sooner, the eventual news of a May 2nd, 2014 release lifted my spirits, as that was the day before my birthday. As a fan of both Mario and golf, who could ask for a better birthday “present” (along with Kirby: Triple Deluxe, which released the same day)?
What can I say but “happy birthday to me”? And playing this has made it a very happy one indeed.
Though I’m a fan of both Mario and golf, the truth is that I’ve never really had the opportunity to dig in to any of the previous entries in the series– not unless you count back to the likes of Golf on the NES, or my dabbling in NES Open Tournament Golf as a part of the Nintendo 3DS Ambassador Program, or sampling Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour. Suffice to say, Mario Golf: World Tour is leagues beyond either one.
While the golf portion of Wii Sports and Wii Sports Club gets the movement and gestures of the game down in your own living room, World Tour is cut from the cloth of a classic golfing simulator. It manages to do what it needs to do remarkably well: It’s simple enough for anyone to pick up and play, but there is enough nuance and detail to keep the more dedicated practicing and tweaking their game with such aspects as the spin of the ball, fade and draw, and even just hitting the right sweet spot. Players even have the option of choosing between “Easy” and “Manual” swings, which switch the meter between pressing a button once to hit, or the more classic two times to determine power and accuracy.
Throw in more randomized elements such as wind direction and speed (which can knock your ball ever-so slightly off course) and rain (which can slow your ball down when it lands), and there is a lot to keep things fresh with each new play.
Two main modes are available at the outset, with those wishing for a quick game using Mario or one of his friends able to dive right in to the “Mario Golf” mode, which features most of your basic game options, including multiplayer, challenges, and a number of online tournaments. The single player option even offers a variety of match types, from Stroke Play (competing for the lowest stroke count) to Match Play (see who does better on the most holes), Speed Golf (go for the fastest completion time), and Point Tourney (scored by stroke counts for each hole).
One thing which sets Mario Golf apart from most golfing simulators is the option to play nine holes on courses lifted directly from the Mushroom Kingdom and the greater Mario world. These range from Peach’s castle grounds to Yoshi’s Island, Bowser’s own castle, Wiggler’s Garden (where you’ll spot giant Mario enemies hanging around), Donkey Kong’s jungle, and more, and are also where you’ll be allowed to use special items from Mario games as well, such as the Boomerang Flower, which gives the ball’s trajectory a bit of a curve, or the Super Mushroom, which speeds the ball along when it hits the ground.
The only downside to the Mario World courses is that at the start, only Peach Gardens is available; to get more, you have to acquire a number of Star Coins through the Challenges, which have you accomplish different objectives, each on a single hole from a given course. These aren’t too bad, fortunately, but may stand in the way of what some players want to get down to at the start.
Previous handheld Mario Golf and Mario Tennis titles featured a robust role playing game mode which saw the player take control of one of a group of different original characters to gain experience and progress through the ranks of the organization to become the top player against Mario and his friends. The omission of this, or any sort of story mode, was generally not well-received when Mario Tennis Open came to the Nintendo 3DS in 2012.
Fortunately, the developers at Camelot Software Planning corrected this oversight somewhat for Mario Golf: World Tour. In “Castle Club,” the game’s other main mode, you take control of your Mii and progress through the various courses and tournaments to become the club’s top player. Rather than experience points, building up your character is slightly more Zelda-esque, in that you’ll acquire (in this and other modes) various clothing and equipment which can tweak your stats, though most of it seems to be similar to one-another, making it more a matter of aesthetic than function.
Unfortunately, such tweaks only apply to your Mii, as you can’t change the Mario characters’ clothing or equipment. However, beating the character in their respective Challenge will unlock a stronger variation for use in the Mario Golf mode.
The result of the Mii emphasis is a strange one; as I’ve played through the Castle Club mode, I’ve improved my handicap significantly (from about 15 down to about 3). As a result, I’m more comfortable using my Mii than I am any of the regular Mario crew, which feels like a weird place to be in such a game– especially one which boasts so many characters (both default and opened through other means).
Of course, using other characters can also provide a unique challenge; while Bowser is tough to beat for sheer power, trying to aim the ball while using him is like an achievement in itself. Master using him, though, and other players will have to watch out.
Speaking of the characters, one of my chief complaints regarding Mario Tennis Open is that it didn’t quite “feel” as much like a Mario game as previous titles. While it doesn’t have the hilarious opening or ending cutscenes such as those seen in Mario Power Tennis or Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour, I am happy to say that the game overall shows a lot more character for the Mario crowd, and as such, they don’t feel quite as interchangeable as they did in Mario Tennis Open.
One simple area in which this is noticeable is the victory animations, where each has their own reactions to doing well or poorly. Bowser’s is rather amusing, as when he hits a bogey, he’ll attack and break the camera after; if he does well, he’ll still grab the camera, but instead smirk and wag his finger in an “ah-ah-ah!” fashion, as if to say “not this time.” Mario will grab a Rainbow Star and run around to celebrate if he scores a birdie, while a bogey has him calling for his mama before gaining new resolve, determined to do better next time. Even the Miis have fun animations, with a variety of other Miis from your plaza getting in on the action. And if you’re tired of the animations, skipping them is as easy as the press of a button.
This carries over to the Castle Club mode, too. There, you’re able to roam the club grounds and interior, seeing a wide variety of Mario characters chatting about the game and doing other things to improve their game. I found the gym is a particularly amusing inclusion, with Spike lifting weights and Shy Guys running on treadmills.
It brings a certain liveliness to everything, making it feel like you’re really in the Mushroom Kingdom on everyone’s day off for golf. At the same time, though, their dialogue runs its course fairly quickly, leaving you to run around from one place to the next without much regard for what’s going on around you– sort of like an RPG town where you’ve already talked to everyone. Still, it’s quite welcome on the whole, and I think I’d rather have it than not.
The only downside to the characterization comes when you win a tournament. As the top three players stand on the podium, they just won’t shut up. Each character spouts off a short victory cheer in sequence, over and over and over and over and over again, with virtually no pause in between. There comes a point where you cannot mash the button fast enough to be done with it.
Another place where the game does well is in its various forms of multiplayer. Though it unfortunately lacks download play, both local and online play is a snap. This is due in no small part to the more independent nature of golf, as reacting to another player’s moves is a non-issue, meaning that lag is as well.
What’s more, rather than waiting for an opponent to finish their move and then taking your turn, most multiplayer modes allow you to complete a hole independent of your competition, allowing everyone to complete the hole at their own pace at the same time before moving on to the next one. You’ll also see other players’ balls flying around as well, which is a neat touch, but also a little distracting– particularly on the green as you’re trying to sink a putt and everyone’s balls and icons are cluttering the view.
This also applies to the various online tournaments, which you can play at your leisure, rather than coordinating with the schedule everyone else is playing by. You can even replay and submit a new score, if you wish, though be careful: The game is willing to let you overwrite an older, better score with a newer, worse one.
That aside, multiplayer and online tournaments (both official and fan-made) work quite well here, and are fun to participate in while also managing to be more relaxed than most online and multiplayer experiences.
On a side note, I do have a few other minor grievances/disappointments with the game. One is that there isn’t any use for your stock of Play Coins, which somehow feels like a missed opportunity. It’s not a major thing, but you have to wonder what could have been done with them here. (Edit: I’m told you can actually buy in-game currency with ten Play Coins, but you have to go to a certain place to do it.)
Additionally, the interface can be a little confusing at times; it took me a bit to figure out how to properly equip new items and clothing, which required more button pressing than one would normally expect. The menus can also be a little cumbersome at first, at least until you get to know where everything is (such as the Challenges, which characters in Castle Club may tell you to do to unlock courses, but which lies in the Mario Golf mode of the game).
Finally: Your instruments will sometimes flat-out lie to you, or at least be muddled enough to be no different. This is the case when you’re trying to line up a long drive, and the line tells you where the ball should land down the way, but then you wind up getting nowhere close– even with a perfect shot. It’s a rare case, but it does come up on occasion… or maybe it’s because I was using Bowser there.
In the end, Mario Golf: World Tour may not have been quite everything I was hoping for, but it comes very close. As I said at the start, I’m a fan of Mario and I’m a fan of golf, and Mario Golf: World Tour brings the two together superbly.
Now, if we can just get a new Mario Strikers… or better still, who’s up for “Mario Ice Hockey?”
A review copy was provided by Nintendo of Canada.