By Ethan . April 24, 2014 . 12:31pm
Mario Golf: World Tour is a fantastic golf game. If you want, it can be an extremely satisfying and deep golf experience. Beyond just hitting the ball towards the hole, there are wind factors to consider, ball spin, shot arc, the lay of the shot, the amount of bounce you’ll get off the fairway, and your character’s natural tendency towards a draw or fade on drives to contend with.
I’m a Mario Golf nut so I contemplate most of that every hole. What makes Mario Golf: World Tour remarkable, though, is that such complexity is optional. Yes, you can optimize your performance by taking every variable into account, but you can still succeed just using the recommended shot the game provides you and a simplified swing meter. There just aren’t many games that go as deep as Mario Golf without losing accessibility.
However, everything I just listed was also true of 2003’s Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour. And that’s sort of the catch. It’s been ten years since we last got a new Mario Golf game, and while Mario Golf: World Tour is fantastic, it’s the same fantastic as the eleven-year-old Gamecube iteration. When you’re out on the links, the core game is nigh identical to what came before.
2003 was a long time ago, though. Is it really so objectionable that Nintendo release a new game with their same golf formula eleven years after the previous installment? There are kids who will play this on their 3DS systems who weren’t even alive when last Mario Golf hit store shelves. What one person calls shameless repackaging of unchanged mechanics another person could just as easily defend as Nintendo making sure that one of their best Mario Sports variations remains accessible to the next generation of gamers.
My angle is that I’m just glad to have some more courses to play Mario Golf on, at long last. I’ve played the Toadstool Tour set to absolute death. But I am, as mentioned, a Mario Golf nut. Maybe that isn’t the most useful perspective for everyone.
Another angle that I know some people are approaching this game from is as a successor to the very different Gameboy titles which took the Mario Golf franchise in a stat-building, RPG-inspired direction. World Tour certainly isn’t structured like an RPG like past handheld iterations were, but the content is doled out in a satisfying progression. Every game mode earns coins and unlocks gear to be worn by your Mii (some of which change stats!). Success in in the new Castle mode unlocks more content in the Castle, success in the classic Mario Golf challenges earns star coins, which unlock more courses, which in turn have more star coin challenges on them.
So, even though World Tour isn’t an RPG by any definition, there’s still a character to equip, tons of content to unlock, and pointless NPCs to talk to between rounds of golf in the Castle. Unless you were really invested in the narrative of past Mario Golf RPGs this ought to scratch your itch—pretty much every other facet is present and accounted for in some form.
I realize that everything here is pretty much inside baseball, though. What if you’ve never played Mario Golf at all? What if you don’t care if it’s changed much since Toadstool Tour or if it has inherited RPG trappings from the Game Boy versions of distant past? My opinion is that Mario Golf: World Tour is absolutely worth putting in your 3DS. It’s as deep as you want it to be, or as streamlined as you need it to be.
It’s a game you kick back with to relax, except for that moment when the ball is spinning on the rim of the hole, and your whole body seizes up and you don’t even realize you were holding your breath until the ball spins out and an albatross is denied you. It’s a game with a staggering amount of content to play through and unlock, but is just as fun to plug in for a quick 9 holes working towards nothing. It’s a game that can’t be played cooperatively in a traditional sense, but when people play together, they always end up rooting for each other to make those tough shots. It’s a golf game more than a Mario game, but it’s one of the best golf games out there. I absolutely love it.
Food for thought:
1. One tweak to the formula in this game is the addition of classic Mario power-ups on the course that can be collected to modify your shot. I’m not a huge fan of these since they mess with the otherwise consistent ball physics, and to master Mario Golf is to master of the ball physics and understand that your shot will bounce just so. Fortunately, the designers seem to agree with me and these powerups are limited to the 9 hole gimmick courses filled with such nonsense as boost pads and trick shots off of bouncy mushrooms. This content isn’t awful, but the Mario-themed chaos doesn’t lend itself to the carefully measured pace of golf so well.
2. The characters are extremely vocal in this game. Everyone has their normal grunts or simple phrases to establish character that you expect in any Mario-branded game, but those lines are iterated way too often. I got to the point eventually where I didn’t notice it anymore, but right away from the get go when the tutorial Toad is shrieking with glee at every single new dialogue box, you’ll notice the annoyance. This isn’t game breaking or anything, but it’s a weird issue.
3. Are you curious about the recently announced online tournaments, DLC packages, and digitalized Callaway outfits for your Mii? I am, too! Too bad the servers weren’t active while I was working on this playtest. I’ll be backwith a followup playtest covering this game’s online integration and weirdly contemporary feature set for a Nintendo game once I’ve been able to tool around with it. So, save your condemnation of money-grubbing DLC or shameless in-game advertising for now—we’ll get there.