Golf has always been the kind of sport that’s incredibly boring to watch and, except for the really passionate fans, equally boring to play. But Mario Golf: World Tour is rarin’ to put the fun back in this uppity game. Who knew that all you needed was a cast of colorful characters, bright and vibrant courses and some handy power-ups?
Update: I finally got my hands on online tournaments as the servers are now online. My thoughts have been added to the according section.
In Mario Golf: World Tour, players can choose how they experience the tour, whether it’s through the classic “Mario Golf” mode or the new “Castle Club” mode. The former allows you to immediately choose a franchise character and a course, then have at it. Each character has their own statistics: mainly their drive, control, sweet spot and if their shot fades left, draws right or simply travels straight.
Castle Club lets you play as your Mii and it’s essentially a story mode of sorts. As you beat tournaments and other challenges, you’ll unlock new merchandise and equipment that can be purchased in the in-game store using gold coins gained from completing said courses. There are six special courses that can also be purchased using special Star Coins, which then can be played in both modes.
World Tour offers three main types of tournament courses in Castle Club — Forest, Seaside and Mountains — that possess their own unique challenges and make-ups. The Forest courses are made for beginners and experts alike with relatively simple obstacles and light breezes. Seaside has hazards that can add points to your score as well as very strong winds that affect the ball’s trajectory and landing. Mountain courses are overall the toughest, with the most difficult obstacles to deal with.
There’s also a special course called the Sky Island, which is reserved for the most skilled players. Due to its precarious nature (since it’s literally a series of floating rocks), players must achieve a “one-on, one-putt,” which means that at minimum you must get at least a birdie on each course.
Challenges (located in Mario Golf mode) are another nice feature for strong players, which seriously test your precision and course planning skills by requiring you to hit Star Coins and make the ball travel through rings, among other things. You may even have to play a round against other Mario characters such as Peach and Daisy.
Completing practice rounds as well as tournament rounds is important, especially for those who want to compete against other players online. Just for this purpose, Nintendo implemented a nifty handicap feature which allows people of varying skill levels to participate in online tournaments together. This mechanic works with single player and multiplayer tourneys as well.
But those that don’t exactly excel in golf can take advantage of basic mechanic lessons, as well as mini challenges that apply what you’ve learned; there’s even a handy glossary that elaborates on tricky golf jargon. And just for kicks, beginners can keep their stroke on Easy instead of Manual, which means you won’t have to consider factors such as sweet spot and ball spin.
Controls in this game are incredibly precise and players are always given a wealth of information on factors such as wind speed and direction, height, terrain and slope, not to mention the many clubs you can choose from, being able to set swing strength, changing the camera angles and other factors. Players may feel frustrated at times but this is one of those rare times that the player’s own failings are at fault, not any issues with the game itself.
Another factor that really elevates this title is the array of authentic noises and effects: the sharp crack of a ball hit by a club, grass rustling when said ball lands and rolls, the overhead wind blowing along; these small details accumulate into a magical medley of sights and sounds for golf lovers. Graphics only enhance the experience with surprisingly detailed and accurate golf course renders, as well as nicely animated swings. The music, meanwhile, features some lovely jazz tracks that blend in perfectly with the gameplay.
However, while the developers did focus on authenticity, this being Mario Golf and not exactly a PGA World Tour title means that Power-ups and Power Shots can play a pretty big — but ultimately optional — role.
Power Shots, like the name suggests, give your stroke an extra boost in power but they’re limited in number. Power-ups are the same ones you find in any Super Mario Bros. title and range from the terrain burning Fire Flower to the speed boost properties of the mushroom. As I mentioned before, items, coins appearing on the course, and Power Shots can be completely avoided if a player prefers to keep their golfing experience pure.
Moving on to the game’s online portion, there are two main ways to engage players globally. If you crave a simple and relaxing round, then Local Play, Online Friends and Community Match should be your go-to choices. For players that want a little more competition in their lives, the leaderboard driven Online Tournaments are more suitable. The latter is further split into two sub-modes: Americas Tournament and World Tournament, with the latter being much more difficult to place in.
The online tourneys are purely leaderboard driven, as players get a certain amount of time to enter a tournament (usually about three days). You then play a 18-hole round in whatever course the tourney takes place in and, once the due date is officially over, your score is added to the leaderboard. Keep in mind that your handicap is also added to your score to keep things fair.
If you’re not in the mood for a traditional tournament, however, you can also choose to participate in other competitions such as a “one-on, one-putt,” driving or time attack. The idea of a non-live tourney may seem boring but it makes perfect sense in the context of golf. If it was live, players would have to wait for others to finish up a hole before everyone could move on. This would tremendously slow down things to the point of being not fun. Nintendo’s method solves this because you can complete a course at your leisure and still compare scores with those around the world. It also saves having an entire tournament lost due to a lost server connection.
Lastly, I wanted to address the pink elephant in the room, namely the issue of the day one World Tour DLC. Honestly, for those that have misgivings or just simply not interested, not buying the DLC packs or the Season Pass is perfectly fine. The sheer amount of content in this $30 title, not even including the online leaderboard matches and varied competitions, is more than enough to sustain players for months.
This DLC, however, is meant for players that want even more courses and characters to choose from, since the three packs combined literally doubles the game’s content. In short, this is DLC done right, similar to the well implemented downloadable content for Fire Emblem Awakening.
Mario Golf: World Tour is an excellent golfing title that combines the strategy and depth of golf with the personality and fun of the Super Mario series. Whether you’re a beginner or advanced player, child or adult, there’s something for everyone here.