Remember when Mario looked like an old man while swinging from the tees? Yeah that's about the last time I played a 'golf' game with any major desire to do so. The Tiger Woods stuff never really appealed to me, but Kirby's Dream Course was always my jam growing up, but that was more of a goofy mini-golf adventure, not proper golf. I'd occasionally play a round of Mario Golf on the Nintendo 64, but it never really gripped me (pun semi-intended), at least not in the way that Mario Golf: World Tour has for the 3DS. I've been hitting the links a lot over the past few days, and now my Mii is decked out in the finest threads the Mushroom Kingdom has to offer, even if it didn't seem to help my game out in the long run.
Mario Golf: World Tour offers gamers the initial option of Quickplay or World Tour upon starting up, Quickplay is exactly what it sounds like while World Tour drops players smack dab into the middle of the Mushroom Kingdom for a few rounds of golf, giving players three full courses to play on, the Forest Course is the beginner stage, loaded with flat fairways, minor slops, and easy greens. The Seaside Course starts throwing wind and harsher slopes at you on the greens. Lastly, the Mountain Course which gives you some incredibly tricky holes with lots of elevation changes and a lot more chances to land the ball out of bounds. Along with those three centerpiece courses, there's a practice course, and some tutorial areas that will teach you how to deal with hazards the game likes to throw at you, like how to compensate for wind, elevation changes, or slopes on the greens. You can also explore Princess Peach's castle to visit the pro-shop, participate in online tournaments, and view the trophies you've been awarded.
There's a decent variety beyond the golf basics, and once you finish the main three courses and win the three championships associated with them you'll find there is a decent amount of things to do. There are online tournaments that you can participate in, but it's just against players on the same courses you've already played before. Developer Camelot tried to spice things up by making some of the courses objective based, with some tournaments requiring you to collect coins that are vacuumed up by your ball as it flies by them. Or there's the pin challenge that requires you to get as close as possible to the hole without actually going in. Items can be used that can affect the trajectory of your shots, cause the ball to speed along the ground, drop from the sky at the height of its arc, or burn through the shrubs and grass and be unaffected by the terrain. Items can be picked up frequently as they are liberally spread throughout the courses, provided you can hit the item boxes that contain them. While items are useful, I wish there was a practice course that let you test out each one to get a better feel for how they work.
If you just want to hop in and play then the quickplay menu will introduce you to free play on the courses, and challenges that put an interesting spin on them. The challenges give you objectives to complete that will reward you in normal coins that can be used to purchase items at the pro-shop for your Mii to boost their stats, and Star Coins which in turn will unlock some new courses based off other Mario worlds, Yoshi's Island, and Donkey Kong Country. The only downside to these new courses is that they aren't fully fleshed out courses, meaning you're getting nine holes out of each. Some of the challenges are returning from previous games, and includes Star Coin Collector, which places a coin somewhat out of the way and requires you to still manage a par on the course. The point challenge mode limits you to a certain number of clubs while getting the best score possible.
Multiplayer has received some rather drastic changes to the Mario Golf formula, the most obvious one being asynchronous multiplayer, which means that once you queue up a game with your friends, it's just get on the greens and go. This makes sessions with your friends much shorter as you don't have to wait for the next person's turn to end, which is a very welcome change. This also means that during tournaments you'll be seeing a lot of Mii icons and the balls that represent other players, which at times can crowd the screen and make it a little difficult to see. The inclusion of online tournaments will also make you strive to be a better golfer, though I have to wonder what people are doing to be able to score a -21 on the most difficult course in the game, especially with the number of five par holes in there. Also I don't know if it was just me, but every time I attempted to connect online I would receive a server error, but then would proceed to be able to play.
Playing this game, the only real complaint I have is the camera, which never quite wants to be where you want it to go. When attempting to change camera angles, the game will always go to where it expects the ball to lie, but that's rarely where it will actually end up, which means if you're not careful you're going to wind up in a different spot than you were anticipating, which can mean the rough or a deviously placed bunker. Also the 3DS can be moved around to adjust where the camera looks, but if anything it seemed to be more detrimental than helpful.
Being a first party developed title, Mario Golf: World Tour looks pretty fantastic. The 3D usage actually makes some shots easier to gauge when on the green, giving players a better view of the slopes and undulations in the terrain. The graphics themselves are colorful and really pop, especially with some of the UI design choices. The models obviously look great and are full of life and animation, and seeing their reactions to shots almost perfectly mimics how I'd feel every time a put can up just inches short of a hole. The courses themselves are absolutely gorgeous, and some of the unlockable courses match their source aesthetic perfectly, especially the Yoshi's Island course. I wondered why the music was so enjoyable this time around, and it turns out Motoi Sakuraba was brought on, and his touch doesn't go unnoticed.
Mario Golf: World Tour is the first time in a while that I've actually been angry with a game, in a good way, and wanted to get better. It really started happening during the Championship round of the Mountain Course, birdie after birdie, undone by a random bad lie, and then Mario catching up as if he were holding a blue shell and I was in the lead. It was driving me (again pun semi-intended) up the wall, and I kept getting that 'I need one more round!' feeling, which is kind of rare for me these days. Kudos to Camelot for making me interested in a golf game again. The minor connection issues were definitely puzzling, but I was never actually blocked from playing online, so it's a curious error, but an error regardless. Even if it does seem to be a bit short on content, Mario Golf: World Tour offers plenty to keep gamers busy for hours, and the changes to multiplayer are more than welcome. Now when I go to Street Pass events it looks like a quick game of golf is on the table.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
In a past life I worked with Interplay, EA, Harmonix, Konami, and a number of other developers. Now I'm working for a record label, a small arm of casual games in a media company along with Gaming Nexus, and anywhere else that sees fit to employ me.