I expected a lot out of Mario Golf: World Tour. That’s what 11 years of waiting can do. Since Toadstool Tour‘s release on the GameCube, I’ve filled that golf ball-sized hole in my heart with Sony’s Hot Shots Golf series. I’m aware of the advancements its made in the genre, particularly in online play, so World Tour had plenty of ground to cover.
Thankfully, Camelot Software Planning has produced my favourite golfing experience with World Tour, going well beyond what I felt was necessary to compete.
Perhaps easiest for the studio to pull off is the game of golf itself. First introduced in Camelot’s Hot Shots Golf for the PlayStation, 17-years of iteration and refinement has honed the studios abilities to perfection. The three-tap system is wonderful as ever; rewarding players with the dexterity necessary to pull it off, while keeping things accessible for the less acquainted (auto-mode let’s players select the strength of the shot, leaving the precision of its landing area to chance). The courses where this all plays out terrific, offering up the usual tropes (desert, tropical, and forest themes), while also providing six separate, 9-holes courses that are more in line with the Mario “universe”. While my heart will always side with the more grounded of the two groupings, these surreal courses offer up plenty of unique hazards (Bob-ombs, Thwomps) and shortcuts (DK barrels, speed pads) that keep the proceedings enjoyable. Expanding the selection further is the DLC, each pack containing a remake of two courses from the N64 Mario Golf. While there’s a debate to be had over this offering, I’ll say that the initial batch is a lot of fun. Whether the $5 pricepoint is worth it or a sign of the end of Nintendo as we knew it is a decision for you to make.
The wrapping that brings these courses together is two fold; Castle Club, which has players trot around a Club House as their Mii, and Mario Golf, which is more menu driven, letting players select the courses and challenges they wish to take on. This division is an odd one; while each houses features unique to it, it’s necessary to bounce between the two at a frequent rate to get the most out of the game.
Castle Club isn’t the RPG mode fans have hoped for. While it gives players a means to customize their Mii with new gear and clothing, the stat alterations are limited, and don’t allow the same degree of customization found in earlier entries. However, it’s still great fun to dress your Mii as Birdo, or find the perfect combination of clubs, balls, and accessories to create a well oiled, golfing machine. Competing in the tournaments spread across the Castle Club and Mario Golf modes give players the privilege to purchase the materials they want, occasionally offering this gear outright. While essentially the game’s “story mode” Castle Club doesn’t offer much beyond some quick quips from the Mario cast.
The titular Mario Golf portion of the game allows quick access to the golf courses, various challenges, and the majority of the game’s online features. You can play through the courses in a variety of ways; aiming for the best score, competing against a Mario character, finishing a course as quickly as possible, and a Point Tourney (competing for the highest score, where netting a body earns you 1 point, up to a hole in one equaling 8 points). These options add a lot of spice to the usual fare, breathing some extra life into the courses. The challenges too mix things up, with tasks ranging from collecting coins strewn about a course, to shooting the ball through rings before taking it home. Successfully completing these challenges opens up World Tour‘s unlockable courses and characters, but it doesn’t take much to gain access to these; the majority of the challenges are solely for bragging rights.
While the modes of World Tour are divided, it’s unclear as to why. Many features available in one mode can also be found in the other, with not enough exclusive content between the two to justify the need to bounce around. Unlocking new gear and clothing in the Mario Golf portion means popping over to Castle Club to purchase it, or simply changing into your won wears. While the Mario Golf mode is the primary destination for your online adventures, the basement of the Castle Club is home to its own, exclusive set of tournaments. Following the game’s release, several of my friends asked how I obtained my Game Boy threads, a prize offered in one of Castle Club’s online tournaments, a fact many seemed to miss. The game’s front end is odd, and whether from confusion or frustration, it keeps players from experiencing all World Tour can offer.
While it may it may be spread across the two modes, the online play offered by World Tour is a marvel. Tournament play is a real standout, as it lets players enter tournaments (be they official or user created) at any point during their scheduled period, upload their score, and check out the results when the time comes. It’s even possible to make further attempts should you feel the need. As you play, the game will show little icons of the flight paths of other players’ attempts, even highlighting those from your Friend List in orange. Camelot even took the 3DS’s portability into mind, as I was able to shut the lid on my 3DS mid-tournament and return to it later, all without losing connection. Best of all, you can enter into as many tournaments at once, allowing for a very large community of eager players. If this type of asynchronous play isn’t enough, Versus play worked without a hitch. Whether from your Friend List or one of the many Communities on offer, it’s always possible to find an opponent. I’d like to add that the lack of any sort of VR stat that you’d find in a game like Mario Kart allows me to be a bit more carefree in my approach. That little number carried a lot of weight in the online portion of Mario Kart 7, and having it lessen when I performed poorly had me stop playing far sooner that I’d like.
Despite an odd distribution of content, Mario Golf: World Tour manages to impress despite sitting on the sidelines for 11 years. It not only catches up to the standards set by Hot Shots Golf, but surpasses them (on top of presenting itself with an art style I can stomach). It’s already one of my most played 3DS games (my activity log can prove it), and with a constant stream of new tournaments to enter and test my mettle, I don’t think I’ll be putting it down any time soon.