Throughout my childhood and adolescent years, Nintendo and its Mario-themed sports games were a big part of my life. I spent countless hours playing my Nintendo 64 and Game Boy Colour, and a lot of that time went into the Mario Tennis and Mario Golf franchises. In fact, I still fondly remember how much I invested in the great Mario Tennis and Mario Golf games that were released for the first colourized Game Boy handheld, and usually get to thinking about how they still haven’t been surpassed.
On the day that Nintendo announced Mario Golf: World Tour for its present day 3DS portable, the child inside of me jumped for joy. The game is now available, and after spending some time with it, sitting back and hitting line drives with its familiar three-touch control scheme from yesteryear, I’m here to offer my thoughts.
When I first inserted World Tour into my teal 3DS, the first thing I did was test out its clubhouse career scenario dubbed Castle Club. Just seeing it on the main options menu got me excited, because it gave me hope that this new release would mark the return of the phenomenal, RPG-esque career mode that I fell in love with when I first bought Mario Tennis for the Game Boy Colour. Unfortunately, that excitement was premature, because while this game does feature an RPG-lite mode as its most intensive single player offering, it’s far from great. Instead, it feels like a (brief) tease of what could have been.
In Castle Club, players import their Mii character of choice and attempt to become a legend. It sounds great on paper, and could have been extraordinary, but there’s very little to the offering. Amidst training challenges and mini-games there are only three main courses and tournaments to enter. That’s pretty much it, other than a couple of special courses which focus more on things like coin collecting and special shot-allowing item usage than strategically calculated golf.
Upon starting a career within this scenario, you’re told that your aim is to place first in each of the clubhouse’s three tournaments. Then, once you’ve completed a round to determine your handicap, you’re thrown into the fire against Mario and company. It’s a pretty simple design that leaves me pining for my copy of the aforementioned Mario Tennis game, because not only did it have major tournaments, it made you work your way up to them, by playing smaller tournaments and exhibition matches in either solo or pairs structures. When I think about how that game came out more than thirteen years ago and compare its length to that of World Tour, I’m left shaking my head. Then again, at least there is a clubhouse mode, where personal likenesses can be utilized and decorated in Nintendo-infused gear.
In the end, the most important aspect of this game will always be how it recreates the sport it’s based on and inspired by. Thankfully, developer Camelot Software Planning did a pretty commendable job of bringing the game of kings and inches to the third dimension. Certain things could’ve been handled better, though, including the aiming camera, which is harder to use and gauge shots off of than I remember. The icon that represents the amount of power that the game suggests you should use, based on your location and distance from each hole, is also a bit wonky. There were times where I’d abide by it and it’d give me the perfect amount of power and distance, but there were even more occasions where the ball would end up falling short of a hole by a foot or at least a few inches. This issue became most evident when I putted, and it didn’t seem to matter what the terrain was like.
The most notable change to the series’ classic formula comes in the form of a new easy shot option. It lessens the shooting mechanic’s required button presses to just two, and is a tad more efficient as a result. I quickly switched back to normal mode, though, because it felt much more natural, not to mention more accurate.
What’s important is that Mario Golf: World Tour is easy to pick up and play, for those who wish to play a round of either 9 or 18 holes as they commute to and from work. It’s easy to just jump into a game, using traditional, hole or point play rules, or even by choosing a setting that calculates how much time each player takes. You can even compete against your favourite Nintendo characters in a one-on-one environment, or attempt to complete a decently varied list of challenges.
Online play is also available, providing both regional and international tournaments, as well as ways for players to customize their own events. It’s also possible to play with local play friends, or jump into a game against random strangers. With the inclusion of these options, the game provides a good amount of replay value and redeems itself a bit.
Aesthetically, this release shines. Its main forest, ocean view and desert courses are impressively detailed and vibrant, and the same is true of its characters and special courses. Going further, the handheld’s 3D effect is used very well and makes a huge difference when it’s turned on. It’s arguably some of the best 3D out there.
The rest of World Tour‘s presentation facets are also solid; however, its sound isn’t as noteworthy as its graphics happen to be. Still, its original music and sound effects are more than serviceable. Granted, I’d be remiss if I said this without placing an asterisk and noting that I turned the volume off a few times, and chose to listen to my TV instead.
To conclude, Mario Golf: World Tour exists as a solid but somewhat disappointing golf game. Though it could’ve been great, its developers chose to forego adding an in-depth career mode, which would have made a world of difference. Still, if you’re looking for a colourful and entertaining golf game to play during your daily commute, this one should be near the top of your list.
This review is based on the 3DS exclusive, which we were provided with.
Mario Golf: World Tour isn't a hole-in-one. Instead, its lack of an immersive career mode, and its problematic shot camera knock it back to a mere birdie.