These days there’s more Super Mario action than ever and while Super Mario Kart 8 will be the big game of the summer on the Nintendo Wii U, the most important new release on the 3DS is Mario Golf World Tour, so here’s our review in all it’s Mario loving glory. There’s a lot packed into the game, so there’s plenty to cover, but the most important point is that Nintendo has created a fairly realistic golfing experience featuring the best from the pipe diving series.
The characters from the Mushroom Kingdom have been playing golf in one form or another since NES Open Golf in 1991 (although a Mario lookalike was also the star of the 1984 original Golf on the Nintendo Entertainment System) and we’ve seen a fair few iterations over the years ranging from the acclaimed Mario Golf on the N64 in 1999 to Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour on the GameCube in 2003. The downside is that we haven’t seen a new entry to the series in long while, which is why the new 3DS title is such a welcome return.
Having skipped the Wii entirely, it’s been ten years since Mario lifted a golf club in anger in Mario Advance Tour back in 2004, so our review was always going to be slightly tainted with a little nostalgic misty eye. However, we can honestly say, hand on soppy heart, that Mario Golf World Tour is the best we’ve ever seen from the series, as well as being near enough on par with the best of the more series golf games.
It’s got some pretty advanced gaming dynamics that make it feel about as real as things can get when you’re swinging a golf club as either your Mii, Mazza, Luigi or one of the other cartoon-like characters from the Mario universe. The crucial element of any golf game is the accuracy of the putting and here the game comes into it’s own with realistic movement of the ball over the undulations of the green.
There are two distinct routes into playing Mario Golf World Tour; you can either jump straight into the action with the the Mario Golf Quick Round or you can start working your way through the campaign-like progression of the Castle Club. The Quick Round lets you play a quick 1-player or versus game of golf as either one of the Mario characters or your Mii, but we’ll come back to the genius of that a little later.
The Castle Club, however, sees you starting a golf campaign as your Mii, set within the impressive confines of the Princess’ palace and grounds. Here you’ll be guided by the likes of Toad at the caddy shack into a series of course championships and unlockable challenges in a bid to become the greatest golfer this side of the Star Road.
To learn the ways of the green in the Castle Club there’s not only a brief introduction to get you started on the right path, there’s also a host of tutorials to work through to refine your skills. This will help you to learn how to progress through the course championships, as well as coming in particularly handy when you take your skills online in the multiplayer modes where there’s some fierce golfing opposition to take on.
The Castle Club has got a fair amount to do packed under it’s spire crusted roof with course championships to take on, as well as a series of increasingly difficult challenges. While these are relatively straight forward when you first pick up the game they become harder and harder as your handicap improves and you get through to the tougher courses, guaranteeing an evolving level of difficulty, especially when you take on the harshness of the Sky Island Path One On, One Put challenge.
As you progress through the Club championships and challenges you’ll pick up new pieces of kit to improve your playing capabilities, as well unlocking items to purchase in the shop. This doesn’t just help with your swing in the castle though, it’ll also make your Mii more competitive in online multiplayer mode, so it’s an important factor of the game, providing a good sense of achievement, progression and online development, so you don’t always find yourself getting crushed by people with a mightier swing than you.
The second of the two main entry points into Mario Golf World Tour is the Quick Round, which provides a lot of options for jumping into a game instantly without it being a part of a lengthy campaign. At it’s simplest this is just a case of a 1 player match in which you can select a character, including your Mii, choose a course, set the variables like number of holes and away you go.
In 1 player mode there are a good number of different options to vary up your quick match with stroke play, competition play, speed trial and yet more challenges to chip on through. All of which can help you unlock things in the Castle Club, so it doesn’t just feel like meaningless fun.
At its most brilliant, the Quick Round sees you getting into the almighty battles that ensue in the online multiplayer Vs mode, competing with some of the best gamers in the world. This is where the game gets it’s sheer longevity potential, as even when you’ve won all of the championships, unlocked all of the challenges and taken every award available, there will always be a tough player online to make things interesting.
The golfing dynamics in both core gaming options are impressive to say the least. While there’s the Special Shot component that let’s you use power ups to perform crazy mushroom or Bullet Bill shots, which are pretty cool, the game is fairly true to the run of play in terms of real golf. The detail in the putting section is pretty spot on and you’ve got elements like rough and bunker terrain impacting your shot availability, as well as the ability to tailor your shots with club selection, distance and spin to add the element of realism to the game, which makes it much more than a cute sports sim.
There are lots of really impressive gameplay details built into Mario Golf World Tour that you start to notice as you play a little more. For example a lofted shot is impacted more by the wind than lower, harder drives and the swerve while putting through uneven greens will vary, to an extent, depending on how hard you hit the ball in the first place.
All of this adds up to a great gameplay review from us, indicating how much thought, time, dedication and effort Nintendo and Camelot Software have put into the game.
The graphics in Mario Golf World Tour are beautiful and crisp, delivering a full force colour fest of visual vibrancy and 3D cartoon style. The stereoscopic 3D action can result in an element of wavering edges at times, but on the whole the game pops out of the screen nicely, providing some great eye candy as you play.
It’s inevitably a pretty cute take on the game of golf, but for Mario fans it’s the perfect mix of 3D animation with some of the lushest golf course creativity we’ve ever seen. There’s everything from giant wigglers to beach front sand traps to avoid and they all look class as you smash your little white ball through the rounds.
One of the big feel good factors of the game is the post shot animation of Mario and friends, which change depending on how well they do on the shot. Make par and Mario does a pretty entertaining little celebration, but smash out a birdie or an eagle and he’ll go wild with glee, which looks class and leaves you with a warm, fuzzy feeling of achievement instantly.
All in all there’s not a great deal we’d change about the game and it’ll certainly be one that we’ll be playing all the way through the summer, especially with all of the online competition and competitions that are available. Add to that the fact that there’s already a three new DLC add-ons to the game and you’ve got a lot of longevitability in the palm of your hands. It’s definitely a much more rounded sports sim than Mario Tennis 3DS turned out to be.
Mario Golf World Tour 3DS review: 4.5/5