Mario has taken just about every job but plumbing past his introduction on what now seems forever ago, back in Donkey Kong. And while his stint as a doctor has garnered a legion of fans over the years, his best titles are in the sports department. Outside of the hugely successful Mario Kart series, which we’ll be seeing a new entry of soon, Camelot’s Mario Tennis and Mario Golf have been gracing just about every Nintendo console since the Nintendo 64, serving up, or in the case of this review, teeing up some of the best sports games in those particular systems, in many regards.
The latest Mario Golf game is no exception. Mario Golf: World Tour, out now on Nintendo 3DS expands its scope thanks to the handheld’s online functionality and benefits immensely on Nintendo’s much welcome new outlook to online gaming. Where previous games only really allowed you to take the greens against local players, Wold Tour breaks everything wide open, putting Mario Golf where it obviously belongs: right smack out online.
The huge benefit of online multiplayer only deepens the feeling of how well the Mario Golf games play. World Tour doesn’t re-invent the wheel in terms of gameplay, but its online features only further add replay value to an already humongous amount of time you are able to put into a Mario Golf game. Granted, the best aspect of playing Mario Golf is its inherent surface level simplicity. Setting up a shot is done easily enough and off can you go, putting your way through the crazy courses based on Super Mario games, as well as some of their powerups.
But if you wish to take things more seriously, the Mario Golf series has also given you the option to do so, World Tour being no different. Turn off assistance options and much of the charm and depth you’d come to expect from a golf game themed on Mario instantly pops up to the foreground, making evident the apparently hidden amount of care that goes into designing courses – seemingly silly obstacle placement suddenly turn out to be devilish, forcing you to plan out shots in order to attain anything better than a par shot on a particular course hole.
And while it’s easy to pinpoint the success of the Mario Golf games to the franchise, a quick glance into career mode is an easy reminder that much of the deep level of enjoyment you’re likely to find in a game like this is tackling the ‘stars’ and making a name for yourself. This time, you’re given the option of taking your own Mii into the links, earning new equipment and awards on your way to stepping up and challenging Mario Bros. characters for ultimate recognition.
Career mode eases you into the game extremely well, first teaching you the basics of golf, asking you to set up a handicap for yourself before pushing you into the main course challenges, whether they are championships for the least amount of shots, or a coin challenge, that awards you for going after the gold. In fact, by going through the steps of teaching that the game sets up for, regardless of previous experience with the series, you’ll continually improve your game in World Tour, due to the slow but brilliantly designed ramp up in difficulty progression throughout this mode.
Equipment earned can be bought at the Mushroom Club store, giving you a new look to pick from for your golfer, even though the real benefit of playing dress up is how every piece of clothing or golfing paraphernalia presents you with a stat change that helps you mold your Mii to your gameplay style. For instance, a Shy Guy styled set might give you an extra nudge to your shots and also turn your character into a creepy mask wearing golfer.
The user interface is what might sadly boggle down your way through Mario Golf. On one hand, skipping your way through career mode is done easily enough, because you well, actually run around a relatively big golf club. On the other, it’s difficult to get accustomed to the layout of the place when you’re just starting out – every nook of the place serves a purpose, and what could have been accessed through a menu instead has you running around from room to room. Strangely enough, the worst aspects of the frontend pop in World Tour’s banner multiplayer. My previous wish of menus is served in spades in this mode, to an absurd degree. The ability to find online lobbies is hidden away among a clutter of menu options that have no relation at all, which makes joining a custom or even a Nintendo sponsored event a pain in the first few hours of playing Mario Golf: Wolf Tour.
Luckily enough, learning your way through some of the interface fluff comes quickly in the overall order of things while playing the game. And behind it lies some of the best implementations of online features yet in a Nintendo title. By inserting a code provided by a tournament creator, you’re able to jump into just about any combination of gameplay and course options turned into a hole-to-hole points race that you can jump into with friends or random players around the world. You’re also obviously given the option to come up with a tournament on your own, and these options are possibly endless thanks to the sheer amount of courses that you can cross, link and combine to your heart’s content.
Outside of tournaments, that work wonderfully well on their own, is the option of simultaneous multiplayer against people in your friend’s list over the web, or locally via wi-fi, with friends that also own the game. Online is also works toward ushering in a new front that Nintendo is just now stepping into: extra downloadable content. Via a pain season pass, you’re given a host of new courses and characters to pick from, right out of the gate, seeing a release side by side with the retail game. Nintendo promises more content throughout the year, so the extra value of this pass is still worth debating, as well as Nintendo’s approach to an already crowded field of DLC offerings that has been growing exponentially over the past few years.
Whether you are an established fan of the series or a virtual golfer, Mario Golf: World Tour is well worth your time. Outside its clumsy approach to frontend design you’ll find an easily approachable game that’s deceptively simple looking, but ultimately deep as you deem fit to make. Quality trumps quantity any day, and few sports games can claim to be as excellent and as worthwhile on the Nintendo 3DS as Mario Golf: World Tour.