It’s been quite a while since Nintendo revisited the world of Mario Golf, with the last iteration of the series having been Mario Golf: Advance Tour on GBA, but Mario and company are back for another 18 holes in the franchise’s latest addition, Mario Golf: World Tour. This time around we find not so much of the RPG elements featured in the previous handheld installments, but rather a larger focus on mastering each of the game’s three main courses to go head-to-head against the reigning world champ himself, Mario.
As your Mii, you find yourself as a newbie player within Princess Peach’s Castle Club, becoming acclimated to the world of professional golf (or as professional as it gets in the Mushroom Kingdom). After establishing your handicap and entering a handicap tournament, you can then begin participating in the three main 18-hole courses the game starts you off with: the Forest, Seaside, and Mountain Courses, which all have their own characteristics and hazards. The Forest Course is the easiest, with gentle winds and occasional sand patches, while in the Seaside Course you must contend with high winds and water traps, and in the Mountain Course you have to prepare yourself for steep slopes and obstacles. The CPU is extremely competitive and relentless in tournaments; during the Forest Course Tournament I completed with a -9.4 but Peach still managed to beat me out for first with a score of -10, so you always have to be on your toes and make every shot count.
In order to do so, Mario Golf: World Tour actually makes you take wind conditions, club selection, shot power, and tricks played on the ball into consideration– simply timing your shots by pressing A at the right moment won’t be enough for you to take first place. Manual shots allow for adding spins to your ball, and adjusting the camera to an overhead view helps you line up your shot where you need it to go. While the camera on the fairway is excellent and invaluable, the camera when putting was extremely frustrating, focused too close behind your Mii and never really adjusting properly between the three available angles to line up your putt correctly. There were too many instances of angling your shot just right, timing your putt exactly, and still winding up at the very cusp of the hole and having your ball stop, always conveniently during a potential birdie shot. Also irritating was your Mii’s voice, particularly the female voice– every two seconds there was some outburst from my character that made me want to eliminate her voice completely, especially considering the soundtrack is very pleasant to listen to while golfing. But other than those minor annoyances, golfing feels great overall; I found myself playing for extended periods of time every gaming session, and improving my handicap after every course became addicting.
The Castle Club is a very engaging central hub to explore, particularly because of the adorable Shy Guys, Toads, Koopa Troopas, Goombas (who somehow have found ways to golf despite their anatomy…), Monty Moles, and Spikes meandering about and engaging in conversation with one another. Talking to them actually yields quite a bit of useful information so it’s worth listening to what they have to say, even if you’re like me and only talking to them because you want to give that Shy Guy running on a treadmill in the gym a big hug. Completing courses results in unlocking a wide array of equipment for your character, which you can equip at the store in the Castle Club; different articles of clothing provide different attributes for your character depending on what you have on. Further exploration into the Castle Club actually brings you face to face with Mario, Luigi, and friends themselves, which is a nice change to the former Mario Golf handheld entries, where they always felt detached and less a part of the story compared to your character. If you find yourself confused by all of the golf jargon thrown at you during gameplay, head downstairs and talk to the purple Toad who will explain every golf term in the game that might be tripping you up. And while you’re there, check out the quality local and online multiplayer experiences that let you choose how you want to play with your friends (or taunt them on the green, as they case may be), but be aware that there’s no Download Play, so everyone is going to have to have a copy of their own.
Single player mode allows you the chance to take a break from the seriousness of tournaments and handicaps and take part in Challenges, like hitting a ball through a series of rings or collecting star coins on the course, all while using items to do crazy shots like using a Fire Flower to burn through trees or a Bullet Bill to defy strong winds. Completing Challenges also unlocks equipment, characters, and courses, which makes the game’s DLC packs a bit less disappointing, knowing that you still have quite a lot of content to look forward by just buying the game itself to begin with, which increases this game’s replay value.
Mario Golf: World Tour is a solid mix of great controls, crisp, colorful visuals, great replay value due to its amount of unlockable content, and is ultimately just a flat out great experience. Chalk this one up as another great 3DS title you should add to your library.