Nintendo’s given “hardcore gamers” an out for playing sports games for years. Racing, tennis, baseball, even basketball…
these “real gamers” would likely get chastised by their friends if they bought a Madden or 2K sports title. But Mario sports titles fuse traditional sports with zany Mushroom Kingdom antics and power-ups, bringing a level of casual fun to all types of gamers. Mario Golf: World Tour brings the popular golf franchise to the 3DS for the first time, tying in a bevy of new features and modes alongside the new courses. It’s simple, it’s charming, but most of all, it’s tried-and-true Mario Golf fun, even with a couple errors.
Mario Golf games boil down golf games to their essence as you drive, chip and putt your way to the hole. Swings are done in either auto or manual modes; auto mode allows you to press once to set swing power and randomizes the accuracy of the swing, where manual mode requires a second button press for accuracy, also allowing topspin or backspin on the shot. Each unlocked tournament increases in both course difficult and competitor quality, and completing courses gains you coins to spend on new equipment for your golfer. World Tour offers two gameplay modes: the arcade Mario Golf mode, and a new Castle Club mode which lets you take your Mii to compete against Mario legends. Single-player gameplay affects your potential gains in multiplayer by setting your Mii’s handicap, so top-notch play is crucial at all times.
Of course, Mario Golf: World Tour wouldn’t feel like much but a prettied-up NES Open Tournament Golf without power-ups and other craziness, and there are plenty of those around. Each course offers challenges in multiple game modes; Character Matches return and let you unlock stronger versions of Mario characters, while One-On, One-Putt challenges force you to clear Par 3 holes in two shots. For those looking for challenges further into the realm of impossibility, Star Coin modes require you to hit a coin on the course with the ball before finishing the hole, and many courses involve floating islands and traditional Mario baddies. Items like mushrooms, fire flowers, jump blocks, and more to add to the game’s crazy nature as well. The variety of modes and items helps break up some of the traditional sports nature of a golf game, but not so much that it takes away from the basic attention and skill required to play well on the course.
World Tour‘s most notable addition is its design pushing towards online play. Users can host their own private tournaments or participate in Nintendo-scheduled ones, winning coins for in-game purchases. Nintendo even teamed up with real-life golf company Callaway for upcoming tournaments, with participants winning special in-game Callaway gear for their Miis.
As great as it is to see Nintendo moving towards the future (read: “present”) by supporting online gaming, they’ve also stepped into the present in the wrong way by offering Day One DLC: players have the option of buying up to 3 new content packs as they release, or grabbing a Mario Golf Season Pass for US $15. It’s sad to see Nintendo take this step, and I can only think of the ways paid DLC will stretch into other franchises (read: Super Smash Bros.), but players who buy the content will get additional courses and golfers with each pack.
Aside from the paid DLC, World Tour‘s touchscreen controls feel clumsy and two shots over par. The game seems designed to push players towards the touchscreen, but I felt far more accurate using the face buttons to swing. That said, the touchscreen was the only way I could set draw or fade on my shot, so when trying to shoot around obstacles I’d have to sacrifice accuracy by using the touchscreen, or deal with shooting further off-course with the physical buttons. Though it’s somewhat intuitive to tap on the screen precisely where to hit the ball, I’d have preferred the system in the Gamecube’s Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour where the ball hit location is set before actually starting the swing.
Mario Golf: World Tour isn’t perfect, but it’s still the perfect golf game for 3DS owners looking for a fun sports title, Mario arcade-style or otherwise. Even with the rough touch controls and paid DLC, it may be the best golf game the 3DS has to offer. With the variety of modes, courses, and unlockables, World Tour will keep players coming back to the tee for a long, long time.
Mario Golf: World Tour is available only for the 3DS either at retail outlets or on the Nintendo eShop.
Final Score: 4.25 out of 5