Review | Mario Golf: Super Rush
It’s been quite some time since fans have had a console Mario Golf title. The last one released in 2003 on the GameCube with Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour, and though we did get Mario Golf: World Tour on the 3DS, it’s not quite the same as the big screen experience. The Wii seemed like a perfect fit for a Mario Golf title, but we instead got the Capcom-centric We Love Golf! Other than those titles, it seems like Mario Tennis was taking the Camelot spotlight for a while, but now the prodigal son returns with Mario Golf: Super Rush on the Nintendo Switch. Was it worth waiting 18 years?
Things start off promising in Mario Golf: Super Rush, as we get an intro video harking back to the classic Mario Sports titles. Several of the iconic characters battle it out in a round of Battle Golf (a new mode), showing off many of their unique abilities. This introduction also leads right into the Golf Adventure mode, which gives players a small story with their Mii character. Players will work their way from rookie to pro golfer in a series of challenges as they move from course to course. Eventually, the stakes get higher as players have to save the world of golf from a new threat. It’s an interesting way to tell a story, though I miss having original characters like the Game Boy Color days. Finishing the Golf Adventure will also unlock your Mii character for play in other modes.
While the story does a great job of introducing the new modes and mechanics of the game, it does have some inconsistencies. At one point of the plot, it’s said that the “Flame Hero” Bowser is slumbering and needs to wake up to defrost one of the courses. Every Mario fan will know that Bowser is far from a “hero,” but what’s even weirder about this moment is that Bowser is literally playing golf in the opening of the adventure mode, very much wide awake. Other parts of the story involve strange game design, like leading a player to a specific area despite needing something else to advance. It’s nice to get a quick five hour campaign, but the execution could’ve been better. It doesn’t help that some challenges are questionably exclusive to the adventure mode, like Cross-Country Golf.
The gameplay is going to be like how most people remember it from previous games. You’ll have a charge meter for your shot, allowing you to calculate power as well as spin and curvature. Choosing your clubs, you’ll plan your shots and aim for the best course of action. You’ll also have the powerful Special Shots to give yourself an edge in certain moments. Using buttons is probably the easiest way to play, and while Super Rush offers motion controls, they’re much harder to work with. Controlling your power using motion is a bit harder to do, and your shots will become difficult to predict. It’s especially challenging when putting, which requires a softer approach (but not too soft). It’s nice to have the motion controls, but you’ll do yourself a favor by playing with the buttons.
Taking the familiar gameplay, you’ll be able to take to the links in a variety of modes. These modes include standard golf, but also feature the new Speed Golf and Battle Golf. Speed Golf is one of the biggest attractions to the game, making every player tee off at the same time. From there, they battle it out by running to their ball with super dashes to pass by obstacles and other players. Coins and hearts litter the course as players collect them to assist them in the game. Collecting coins helps to fill the special shot meter while the hearts refill the stamina gauge (which allows for dashing). Players compete to get their ball in the hole faster, or simply going for the lowest score.
The Speed Golf mode does offer quite a few different options, and even various optional rules. Using special shots will allow players to add some zaniness to the course in unique ways. For example, King Bob-omb can launch several bob-ombs on the fairway to blow up nearby players or balls. Yoshi can turn the balls of his opponent into bouncy eggs, making them unpredictable. Most special shots simply blast away other balls or players, making some characters feel less unique. At least the special dash tends to make things a bit different, as each character offers fun little dash abilities. This mode also carries into the Battle Golf mode, which adds even more crazy antics.
Battle Golf puts players in an arena of nine holes. Players will compete in a hybrid of Cross-Country and Speed Golf in a race to get three holes first. When one player sinks a hole, it’s locked off from other players, meaning they have to go for a different one. It’s a fun mode that offers lots of Mario obstacles like Chain Chomps and Thwomps, even throwing items into the mix. This mode relies on a bit of luck as well as skill, as multiple factors play into the experience. If you’re not fast enough, you won’t claim any holes. Go too fast and you may fall victim to your opponents special shots. Unfortunately, there’s only one stadium to play on, so it tends to get old pretty quick.
Finally, there’s the Solo Challenge, which offers Score Attack or Time Attack. This plays out how you would expect, offering a single-player challenge to improve your scores. You’ll go across 18 holes to unlock more of the six available courses. Unfortunately, there’s not much more to unlock in the game. It’s strange that there isn’t a tournament or exhibition mode in the game, or even incentive to play them. Even a mini-game mode would’ve been great, as it feels like something is missing. The only thing to unlock outside of Golf Adventure is each character’s set of Star clubs. Doing this is a bit different from previous games, as you must earn character points to unlock them. This is simply done by playing as the character a lot, which makes sense, but it would be nice if it was unlocked through a specific challenge.
Visually, Mario Golf: Super Rush looks excellent, offering a beautiful arcade sports title for fans and newcomers alike. Courses maintain a balance of realistic features as well as Mario series features like enemies (Biddybuds, Ty-Foo, Piranha Plants, etc.) and other obstacles. The environments are colorful and vibrant and help to give the game that wonderful Mario charm. Characters also look pretty snazzy, as the majority of them sport some stylish new duds, though it would’ve been nice to have alternate outfits. All the special shots also look pretty cool, adding a bit of pizazz to the presentation of the game. It helps that we get a full opening cutscene again, as this was one of my favorite parts of older Mario sports titles. Sadly, we still don’t get special character ceremonies like the ones in the old Mario Tennis games.
As for the music, Motoi Sakuraba once again returns to deliver a fantastic soundtrack. The music was never an issue in any of these games, and Mario Golf: Super Rush doesn’t disappoint. Characters also sound great and the audio design does well to immerse you in the golf experience. Overall, the presentation is solid and one of the best parts of the game. Even the online modes work well, at least when players aren’t disconnecting. Despite the presentation, with 17 playable characters and a half-dozen courses, there’s definitely still much to desire here. Thankfully, Camelot will be adding additional content to the game for free, including more courses and characters. As for when those features will become available, only time will tell. If it’s anything like Mario Tennis Aces, there’s a lot to look forward to.
While Mario Golf: Super Rush doesn’t feel like a complete package yet, it has a solid foundation. What it lacks in content and features, it makes up for it with a stellar presentation and fun new modes. It would’ve been great to have some incentive to play more modes aside from unlocking star clubs, but maybe we’ll get changes in future updates. With a lot of additional free content on the way, there’s still a chance that Super Rush can become a great title. For now, it scratches the Mario Golf itch just enough, but still falls a bit short. Overall, the game is simply par for the course. Nothing less, nothing more.
Final Score: 7.5 out of 10