While I was not really bummed out by not having another Mario Golf-title for a while, I was surprised that it would take 10 years before Nintendo would release the next instalment within this series. Skipping both the Wii and the DS, Mario Golf: World Tour ended up on the 3DS in 2014, which was expected after Mario Tennis: Open got released, even if it was to a mixed bag. In any case, I played Mario Golf: World Tour a lot when it came out, and I am intrigued to see if my memories of its quality are correct or if I was just an unapologetic fan.
Welcome the world of golfing
When you start up the game, you will be able to choose between different takes on a quick round of golf and Castle Club. For this segment, the latter will be the focus as it is the main mode for this title. Before your journey can properly begin, you will have to choose between your Mii characters, whether you are left or right handed, and if your shots are going to be slightly fade or draw (aka, arced towards left or right).
After this and testing your golf skills for finding your handicap, you are ready to take on the tournaments and become the best golfer in the world. To highlight yet another time what golfing involves, it is to simply get a ball into a hole within as few strokes with a club under par (the expected amount of strokes) as possible on each field. A simple concept, but thanks to varied terrains, different weather effects, and the quality of your swings’ accuracy and strength, it is anything but. Thankfully, Mario Golf: World Tour does a fantastic job at introducing you to the mechanics it offers.
On the top screen, you will have plenty of info at disposal. You will see your shot’s arc, where the ball will land, how the field’s altitude will affect the ball’s roll, yards/meters left to the hole, strokes you have made, the field’s par, the wind’s direction and strength, and the numbered field you are on. Meanwhile, the bottom screen will show the golf ball itself, and it is here where you can get creative with different forms of shots, which we will come back to later in this review. Besides this, you are always provided automatically with a good club to use for the different situations, but there is nothing stopping you from changing it out to a preferred one. Although, take in mind that a wood is made for shooting the ball far, while the putter only nudges the ball, just to name a few examples.
Before you swing, you can use the L and R buttons for aiming the ball further or closer to you, and decide whether you wish to only time the press for the swing’s strength and have accuracy be automatic or also manually time presses for it as well. Should you choose the latter, not only can your shots be 100% accurate with a little bit of practice, but you can also put a back- or topspin on the ball by pressing the A and/or B buttons. The needed combos are shown on the bottom screen for both types, with each having two sets of strengths to them. You can even aim directly on the ball using the stylus or the analog pad for giving the ball some extra effects to it, providing a lovely strategy to an already intense game.
Returning from previous instalments, are also the power balls which makes the ball go further than usual, but you only have six of those for each tournament (a game with 18 fields/holes), making them a nice extra for either helping out from difficult situations or planning shortcuts. This is about it for the actual gameplay and it is wonderful for both providing a simple setup for newcomers, while also presenting something for the skilled players to go in-depth with and be rewarded for. However, you will definitely get the most out of the courses themselves, as they are fantastically designed. The fields start out decently challenging with hills, bunkers, and layouts of trees being in your way, before providing you with more creative layouts and areas.
Some of the later ones will even put you under water which affects the ball’s physics or have items on the field that you can acquire for later use, such as bombs for hard-dropping the ball or mushrooms for giving it more speed on the ground. There are even more creative obstacles in these locations, and I honestly do not dare to spoil them as they take advantage of Mario’s universe beautifully. This is also a wonderful way for getting you introduced to what golf is about, while adding in more bizarre settings and elements early on, implementing imaginative Nintendo assets you would see in Mario Kart for example.
These stages are outstanding, but cannot actually be unlocked by playing through the traditional tournaments. Instead, a lot of these has to be unlocked through the Quick Round mode, where there are plenty of challenges to conquer. These can be surprisingly entertaining though, with match game against different Nintendo characters being fun challenges, ring shot testing your skills in aiming, and coin shot being a nice twist on ring shot this time for gathering as many coins as possible. Star coin could also be seen as another take on coin shot, except for being more difficult by containing more dangerous obstacles. Many of these modes are similar, but always provide varied layouts to be engaging activities.
The only one that I cannot stand is speed golf, which times you in hitting the ball until your heart’s content in a slow game of golf. Compared to how many of the other modes focuses on teaching and testing the player, I am surprised that golf slot also was included in this entry. It is still a randomisation of what club you will get, and while it is a neat mode to try out on the occasion, it is not one to be revisit for competitive gaming. Rather, it is a casual novelty.
Playing any of these modes will provide you with star coins, which are used for unlocking more courses that are creative and challenging. These have only nine holes instead of the traditional 18, but due to how long and imaginative they are, they still provide enough elements to be excited over. It is surely not a terrible design, but an odd way to separate unlockables from each other. By actually doing well in any mode, you can acquire coins that are used for purchasing equipment, like balls, clubs, and clothing.
While they do upgrade elements like control, sweet spot, height of the shots, the ball’s arc, and your drive, they are minimal and affect other elements negatively for providing a more balanced experience. This is clearly done for making the multiplayer as fair as possible (which I will cover later), but the affects are so minor to the point where they could have rather been removed. Still, they do provide possibilities for making your own style of play, even if it is only slightly, and are visually appealing. Fashion in golfing is important after all.
Mario Golf: World Tour provides the best experience in the series so far, with everything needed to get you ready for taking on tournaments and feel accomplished being included. With fantastic courses, wonderful difficulty curve, and plenty of modes that focuses on honing your skills, this title really gives you everything you need and only comes with a couple of modes that are forgettable. The developers even added in the ability to skip seeing your shots for a faster experience, how lovely of a detail is that?
Gameplay Score: 8.5/10
Magical kingdom and charms
This is a beautiful looking game on a technical level, and while the 3D effects are nothing to really brag about in terms of depth, it is impressive to see so many minor details being implemented, without the frame rate suffering from it. All the characters have huge and smooth animations, and feel fitting to see visiting the Mushroom Kingdom, like Donkey Kong and Miis, adding to a consistent style and tone to this title. I also love how much personality has gone into their visual designs, from the different ways they swing the club to how they react to a finished field.
Then there are the courses themselves, which starts out traditionally, yet are still mesmerising. Simple forests with trees caught in the wind, beaches with splashing water, and rocky mountains that are actually colourful, it is quite stunning how much quality visuals there are here already. The fields will rapidly get more interesting, with some that are inspired by Yoshi’s Woolly World, Donkey Kong’s jungle, and more that I honestly do not want to spoil as they are a blast to visit. These are more consistent and imaginative, making the creativity feel more progressive and still part of Mario’s universe.
Even the ball’s animations are impressive and I love how it gets covered in different effects whenever a shot is perfect or catches fire due to a perfect back- or topspin. There are some minor gripes I have compared to previous instalments, like the fact they had more animations for different wins and failures, but those are nitpicks compared to the sheer creativity and consistency with the rest of what the visuals offers.
The music is a great highlight, as it is a jazzy and uplifting soundtrack that is both energising, but also lighthearted to be easy to relax to. This comes from using a lot of instruments, and giving them a slow and steady progression to make them soothing, though uplifting with clear notes. Using anything from piano, flutes, and more in order to provide a grand soundtrack is fantastic, and while not all are thematically strong to the courses, they are diverse and lovely to listen to on their own, with some remakes also being included from older titles. Of course, the sound effects in the form of grunts or comments from the cast of characters, swings of the varied clubs, and the golf balls flying through the air do their job audio vice and are as you would expect from a quality title.
Presentation Score: 9/10
Worldwide tournements while sitting on your butt
While the main game is easy to get through, there is a lot of options for replay value. I have already talked about quick play with a huge amount of content, but we also have the multiplayer. For the first time, Mario Golf series introduce online play where you can take on tournaments and win trophies or attires, as well as more coins by playing against other players anywhere. This is a fantastic implementation, however, you cannot play multiplayer using only one system or download play, which is incredibly strange for a turn-based game.
Despite this, the rest of what this title has to offer is great and if you just want a simple and quick round of golf; tournaments, stroke-, match- and point play are always there to greet you. I probably will never touch speed golf or club slot again, but that is about it. The only rewards i did not care for as well, were the star characters, which are just Nintendo characters with higher stats. Luckily, the rest of rewards are worthwhile, be they equipment to purchase or star coins for more unlockables!
Extra Score: 8/10
With such an impressive combination of what the previous handheld- and console versions had to offer, Mario Golf: World Tour hits a perfect mix with fantastic courses that are creative both in their visuals and layouts, and huge amounts of content that are engaging while also including solid online play. There are only minor things that hold it back from being a perfect sports-title, but if you have any slight interest in playing golf in the Mushroom Kingdom, this is should be in your collection.