I know Mario Golf.
I was there when it was just called Golf on the NES, when Mario and company starred in NES Open, when they hit it big with Mario Golf 64, when Camelot decided to go RPG with Mario Golf on both the Game Boy Color and Advance and, finally, I played a ton of Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour.
I've been with this series since the beginning. I'm also a fan of golf in general, so that goes to boost my enjoyment of the play that unfolds.
One thing that Camelot has almost always done with its Mario sports titles is provide a ton of content for the cost of the package. That was their standard for success, and it repeated across every sporting title they released.
Until Mario Tennis Open for the Nintendo 3DS. The developers took tennis, an already repetitive sport, and short-changed the experience with not enough content to warrant the asking price. It quickly became one of the worst games in the series, and it disappointed a lot of Mario sports fans like myself.
Which brings us to Mario Golf: World Tour, the first game since Mario Tennis Open. This series has always presented a wealth of content, course diversity, tons to achieve and very satisfying gameplay, does that continue with this new entry?
Here we go.
The Mushroom Kingdom Castle Club
There is no RPG element in Mario Golf: World Tour. For the franchise, that facet of gameplay was always relegated to the handheld editions. The console titles would receive a standard sports game navigated by menu only, while the handhelds would get an RPG experience next to simple events.
Mario Golf: World Tour sort of splits the difference. You can navigate play options through the main menu, that's how you play with the classic characters, take on challenges, earn star characters and unlock courses. Or, you can take the game on with your Mii.
It's not as unpleasant as it sounds. Mario Golf: World Tour features the Mushroom Kingdom Castle Club, a hub world for playing golf with your Mii. You'll take on courses in the game, go for the championships, earn coins by playing, complete lessons and challenges, unlock equipment and interact with famous Mario characters.
So, yes, the RPG element is gone. For me? That's fine. I get enough RPG from other games, I don't really need it to bleed into sporting efforts. The ability to move about the Castle Club for shopping or tournament play is nice, and unlocking stat-boosting costumes and equipment for my Mii is enough customization to do the trick.
All told, the Castle Club side of the experience is rather short. You'll beat the three plain courses (those without Mushroom Kingdom themes), complete a few lessons and then, basically, be done. The only thing left for you there is tournament access and the shop to buy unlocked equipment. Think of the Castle Club like training for the tournaments and character challenges. That stuff, especially the challenges and unlocking, is the meat and potatoes of this experience.
It's not all for waste, either. The Mii-centric equipment you earn will carry over into tournaments and challenge play.
In the Swing of Things
How about the game's actual mechanics?
Mario Golf, despite the silly heritage, has always been a decent golf outing with arcade-esque elements to keep things simple. Someone who knows absolutely nothing about golf could easily pick these games up and dive right in.
For golfers, of course, the game lets players put fade and draw on their shots to beat wind or turn through dog legs. It's not as crazy complex as, say, the PGA games from EA, but there's enough extra content here to make those who understand the sport feel welcome, too.
Which, as always, is one of Mario Golf's greatest accomplishments. It pleases both crowds, and World Tour continues that trend.
The touch screen adds an extra layer of play for those who want to use it. You can start the shot meter by tapping the ball, and then wherever your other taps land will apply spin for the trajectory of the shot. Once the ball is in the air, you can tap on backspin, super backspin, topspin and super topspin as you like.
Personally, I stuck with the buttons. My only minor complaint here is that putting spin on the ball during the swing happens with the circle pad. That's fine, it works once you activate your shot. If you push the circle pad before you start the shot, though, you actually move your target. It took some getting used to for me as I almost always pick my impact spot before I swing in these games.
World Tour, in typical fashion, pushes you to master these things on basic courses before throwing you to the wolves, Mushroom Kingdom style. There are 10 courses in total, only three of them might actually exists in the real world. The forrest, beach and desert themes are easy enough, and they don't really require much beyond a basic understanding of how to aim and swing.
Then we get to the extra courses, most of which can only be unlocked by completing challenges. You'll have to master launch pads in Peach Gardens and bounce blocks in Yoshi Lake. Things like that take the golf formula you've mastered and flip it on its head. That is part of the big joy in this franchise, and it returns here.
"World Tour, in typical fashion, pushes you to master these things on basic courses before throwing you to the wolves…"
A Word on Value and Day 1 DLC
One of the things I always try to consider in my reviews is the value of a game. Is it worth the money you spend to get it? Will you get $60 or $50 or $40 worth of enjoyment out of the package?
That's part of the reason why I, personally, am at odds with the concept of Day 1 DLC. It's a shady practice, no matter how you slice it. There's a facet of it that implies that the developers were ready to ship the game with more content, but, instead, cut it short to release the extra bits to con more money from the gamer.
That's why, when Nintendo announced the Day 1 DLC and Season Pass plans, I cringed a bit. If you follow me on Twitter, you probably saw me wrestle with the idea that morning.
After learning the details of the DLC and playing the game a ton since then, I can safely say that I'm okay with it. It's not perfect, it's a bit problematic, but Nintendo, at the very least, is providing great value for the shady practice.
The full game ships with, according to a release from Nintendo, "10 courses and 126 holes (an amount equivalent to previous games in the franchise), extensive multiplayer modes as well as regional and worldwide tournaments." That all comes for, at least here in the States, $29.99. It's a big game without the DLC, and one that I'm still trying to completely conquer.
The DLC will sell in three packages at $5.99 a pop. If you get all of it at once through a season pass, it'll be $14.99. What does it add? Here, from that same release: "Each pack includes two new 18-hole courses and a new playable character." Three packs with two 18-holes courses? Pencils down, that's 108 holes. Plus, three characters. And, if you buy all three, you get a golden Mario too.
So, for half the cost of the full game, you can get, basically, double the experience in DLC form. Yes, the timing is bad; but, if this is the way Nintendo's going to price its extra content, I'm okay with that.
Perhaps this is the most telling thing about the DLC: I've reviewing the game and I'll be buying the season pass. I don't buy season passes, I don't like them. The value presented here, though, makes me think it's worth my money.
Mario Golf: World Tour is easily the best sporting effort from Camelot in a long time.
I've been waiting for another Mario Golf title since Toadstool Tour. That released in 2003, and, 11 years later, I can safely say that I'm happy Camelot did it again.
While it doesn't have the RPG stuff some fans of the portable efforts miss from the old days, World Tour does offer a ton of content to offset the gap. There's a lot to do here, even before you touch the odd Day 1 DLC pack. It's easily well worth $29.99.
Now, I will note that we did not have a chance to play the tournament mode. The servers have been down every time we tried to access it. Once they go up, we'll give them a good whirl. If we feel they negatively or positively impact this game in a big way, we'll be back to tweak our review.
Editor's note: As of publishing this review, the online portion has gone live. Tournaments are asynchronous. That means I can play, upload my score and wait. The tournament closes in three days, but I did shoot a -15. Nice. We'll be testing this further. -Joey
Mario Golf: World Tour is easily the best sporting effort from Camelot in a long time. It more than makes up for the shoddy work done in Mario Tennis Open. It's my go-to game right now when I'm hanging around the house, and that's exactly what I wanted from this portable entry.
I'm glad it's back.
We received a code to download and review Mario Golf: World Tour from Nintendo. We played the game for roughly 18 hours before starting this review. We have not played the online mode as it's not available yet.