Review by Retro
"As requested by Fix and Leroux, a Mario Golf review"
What is it about Mario games? One could go on and on about how Super Mario Bros. pretty much saved the video game industry from becoming nothing more than a fading memory. What other mascot could possibly make a game in which a baby cries all the time and gets on your last nerve, fun? Mario's magical charm goes beyond the classic platformers that nearly all of us know by heart. Super Mario Kart invented a whole new genre (kart racing), and it's still my absolute favorite game that has Mario's name stamped on it.
As much as I love every (well, except Mario Is Missing) Mario game that I've played, I've doubted my favorite video game mascot's ability many times. RPGs have never turned me on, but Super Mario RPG is excellent. If there's one genre that I overlook as much as RPGs, it's sports titles. I had given a few golfing games a chance, but none of them were any fun. I swore that I was done for life with golfing titles, but Mario Golf was different. It had the name 'Mario' printed on it, so I had to give it a chance!
I was expecting Mario Golf to be fun and charming just like most of the other Mario efforts, but it turned out to be everything that I didn't think it would be. Here you are playing golf with goofy plumbers, a baby, a dinosaur, and even an ape. It may be tough taking all these famous Nintendo mascots and mysterious human players that nobody knows (who is Plum and Harry?) seriously at first, but the more you play, the more you'll be mesmerized by the realism that the game offers.
The realistic elements are evident before you even take your first shot. Each of the 14 characters (18 if you transfer the other four from the Game Boy Color version of Mario Golf) has a different driving distance from the others. It's only normal to have a desire to choose the one that can hit the ball the furthest, but since the strongest ones like Bowser and DK have the strongest fades or draws (the ball will curve to the left or right while falling back down to Earth), it'll take a good bit of skill to consistently judge where the ball will land.
Not only are there a slew of clubs to select from, but you can also choose precisely how to hit the ball, and it's all a cinch to do with the flawless controls. A power gauge at the bottom of the screen represents both your power and accuracy. As soon as you press the A button, a marker will move leftward across the gauge. While it's moving to the left, you press the button to make it stop in place to set the distance that it'll be hit. Then it moves to the right; wherever you stop it now will represent the straightness of your shot (make it halt on the stationary marker on the right and it'll fly through the air perfectly straight). Not to mention that you can also choose which part of the ball to hit, which really comes in handy when a tree is in your way and you need to project the ball a little higher than normal in order to make it over the wooden hazard.
Before you even start the gauge, however, there are other factors to take into consideration. The screen tells you how far your current club will hit the ball and how far away you are from the hole. Let's say you're 50 yards away from the hole and your club will hit it as far as 100 yards. You'd need to stop the marker in the middle of the bar so it'd travel around 50 yards. I say 'around' because there are yet other factors to consider. Weather conditions such as rain and wind must be obeyed, as well as bunkers and roughs. If the wind is blowing harshly right in your face and your ball is resting comfortably in a bunker, then you need to swing your club much harder than you would if the wind were calm and the ball was lying on the fairway. All of this may sound complicated in a review but it's really simple once you experience it for yourself.
Variety is an even more fitting middle name for Mario Golf than 'realism' would be. At the start, only a few characters (and clubs and courses) are available to choose from. You have to earn other characters by playing and beating them in a (usually) difficult match of normal golf, which is loads of fun even after you've gotten all the players. Some can also be unlocked by doing well in other play modes, such as Ring Shot. In this one, spinning golden rings are rotating in the sky, disobeying the law of gravity. You have to hit the ball through them and then get at least par on the holes, which can be quite challenging, and of course, fun. This is just one of the other modes of play.
Challenge the computer in a hasty, competitive game of Speed Golf, where quickness is better than accuracy; to make some everlasting multiplayer memories, be brave and use a slot machine to determine which club you'll use on each hole against up to three of your friends; bet against your pals to see who can drive the ball the furthest or who can get closest to the pin on just one shot (play 2-on-2 with teams if you like!); play on any of the six available courses (or the ones that you've opened so far) – front 9, back 9, or all 18 holes – to see who's really the man, or woman. All of these modes couldn't be much more different from one another, but they do have something in common: they're all fun with their competitive gameplay and unique assets that keeps each one from becoming boring due to repetition. Except for one. I'm a huge fan of mini-golf in real life, so when I found out that Mario Golf had it, I was ecstatic, to say the least. But Nintendo wasn't imaginative enough while working on mini-golf. Each hole is in the form of a letter or number; you won't be doing anything cool like hitting the ball through the bottom of a windmill while carefully timing your shots to avoid hitting its spinning blades. Noooooo, you're left banging the ball off a million walls instead, with no natural or artificial obstacles to keep it interesting.
But look past the blahful mini-golf. You'll be spending the majority of your time on the six courses that are just waiting to be played. Things start out easy in Toad Forest. It's your basic course with its wide open green fairways and forests that surround each hole. From there, things get progressively more difficult, as expected. You'll almost feel like you're at the beach in Shy Guy Desert, which seems to have more bunkers than greens; Yoshi's Island never fails to kick my ass with its curving fairways and abundance of lakes; the overly difficult final course is made up completely of terrains that are in the shape of Nintendo characters that you should know by heart.
With all this realism and seemingly endless variety that comprises this nearly perfect golfing simulation, it's almost possible to forget that this is a Mario game! Wait. Look beyond the crisp, lifelike greens and course layouts that are in close proximity to you. See those mountains off in the distance that have a pair of eyes glued onto them? Have you noticed that when you line your shot up perfectly and hear the commentator yell ''nice shot'' that a streaming rainbow follows the ball with some characters? And the subtle, catchy music.....is it just me or does some of it sound just a bit familiar? These are the things that will tell you exactly whose game this is.
When Mario Golf's intro wraps up, you'll hear Wario say, ''You're gonna love it.'' That was the perfect statement for him to make. He's certainly right in my case. I love this game. Really, I'm not so sure that the word 'love' is even strong enough to convey how much passion I have for Mario Golf. When almost any video game has just one thing about it that I hate (mini-golf in this case), I don't even think about giving it a perfect score.
But the never-ending variety and surprisingly realistic gameplay mechanics make Mario Golf a major exception to my rule. I would have never thought that I'd be able to say that I enjoy a golfing game, but Mario did it again! I'd say without a doubt that this is the best sports title I've ever played. Whether you're in the mood to kick some computer butt or to have a fun evening with your friends, you'll keep coming back to Mario Golf more times than you care to remember.
Don't write it off as an overly cutesy game just because Mario, Princess, Yoshi, and crew are its main characters. If you've hated most or all other golfing games, don't think for one second that this is just another one of those lazy efforts. Mario Golf is anything but that. It's a revolutionary title that the whole family can enjoy, and I'll go so far as to say that if you get one golfing title in your life, make it this one.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 07/04/03, Updated 07/04/03
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