Mario Golf is a wholly underrated sports series. Given life by the Nintendo 64 and later the Game Boy Color, the game managed to draw a cult following and many believe the GBC rendition was more playable. Now Mario Golf has been updated on the Gamecube and Game Boy Advance. Though the Gamecube version has the obvious graphical punch, the gameplay on the portable is arguably more engrossing thanks to a minor RPG mode and tons of extras.
Taking the role of either a male or female, players will compete to become the best golfer of all time and hopefully be able to take on Mario and the crew should you become good enough. Your main rival is “The Kid,” the former great who is just returning from an injury. You’ll compete in various mini-games, on different courses, and against various opponents in a wide variety of play modes.
Gameplay is easy for even non-golf fans to get into with simple, meter-based controls and superb tutorials that are disguised as mini-games. Putting spin on the ball is done by double tapping the A or B button when the time comes. Various clubs will also affect how the ball plays. Should everything be too complicated, you can always use the auto swing feature, but it is not always guaranteed to be accurate.
The actual story mode of this game is actually weak and uninteresting. It’s almost completely unnecessary to walk around in the overhead mode since almost everything except the mini-games can be accessed from the main menu. Of course, if you don’t actually take a walk through the games world, you won’t be able to find any power-ups.
Power-ups come in various forms from new sets of clubs, power drinks, and level-ups. Gaining a level will let you increase your stats but everything needs to be equal or certain aspects of your game will decrease if ignored for too long. You’ll also have to distribute points to your partner too since doubles is a large part of the game.
Your AI partner is surprisingly intelligent, as long you power him/her up enough. It’s not always perfect, but they can certainly help out in some clutch situations. Likewise, your AI opponents will make some stupid plays, sometimes repeating the same one over more than once.
As you progress through the games RPG mode, various aspects and challenges will become unlocked. These become increasingly difficult as the game progresses and some of these are nearly impossible. Some of these will keep you playing well over the 12 hours the story mode lasts.
The courses start off normal enough with the usual hazards, but each course also has a “star” course that adds large groups of hazards from various Mario games. Cha-Chomps will eat your ball costing you a stroke, floating blocks will reject your ball, and lava pits replace the water hazards. There are nine full courses not including a brutal Elf course that is truly brutal and more of a side game.
Even after the story ends, you can continue to build your character. Sadly, unless you own a Gamecube and a link cable, you will never unlock everything since linking the two is required to get everything out of the game. Certain characters will remain a mystery until you shell out the cash for a Gamecube, copy of Mario Golf for the system, and a link cable. In other words, it will cost you at least $170 to be able to access everything not including the price of the Game Boy Advance itself. Good marketing? Yes. Fair for the gamer? No.
Excellent multi-player modes are also available which allow you to either take your own characters against each other or any of the unlocked characters. Numerous modes of play from the wacky club slots (where your clubs are determined by a slot machine before each hole), to standard match play are available. You can even trade clubs between carts.
The graphics package included here is strong and comes from the same people who created the well-respected RPG series “Golden Sun.” The mode-7 courses look great form a distance, almost polygonal at times. Up close, they obviously reveal nasty clumps of enlarged pixels. The rendered character models after every hole are quite impressive and the special Star courses are a treat to die-hard Nintendo fans.
The sound on the other hand, is disappointing. The music tracks sound great, but their short length means they repeat themselves multiple times on one hole. Character chatter is represented by simple beeps, a Camelot trademark. Any voice work comes through clear and concise and the characters have some minor quotes as well.
Mario Golf is one of those games that will not catch on with the masses, but the die-hard who attach themselves to it will be talking about it, not to mention still playing it, years from now. Though the story mode blows by and is a bit of a disappointment, their really is no real end to the game and your sure to get your moneys worth…that is of course as long as you have a Gamecube, link cable, Mario Golf GC, and Mario Golf Advance Tour.