Rick hits the links with the latest Mario Sports title. Can Camelot avoid a bogey?
There really isn’t a whole lot that Camelot could do to screw up the Mario Golf franchise, which has been around for years in various incarnations. So it should come as no surprise that Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour is a very solid game, and a whole lot of fun.
One much misunderstood new feature is the simplified stroke system. In most golf games (including the previous Mario Golf), you would hit A to start your swing meter moving, hit A again to set how hard you will swing, and A again back at the beginning to set your angle. This is what people are used to, so it was a bit of a surprise in the store demo when people are finding that the last step has been automated. However, this is only if you choose to use it. You can hit the B button to set your power and go into manual mode, then A or B to set your impact ... which will feel more like you’re used to. You can even add top-spin or bottom-spin while in manual mode with a quick double-tap of the A or B buttons.
Aside from that change, Toadstool Tour is very much like the Mario Golf we all know and love. There is a rather small addition that’s easy to overlook, and that’s the range meter. It’s now possible to use the L and R buttons to set a marker on your power meter and see approximately how far that will land your ball. This seemingly insignificant addition makes it a great deal easier to hold back on power, or club up and then underhit a ball to get the desired effect. Brilliant. Of course, for those times when you just need to whack the ever-livin' heck out of it, the "Power Shots" are back in full force.
The graphics have made this game feel fresh and new as compared to previous outings. The characters are extremely detailed, as you’d expect from a game of this generation, but display a bit of “sass” that you don’t normally see from Nintendo’s mascots. The trees are really going to catch your notice, comprised of a great deal of polygons, and swaying in the breeze quite realistically. Borrowing a touch from “The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker”, you can see the breeze swirling in the air.
The music is the usual catchy upbeat sort of stuff you get in Mario Sports titles, and the ever-present announcer never becomes annoying. In fact, you’ll find yourself wanting to hear that occasional “Pin Shot” or “Excellent” when you make a particularly satisfying stroke.
There are several modes of play, including the infamous “Ring Shot”, now called Ring Attack. The rings are easier to get to than I remember, and I cleared the first set of rings with little problem. Character matches allow you to challenge specific characters and earn their stars. There’s a Nearest Pin mode that is fun, but frustrating, as you try to get as close to the pin as possible, while avoiding the 100ft. “off green” penalty.
The bread-and-butter of the game is Tournament mode, where you compete against an entire range of characters and try to come away with the best score. Winning holes earns “best badges”, which the manual promises can unlock something cool.
Multi-player Stroke matches are a blast, and let up to four players get into the action. A fun little addition is the ability to toss a little message of encouragement on the screen ... right as your opponent is getting ready to hit the ball. Just like in real golf, the distraction can easily cost you a stroke, and is far more fun than the harmless noises they made in the N64 version.
Finally, the game promises GBA link capability with the upcoming Mario Golf: Advance Tour, which as of yet, has no date.
Overall, this is an excellent outing from the Takahashi Bros. and Camelot, and should be a sure-fire hit when it hits stores today.