Mario Golf – Toadstool Tour
Traditionally, hard core gamers and golf plain don’t mix. There have been a few over time that have earned their place, typically on the PC and mostly by Microsoft. MS Golf was intrguing, even a little addictive at first, but lost it’s luster pretty quickly. It just didn’t have staying power and one game took a good hour to complete.
Enter Nintendo and the N64. The concept of combining a banal sport with the king of video games sounds outright dumb. A game that would never sell. Yet, Mario Golf took off. It was fun! It was cartoony, entertaining and competitive. The game is easy to learn and the whole family can really get involved because it didn’t take brains nor a great deal of hand eye coordination to master. I’ve still got my N64, but admittedly, I’ve put it away, and with it my Mario Golf cart (pun intended).
Brave now, my friends, the new world of Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour. Nintendo’s Game Cube entry of the N64 classic is a hit in my eyes. My Star Wars Galaxies addiction was put on hold for the 6 day rental period. Various friends and I competed in the 4 player Skins match the game offers until the wee hours. Normally, the name calling and profanity spewing is reserved for the more action oriented multiplayer fragfests, but we made exception. Contempt at your neighbor for birdie shots were voiced very clearly and loudly, and heaven help the poor soul who made a hole in one. Is this still golf?.
The graphics and animation are very clean and appropriate for any audience from 4 to 80. The familiar Nintendo characters are very prominent on the screen, especially Bowser who easily takes up half of your television before taking a swing. Courses are very rich and detailed. Themed courses usually cause sand traps and wanter hazards to take the form of one thing or another. For example, a seaside course boasts sand traps in the shapes of whales, dolphins and even a skull and crossbones. Visual flares accompany good shots and add bragging rights to each swing. In addition, each character has several animations indicating its mood after sinking the ball. Since all is never perfect, there are a few issues with camera control and clipping. If your player ends up hitting at an odd angle, you could be placed inside a mountain or the position of the camera is inside the player. This can be VERY distracting when trying to line up a shot properly. Using the yellow C-Stick, you can track the projected path of the ball to better aim your shot, but the stick is very sensitive and you can easily shoot over the area you want to scope out before hitting.
Audio has plusses and minuses. The sound can be output in Dolby 5.1, which gives a good illusion of being at the course, especially when it happens to rain or there is a waterfall behind you. Other ambient sounds can get very repetive and annoying. Music as well. I was quick to turn the music off, no such luck for the announcer and other ambients though.
Play options are abundant. Some were brought forward from the N64 game, others are brand new. Going solo you have options of playing tournaments, 18 holes on one course for the trophy, which unlocks new courses. You can also choose to play against 1 computer player, assumably to unlock new characters, although I never got that far. You can play Rings, which forces you to complete each hole in Par or better while hitting your ball through multiple statically placed rings. ClubSlots uses a slot machine interface to determine what clubs you get to use for your next shot. Coins is similar to rings, but instead of rings, try to hit your ball into arrays of coins, thus collecting them to beat your opponents. Mini games are also included, but aren’t the type of mini-game you would expect. Instead they are a series of practice games, in which you have to complete putting and chip shots or earn as many birdies as you can, on the standard courses. I would have liked to see mini-golf type courses instead. Practice mode seems rather redundant for a game like this, and the training mode is NOT interactive, instead it’s like watching a video of what to do. Multiplayer allows for all game types except tournament and playing against the computer. As with most games I enjoy, the multiplayer abilities of a game determine if I want to play. For a game like Mario Golf, replayability rests solely in it’s multiplayer capablities and succeeds very well.
Bottom Line? For a family of four it gets everyone involved. For a small get together of friends, it sparks some good healthy competition. For single player, it provides a good challenge in later courses and with the variety of gameplay modes, you won’t get bored. Rent it for a week, because golf really isn’t for everyone, but don’t be surprised if Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour ends up in your library.