Despite being a pudgy plumber, that Mario character sure is one hell of an athlete. The guy has mastered every Olympic event, soccer, baseball, Kart racing, and… well… pretty much everything. He sure doesn’t look like an athlete, but oh boy is he ever good at any sport that Nintendo flings him into. However, the one sport Mario keeps coming back to is golf. Mario’s been hitting the links since the NES days and in a way that’s appropriate. If you were to take a look at Mario and guess which sport he plays, golf would probably be at the top of the list. The series has proven to be a bit of a lynchpin for Nintendo, appearing on nearly every console until finding its way to the 3DS. If you’ve played any Mario golf game before, you can probably guess what to expect from Mario Golf World Tour. That’s not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing. The series clearly has its supporters and this new addition is probably the finest portable Mario Golf title ever released.
So, obviously there’s no plot to this game (that would just be silly). It’s all about the golf. Mechanics are about the same as always. Choose one of eighteen Nintendo staple characters (Mario, Bowser, DK, Yoshi, Daisy, Ghosts, Wario etc.) and you’ll have a golfer with a specific skillset. Then you’ll pick your course and engage in a timing-based golf simulator with strategic aiming. It’s the usual thing, but it’s also a formula that works so there’s no need to mess with it. Golf as a game won’t be changing its rules anytime soon, so neither will the Mario version. Of course, there are some power ups you’ll collect to spice things up. Mushrooms will give you a speed boost, ice flowers will turn water traps solid, Bullet Bill will rocket your ball to its destination, etc. None of the items are too unbalanced to ruin games and they do provide a nice NBA Jam-style cartoon boost to this sports simulator.
As for courses, there are three very traditional courses for normal golf play as well as a series of specialized courses that add some visual pizzazz, surreal designs, and of course oodles of Nintendo references. You can play in Bowser’s Castle to add lava to your experience or most entertainingly play in DK’s Jungle and deal with massive living obstacles that turn a round of golf into a hilarious cartoon. There are ten courses in total with plenty of variance. Given how long a round of golf takes, you’ll sink plenty of hours into this thing just sampling all the courses. In fact, the folks at Camelot Software have gone out of their way to ensure that this Mario golf experience is filled with replay value.
Feel like playing a campaign with your Mii? This game provides that experience along with mini-games, tournaments, and a vast array of unlockable gear and costume items for customization. Do you enjoy bizarre trick shot challenges? Good news, this game has 100 mini-challenges ranging from time trials to trick shots and pretty well anything else you can imagine. On top of all that, for the first time ever in the Mario Golf series, this game offers online play that works surprisingly well. Given that Nintendo plans to organize tournaments and shove all sorts of Mario Golf DLC onto their 3DS servers, there’s plenty here to keep you busy. For a game that could have easily been cranked out with little effort to satisfy an existing fanbase, it’s pretty admirable how much content the developers crammed onto this game cartridge.
Of course, it’s not a perfect game. Even though the animation, character, and course design takes full advantage of the 3DS’ processing power, the 3D visuals seem to have been slapped on as an afterthought. That’s a real shame given that plotting drives and putts could have actually taken advantage of the system’s unique 3D effect in useful ways. It’s a definite missed opportunity and frankly quite a surprise that so little effort went into the 3D on this title. Beyond that, the game really doesn’t offer anything to anyone who doesn’t already enjoy golf (or at least golf simulators). Despite all of the goofy levels, power-ups, and Nintendo mascots, if you don’t enjoy golf there’s no need to even try this game. It’s limited by the genre, which is either a great thing for ga-ga golfers or a reason to skip the title entirely. Still, as far as Mario Golf games go, the 3DS edition is as good as it gets. Fans of the series should be pleased to know that not only have Camelot Software delivered the best edition yet, but they can also play it on-the-go whenever they please. As for everyone else, well it’s just as easy to ignore as previous Mario Golf titles.