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Mario Golf – N64

Mario Golf – N64


Platform:  Nintendo 64

Developer: Camelot Software Planning

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date: July 26, 1999

Genre: Sports

Nerd Rating: 7/10

Reviewed by Paladin

If you ever needed proof that Mario is timeless, here it is. We’ve gone from a plumber who jumps on turtles, shoots fire, rescues a princess, and wears superpower-laden outfits to golfing. Of course this isn’t the first time that Mario has been seen in a more realistic setting; we’ve also had Mario Tennis, Mario Hoops, Mario Tennis again, and even Hotel Mario. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. The key seems to be adding just enough ridiculousness to give it that whimsical Mario flare, while staying true to the crossover genre.

Upon beginning the game, Mario Golf appears to be just that. The opening video shows a lusciously green golf course, complete with laughter, a nice breeze and people having fun. We see a nondescript brunette woman hitting a ball, dressed in typical golf clothes…followed by Super Mario, the hero of the Mushroom Kingdom, dressed in his iconic red plumbing overalls while hitting a ball with his own face plastered on it. Luigi is close behind, then Peach, and finally Baby Mario holding golf club in his hand while riding Yoshi. It’s about as surreal as it sounds. There’s no jumping, no platforming, no warp pipes…just Mario characters being Mario characters while enjoying a leisurely sport.

imagesAt least, some of them are Mario characters. For whatever reason, about half of the playable characters are not from any other Mario game. Alongside Peach, Donkey Kong and Wario, all in their signature regalia, we can also choose from the likes of Sonny, Charlie, Maple, Plum, and other generic looking humans wearing generic golf attire. It’s odd enough that Mario and Luigi can’t be chosen at first, they must be unlocked, but to have characters that aren’t from the Mario, or even the Nintendo universe, is just puzzling. I never found myself wanting to play as these people and only did so when necessary.

Odd characters choices aside, Mario Golf has its upsides. Among the more advantageous aspects is the fact that one does not need to understand golf in order to play. After selecting your player, game mode (I recommend the Get Character mode at first so as to unlock other golfers), and desired coarse, you’re ready to go. From this point on it’s a typical golf game; the Par, Rest, and Down are listed on the screen, there are sand traps, water hazards, and a wind factor to contend with, and every character can drive a certain yardage, with some fading to the left or right. All normal golf clubs are featured as well.

As referenced before, this attention to detail makes it feel like a legitimate golf game rather than an Unknown-1excuse to get Mario into another gimmick, while sneaking in tidbits here and there to remind us of the source material; things like the wind being indicated by a Big Boo blowing in the upper corner, Lakitu following the action on camera as he did in Mario 64, and DK being so strong, yet uncoordinated that he holds the club with one hand make Mario Golf feel just as much a Mario game as a sports game.

Die hard golf fans may not like the simplicity of it, but if you don’t care much for the real thing (as I don’t), Mario Golf’s basic controls are just right. From a third person perspective behind the character, we move the joystick right or left to aim and choose our clubs in the lower left corner. To shoot we press the A button once to see a meter at the bottom of the screen move left to indicate power, press A again at the correct moment to move the meter back to the right, and time a third pressing for accuracy. Watch the ball fly and repeat process.

Of course there is more to the game, but this is essentially all there is, leading to the biggest problem with it; repetitiveness. Again, much like live golf, at its core this game is nothing more than hitting a ball with a club over and over again. True, there are obstacles to hit around, weather conditions to deal with and different modes to play through, but it lacks much substance beyond that. Unless you can appreciate the patience and precision needed for golf, this isn’t going to be a game to play for hours on end. In my opinion, it could have benefited with a little more plot, such as Bowser getting fed up with losing all the time and challenging Mario to a golf tournament in an attempt to switch things up. Yes that story would be ludicrous but at least it would give players a goal to work toward. It also would have been a great excuse for the designers to incorporate other aspects from the Mario universe.

images-1How great would it have been to play on a golf course in the depths of Bowser’s castle, with lava everywhere and jumping fireballs to avoid instead of trees? Or how about a course infested with goombas, dry bones and shy guys where the player needs to whack the ball off of the tops of their heads in order to proceed? I know I’m getting crazy here and it’s obvious that I don’t enjoy golf that much, but it feels like this game was trying to bridge the gap between Mario fans and golfers and it didn’t need to. Loyal golf fans aren’t going to buy this game, they’re going to play a Tiger Woods game or something truer to life. That being said, I wish the designers would have gone all out instead of trying to reach a middle ground.

Is the game boring? Not at all. But it’s not extremely engaging either. Its a simple game with simple controls and simple graphics. When all is said and done, it can be an enjoyable and relaxing break from more the complex and intense games out there. If you’re looking for a chill game to pass an hour or two, this is the one for you.

Written by Paladin


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