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Mario Golf: World Tour Preview – Never Stands Out

Despite some sizable delays, Mario Golf: World Tour is coming to Nintendo 3DS soon. Did the game use this time wisely to go all out? There’s no way of telling, as this arcade sports title looks just as capable as it always has.

Status quo doesn’t need to mean a decline in quality, however, as the course has ever been steady for the company.

Nintendo is also always the prime source of quality visuals, as they own the platform they perform on. For Mario Golf: World Tour, this translates into absolutely marvelous locations, rich in detail. Green gardens with giant caterpillars in the distance, monochrome deserts that still maintain a popping, sunny color; flying through these environments will feel refreshing, just from their sharp look. Character models follow suit with well-rounded lines and fluid motions.

Even the 3D effect is crafted to appear both deep and clear, which is a rare pairing for the handheld. This makes Mario Golf: World Tour one of the best produced games on appearance alone.

Mario Golf World Tour (3)

After a brief tutorial, gameplay explains itself to a functional degree and the first courses can be taken on. With plenty of sand banks, swaying winds or even cliffs, there are obstacles aplenty to watch out for on the first strike, so picking the proper character helps.

Each person comes with their own abilities, which either favors their shot distance or hit stability. Moreover, choices like Bowser have a different curve, veering off to the side instead of straight up, which may have an advantage towards curving around objects like trees and such.

When pitching on the golf track, the approach is the same. Lining up a shot is a matter of picking the proper club and choosing the appropriate distance.

When reeling back to strike, a bar on the touch screen climbs up to the desired spot, which needs to be hit at that precise moment. As it returns, this has to be done once more, right in the center between striking too early or too late, to prevent spinning.

Right before the ball goes flying off, the touch screen can be accessed to either give an attempt some front- or backspin in two degrees of severity. Spins are applied radically, shifting the direction in one sudden movement upon landing, but it does have tactical use.

For instance, an area with a lot of hills may have a shot land close to a downhill drop, but without the necessary momentum to proceed. Applying a sudden boost will not only get it over the top, but send the volley hurling down the slope for a lot more distance.

Mario Golf: World Tour

As a basic layer of gameplay elements, this does suffice, but Mario Golf: World Tour is a lot more thrilling due to its wacky level design than it is for its straightforward controls.

Stages can hold anything from just a few simple obstacles to entire chasms and special launching pads.It’s more akin to playing a well-placed round of pinball than golf, but that’s also what makes it special.

Hitting these special nodes not only allows for multiple paths towards the hole, but it also heightens the risk and reward system. Missing an attempt to use special modifiers often leads to the next shot being far behind its goal, so hitting that sweet spot can get tense.

Those who expertly hit the power gauge at the right time can make use of a power shot that shoots off with a colorful rainbow behind it. It might be hard to achieve, but the extra velocity does help clear a sizable distance.

Further diversity can be found with the use of a special power-up. These are limited items that can knock strikes further or plow through anything with ease.

To gain more powers, it’s once more possible to look at the map layout to find item boxes. Whatever direction the shot goes, there’s always going to be something interesting along the way.

Mario Golf World Tour (1)

Unfortunately, the putting payoff lacks some complexity. Even with extreme gaps from putt to hole, the linear strike is too easy to master. Just a bit of wind resistance or hill inclination isn’t enough to stop the raw power of a putting attempt to hit its line.

This beeline effect can also lead to a lesser appeal towards alternate routes, since little of it matters once the final green area is reached. Normally, a far-off putt still has plenty of room for failure, but in Mario Golf: World Tour there’s a much higher probability of sinking the following shot, wherever on the green it may sit.

Aside from just regular golf rules, other modes offer a way to hit certain markers. For instance, one routine sees strikes try to go through hoops before sinking holes. Alternate modes are enough to take a break from the standard, even if they’re not that special on their own merit.

Mario Golf World Tour (2)

Perhaps the biggest criticism in this limited demo out on the Nintendo eShop at the time is that it doesn’t show off how Mario Golf: World Tour is special in any way. Much like the New Super Mario Bros series, it holds some quality design that is sure to stay entertaining, but it also never stands out.

A few gimmicks here or there aren’t yet enough to convince that this arcade golf game is better than the previous or another choice entirely. Yes, both presentation and gameplay are solid. That’s an undeniable appeal on its own merit.

Yet, Mario Golf: World Tour has to outperform others and not simply blend in with the crowd. Hopefully, the full release with complete roster, elaborate tracks and engaging game modes will do much more than simply offer a taste of greatness.