Last month, Nintendo announced, among other things, that the fifth installment of the Mario Golf series, Mario Golf: World Tour, for Nintendo 3DS, will be hitting store shelves this summer.
I was pleasantly surprised upon hearing this news. The surprise came from the fact that this will be the first new edition of the series since the GameCube’s Toadstool Tour and the GBA’s Advance Tour were released within twelve months of each other in the U.S., in July 2003 and June 2004, respectively. Did we consider the series dead after all these years? Maybe not, but when compared to the four major installments and two arcade titles of the Mario Kart series that have been released since 2003, with another new title for the Wii U upcoming, it’s hard not to.
It’s disappointing that Nintendo decided to pass on releasing a Mario Golf game for the Wii or Wii U. The platforms’ motion capabilities would be better served in swinging a golf club than in steering a kart. Still, any new release of this series is a good thing, and the 3DS will do it justice. If Nintendo and game developers Camelot (developers of all previous Mario Golf games and most Mario Tennis titles) make sure the following improvements and features are in place, World Tour can easily become this summer’s biggest sleeper hit.
Mario-centric, RPG-style Story Mode
What Toadstool Tour lacked most, in my opinion, was substance. The main “story mode” of the game, though that’s stretching it, was the goal of acquiring every character’s “star” character counterpart by defeating the CPU in head-to-head matchups. Each star character had slightly better stats, most notably average driving distance. Not very intriguing. Then came Advance Tour, which advertised itself as “Role-Playing Golf.” The game was more golf-oriented; the objective was to choose a human “rookie” golfer, Neil or Ella, and play tournaments as them to progress their stats, which in turn would unlock more tournaments. It would be great to see a similar story mode centered around Mario, like Super Mario Sluggers has. A similar feature I’d love to see would be the ability to play a season’s worth of tournaments at each course – maybe even shake things up with a match-play tourney! – to earn points, a la the PGA’s FedEx Cup.
Based on the title of this installment, we can guess that the game will have a global theme, perhaps with courses based on certain countries. So far, all we know is that the game includes forest and grassland courses, the latter with a towering Mega Goomba at the end of one hole. Toadstool Tour only had six courses and one par-3 course; Advance Tour only had five courses and one par-3 course. Fans would love to see more variety among the courses, as well as more in quantity. Ten to twelve courses, with some exotic non-gimmick courses with this potential global theme and some gimmicky Mushroom Kingdom courses, would be appreciated. (One screenshot of Mario teeing off shows a wooden sign that reads: “Forest Course, Hole 1.” Here’s hoping that’s a temporary course name for the prototype, because we know Nintendo can do better than that.)
Meaningful Super Shots
Nintendo president Satoru Iwata said in the announcement of the game that Camelot is working really hard on the course design, controls, and the series trademark ‘Super Shots.'” The ability to add topspin and backspin (and SuperTopspin and SuperBackspin) is all well and good, but Toadstool Tour‘s Super Shots were flat. If Mario hit a nice drive and the ball was engulfed by a fireball, all it meant was that Mario hit a nice drive. In other games, super shots mean something. It might be tricky to figure out what they should mean in golf, a single-person game, but it would be worth Camelot’s time to figure it out.
In Toadstool Tour, I have consistently found myself dealing with weather that is anything but consistent. The following seems to be a common situation: No wind on Hole One, 15 mph headwind on Hole Two, and suddenly, it’s raining on Hole Three, before going back to mild for the next string of holes. If the developers really do want to improve the realism of the game, this should be one of the first fixes they make.
Online and Multimedia Possibilities
The newest generation of tots who have grown up with the Wii, DS and 3DS, not the GameCube and GBA, have never experienced a Mario Golf game for that generation of consoles. Complicating this is the fact that golf is not the world’s most popular and exciting sport to average gamers. Even if Nintendo and Camelot do make all of the above suggested improvements, what will really set this game apart is the way they spark interest in their target market. The ability to play against friends online, and even in online tournaments, could definitely help in this regard. Furthermore, an interactive website that connects to the game in various ways would further young players’ interest. Am I the only one who misses the website’s short video series Toadstool Tour Today with cheesy baritone host Sandy Green? Oh. Okay.