As we approach Labor Day, we have a chance to sit back over the long weekend and reflect on everything we did over the summer months. Labor Day is generally considered the final weekend of the summer as we prepare for school to resume and enter into the autumn season(probably my favorite). While I didn’t have a particularly eventful summer, I was however able to spend my time divided between work, and other leisure activities like playing video games or writing on my blog site. I made a while ago listing some of my favorite summertime games, and thought it would be fun to write about one of the games I mentioned – Mario Golf on N64
Mario Golf was first released on the Nintendo 64 in July of 1999 and developed by Camelot, the developers behind the Shining Force games for multiple Sega consoles, which would explain the RPG elements in scattered across Mario Golf games. Camelot had also created Everybody’s Golf that was released on the Playstation in 1997, which was the game engine that was used to create Mario Golf. Nintendo fans had been familiar enough with Mario in a sports setting as Mario and Luigi were the two playable characters in the 1991 game – NES Open. There’s also the seemingly forgotten Mario’s Tennis that was released on the Virtual Boy in 1995(no further explanation required…).
The gameplay represents a pretty straightforward Golf title where some of the intricacies of hitting the links in real life had been scaled down a bit, though there are still plenty of variables that can effect your shot such as wind, altitude, or length of grass in which your ball lies. Your swing is controlled by a meter in which you try to stop the cursor at two points, the left mark which affects the power of your swing and the mark on the right reflects the accuracy of your strike. You have a bag of 14 clubs, each showing the approximate distance you could expect on a full swing; a grid also appears in the distance ahead of you to show the landing area as you strive to steer clear of water hazards and bunkers. When putting, you are able to read the green with the help of a square grid that appears over the green to help indicate the slope to factor into just how hard to strike the ball. The putting in the game is probably my strongest area, and is similar to the putting while playing golf on Wii Sports(minus touch controls, obviously).
There’s a good assortment of game modes to play in Mario Golf, from basic Stroke Play where the player who completes 9 or 18 holes with the lowest strokes taken wins the match to Tournament, Ring Shot, Speed Golf, Mini-Golf, and a Training mode where you can select a specific course and hole to practice on. The game mode I spent the most time playing as a kid however, is Get Character, in which you play against a CPU controlled opponent with the character being unlocked and playable after beating them in an 18-hole match. The game has a generous list of playable characters – from Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, and Wario to other characters only featured in Mario Golf titles like Charlie, Plum, Sonny, or Harry with each character having a different average distance off the tee and ball flight – draw, straight, or fade. Mario Golf also made use of the N64 Transfer Pack where you could transfer several characters from the Mario Golf game for Game Boy Advance that was released several months after the N64 version.
There are 8 playable courses in Mario Golf(two of them are mini-golf tracks), ranging from the more traditional country club venues of Toad Highlands and Koopa Park all the way to the more challenging courses like Boo Valley or Mario’s Star – featuring holes that are designed to resemble a different character from various Mario games. You earn points for every round you complete while playing the game with the largest amount of coins being your prize for winning in Tournament mode. Once you accumulate enough points you can unlock the next course as Toad Highlands is the only courses that is playable from the start.
What I love the most about Mario Golf is the simplicity – Mario and friends playing golf, no other frills. There’s no special shots or other nonsense that makes it hard for me to like any of the Mario Tennis games other than the original; I certainly understand that I may be a bit of a minority opinion on that. It may not be as true to life as other golf sims like the Tiger Woods PGA Tour games, but it provides a nice middle ground between arcade-y and straight-up simulation. The music provides a nice warm, relaxing feeling out on the course without being too upbeat as to prove distracting and the controls work well and still hold up pretty nicely. Another favorite part of the game is by pressing any of the C-buttons you can “taunt” the other players mid-ballflight or on the green such as Luigi’s “Mama-mia!” or Wario’s “Hurry up already!”, this always provided tons of fun while playing with friends; of course you can’t use these while your opponent is teeing off…that would be bad golf etiquette 😉
For the many things that Mario Golf does well and I enjoy about the game, there are a few things that detract from it. There is a significant difficulty curve in getting to the point of being able to score par or birdie more often than not, part of this being that there’s not much forgiveness for mis-hits. If you miss your accuracy mark by a little too much and you will shank the ball straight left and only about ten yards out. The game certainly punishes any mistakes you make, along with the feeling that your yardages are very RARELY accurate. Also pushing gameplay to that of a golf sim is the many variables that you have to account for such as your lie, elevation, wind, or merely wetness of the grass. I spend a few hours playing the game over the weekend and while I still enjoy playing the game, it’s aged reasonably well with sound and visuals(aged as well as any 3D games of the era at least…), I feel it’s rather tough to recommend to someone that has never played any of the Mario Golf games before or simply playing solo. I may have spent the most time playing the N64 version, but in my opinion the best entry of the Mario Golf series would still have to be the Game Boy Color version that was released a few months after. The GBA release retains all of the positives of the N64 version, but the single player story has added RPG elements to it that create a little more interesting experience, due to Camelot’s work history with the Shining Force games for Sega. I encourage anyone not familiar with any of the Mario Golf games(or golf games in general) to check out the GBA version of the game.
That’s all for now! Have you ever played any of the Mario Golf games or any of the Mario Sports games on Nintendo consoles? What’s a game that you loved playing as a kid, but upon returning many years later hasn’t held up particularly well? Let me know in the comments below. I’m going to kick back and enjoy the rest of my Labor Day with my boy Dimitri and some more Fire Emblem: Three Houses!
Keep on playing…