Everyone in the sporting world knows of Mario. Sure, he’s probably best known for his exploits on four wheels, dominating the cut throat world of motorsport, but he also excels at tennis, football, golf, and he’s the only representative the Mushroom Kingdom needs whenever the Olympic Games roll around.
It’s been a while since he swung a golf club and so Mario and co. have decided to hit the links in Mario Golf: Super Rush. Would you believe it’s been seven years since the last Mario Golf game and eighteen since the last on home console?
Given the amount of time that’s passed, it’s no surprise that there’s plenty that is different for Mario Golf: Super Rush. The absolute fundamentals of playing Mario Golf will remain immediately familiar, and remain thoroughly accessible. The main concern is setting your shot power, a simple tap on a power meter that runs up the right side of the screen. You can then try to get a ‘Nice Shot’ that is more accurate by timing a second tap as the meter fills up to your chosen power, but it’s not that important. If you want to get fancy, there’s different levels of spin that you can put on the ball through different button presses and double presses, and affect the path of the ball with slice and loft using the left analogue stick.
You will need to judge your shot power for where you want the ball land, using both a top map view and a range finder to let you pinpoint your target. There’s also wind to factor in, as well as plenty of environmental hazards on some stages, and you’ll also note that the power meter gives you feedback by twisting to show how the ground your hitting from will naturally curve your shot, as well as showing you far your shot can deviate as you use more and more power.
The one-shot mechanic that really stands out is the lob shot. This significantly shortens the range of your shot in order to kick the ball high and over obstacles, but it now requires that you perfectly time a second press, instead of this being largely meaningless, and have to do so with a new UI shot ring in the centre of the screen.
Of course, you can also play with motion controls, bringing back memories of the Wii Sports and the Wii Mario Golf game that never was. Playing this way makes things much more challenging, as shot power is determined by your swing motion, ball control by how you shape the controller in the follow through, and more. You can’t mix motion controls with button controls, which thankfully ensures an even playing field.
However you play, there’s a good amount of depth and nuance to master, but it’s still accessible to newcomers and kids, that’s for sure, especially with all of the arcade power-ups and frantic game modes. Each character has a Special Shot that powers through the course, knocking things out of the way, and landing with an often explosive effect that can knock other balls out of the way. They also have a Special Dash for when you’re running around the links in Speed Golf.
That’s right, Speed Golf is back, and it’s been amped up to have you sprinting across the course as you try to get to your ball. There’s still standard shot play and point play (where points are awarded based on your score on each hole), but then there’s Speed Golf that tasks you with setting the lowest time to sink the ball, with time for each shot you take and the time you take you dash across the course. There’s both overall time and points per hole variants of this. Lastly, there’s Battle Golf, which takes Speed Golf and drops you into an arena with 9 holes, the winner being the first to sink three balls – there’s plenty of potential strategy here for using your power-ups and specials.
Against the AI, you’ll generally have an easy ride of it on button controls and a tougher challenge with motion controls, due to their nature. Play against other people, though, and the singular golf glove comes off. Speed Golf in particular is intense. Literally every second counts here, where you would be able to take your time more with shot play, and that seriously ramps up the pressure and potential for making mistakes.
We’ve only had a brief chance to try out the game’s online multiplayer prior to launch, but what we saw was solid. Four players played almost seamlessly, with options for both public and private lobbies.
You have six 18-hole courses in Super Rush, but there’s not a huge amount of variety in course environments compared to the ten locales found in World Tour on 3DS. There’s Bowser’s Castle and a desert course, but the other four boil down to variations of nice, lightly wooded greens, differentiated by one being windy and with rocky cliffs, and another being wet and windy. What is nice, however, is that Super Rush’s course design has all the holes clustered together and even overlapping on a single map. You can pick how many holes to play and which hole to start from as well.
The main mode for solo players will be the Adventure, a story that follows your up and coming Mii golfer as they get started on the Rookie courses alongside Toadette, Boo and Chargin’ Chuck. You’ll take part in a string of events, from 3-hole practice sessions, through to full 18-hole courses as you battle for the win, and get to experience all of the courses available in the game. You’ll level up as you play, assigning points to Power, Stamina, Speed, Control and Spin stats, but there’s a nice twist in that stats will sometimes decline if you put a focus elsewhere, forcing you to choose to amp something up, or maintain something else.
That said, there’s just something a little bit lacking to the Adventure Mode. Between rounds of golf, you can wander around the amenities, and walk up to chat to idle NPCs standing around. They only ever have one thing to say, though, and they’re never doing anything. You can just ignore them and follow the big red arrow that leads you to the next objective. Thankfully the back and forth is typically quite minor, simply running between the front desk and the gate to the course, but then a switch gets flipped halfway through the story.
Suddenly there’s an epic quest, an ancient evil to defeat, and learning about mystical lob shots. You’d get whiplash if the story wasn’t sailing right past your head through minimalist speech boxes. Even the climactic moments are basically narrated to you by Toad giving you a call on your phone.
It’s all a bit of a shame, really. There’s not enough quirkiness to match the lovingly created silliness of Golf Story, and there’s not enough of the tournament play to feel like you’re really rising up the ranks of the Mario Golf world’s tournament rankings. Not only that but there’s all sorts of special clubs and attire you can buy that all feels a bit redundant. Just getting the fundamentals right will see you all the way through.