Mario Golf for the Nintendo 64 is just plain fun. When I first picked it up I actually didn’t have a lot of intention of playing it. I picked it up boxed at Blockbuster because it was both cheap and because I’m an N64 completist. The game didn’t appeal to me at first. Later on I picked up a second copy the same way to pop up onto Ebay, and in reading the box for describing the game I became intrigued. I popped my own copy in and am glad I did. I’ve been playing it quite a bit the last couple of weeks.
My first impression of this game was that it was too cartoony and I probably wouldn’t play it long. It looks good, the cameras move around nicely and the textures are simple but smooth without many visible edges. After a while, though, I came to appreciate the cartoony nature when I compared it to a lot of other golf games that try so hard to look photorealistic and end up feeling like an FMV game. I mean, seriously, it’s a Mario game, not a simulation, so the graphics end up working out very well.
I initially tried playing this game with my 4 year old son. He never did quite get the hang of the 3 press swing sequence so he didn’t like the game much. I, on the other hand, managed to figure out just about everything about playing the game without the manual. That should give you an idea of the complexity of control. It’s not that difficult. Now, I realize a golf game never really is all that demanding control wise, but it does require accuracy and very fine control. Mario Golf does a decent enough job of responding instantly and accurately. It’s imperative to have a controller with well functioning buttons or you will have problems. Stick control, because you have all the time you need to aim, is easier. This game can be played well with an N64 controller whose analog stick has lost its accuracy but still has good buttons.
Extra modes 9.5/10
This is probably Mario Golf’s strongest area. There are plenty of extra modes to keep you occupied when you get tired of playing tournaments or playing against friends. These are some of the various play modes, in addition to standard Tournament, training, and multiplayer action:
Ring Mode: You have to get the ball through rings on preset locations throughout each hole. The rings force you to play the holes differently than you would normally and can add quite a challenge since in order to complete the hole you need to finish with par or better. A matrix is kept as to which character has completed which holes.
Speed Golf: There’s a timer and your overall time is charted as you speed through the course. I’ve played this a bit and don’t really see the point, but admittedly I haven’t taken the time to finish an entire speed golf round so there could be more to this than I know.
Match Play: This is probably the mode I’ve played most so far. Standard match play golf with the added incentive that beating characters unlocks them so that you can play as them yourself. There are a lot of characters to unlock and this is how I’ve spent the majority of my playing time so far. To this point it seems that each character you play is slightly better than the previous one so it becomes harder and harder to unlock players as you go along.
Mini-Golf: I actually haven’t played this one yet… and I’ve probably put in 15 hours of play time to this point, so that should give you an idea of how deep this game is in ways to play and spend your time.
Replay value 10/10
Replay value is where this title shines brightest. I’ve already put in quite a few hours and I feel as though I’m only getting started. The best part is that I don’t feel as though I’m going to get tired of the game any time soon, which tends to happen to me with games that are beginning to look like they’ll take a long time to finish. I can easily see myself spending countless hours over the next few months with this title. As it is now, I routinely sit down to play two or three holes and end up having played for ninety minutes before I’m done. That’s a sign of a great game.
I’ve been playing a lot of N64 titles this year. I can easily say that this stacks right up there near the top of the list of the best games I’ve played so far. This game was well worth the $12 I paid for it and I probably would have been happy had I paid whatever the original retail was when it was new. For me, that’s rare. I’ve seen mention that this game is also compatible with the Transfer Pak and the GBC version of Mario Golf but since I have neither of those items I can’t comment on that. Basically, if you have an N64, pick up this game whether you’re a golf fan or not. You will not regret it.