Sports & Recreation
It’s a damn shame Tiger Woods, not Mario, is typically the first golfer to come mind when mentioning virtual golf titles. Yes, Woods’ foray into the game industry is duly noted, but Tiger Woods PGA Tour was always too straightforward to be uniquely entertaining or worth a second look. Camelot’s Mario Golf Advance Tour basks in humorous quirk, bursting with more 14 playable characters, six full courses and an RPG-tinged campaign mode that somewhat parallels and supplements the Gamecube’s Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour. Although it touts console connectivity and wireless support for multiplayer functionality, the bulk of the title revolves around up-and-coming players Neil and Ella, following the two novices as spend their summer entering tournaments at the Marion Country Club and honing their skills in a slew of tutorials dedicated to leveling up the two characters and their respective attributes in the process.
The controls are incredibly tight and polished for a mobile platform — allowing players to plot their trajectory with varying golf clubs and aim via an overhead map — while iconic Mario elements make subtle appearances in the form of pirahna plants, warp pipes, mushrooms and the like. Environments factors such as wind and green speeds also must be considered regardless of game mode, increasing the game’s depth and attention to real-world physics. Advance Tour‘s visual design shuffles between viewing angles, some more pixelated and awkward than others, but it remains a good-looking game. Too bad you can’t play as Mario in the actual campaign …
For me, there was no feat more rewarding than finally landing Bob Burnquist’s darkside grind in the Nintendo 64 version of Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2. Featuring 13 profesional skaters and six iconic skateparks, developer Vicarious Visions’ port for the GBA was as astonishing as the original title, aside for tweaks and omissions. The core of the 2D version is nigh identical to its console brethren, urging players to take to their whips and shred through a myriad of skate-orientated tasks in the single-player career mode. A fixated camera angle and steep learning curve accompanies the challenges, whether you’re trying to grind a specific set of rails or collect copious amounts of floating money, but completing various tasks becomes increasingly easier as you grow accustomed to judging various angles within each level.
Like all Tony Hawk titles, the gameplay and physics belie the borderline-3D graphics in Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2. Regardless of game mode, players can perform ollies and kickflips, grabs and grinds, and carry out manuals to their heart’s content. The polygonal characters and prerendered backgrounds work surprisingly well, and although there’s no multiplayer mode to speak of, the game’s pick-up-and-play appeal remains incredibly high considering the sheer amount of secrets and combo chains available. Sadly, the game contains know licensed tracks, meaning you’ll need to get your Papa Roach fix elsewhere.
At this point, it’s safe to say Golden Sun-developer Camelot knows at thing or two about releasing a quality incarnation of console titles that came before it — flaming balls and all. Assuming you can follow my lead, Mario Tennis Power Tour is to Gamecube’s Mario Power Tennis as Mario Golf Advance Tour is to Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour, simply meaning the GBA spinoff is more elaborate and comprehensive than its console counterpart. The gameplay is fast-paced and balanced, bolstered by power shots and rooted in ball-placement strategies, while delivering an adventure mode liken to a barebones RPG. Players earn experience points as they progress through the game’s various competitions and mini games, each of which boosts attributes like power and spin, furthering character development outside the court.
Aside from the game’s main adventure mode, Power Tour also features the ability to jump directly into a singles or doubles match, or replay any of the mini games you’ve previously unlocked. The title features more than 35 playable characters in all, each reveling in a different skill type and endowed with a unique set of moves, but only six are culled directly from the Mario universe (Mario, Donkey Kong, Waluigi, Peach, Luigi and Bowser). The AI can also be extremely difficult, and though the 3D-tinged visuals seem somewhat dated at this point, they still hold up remarkably well.
Dodgeball may be outlawed in nearly all elementary schools across the country, and rightly so, but that hasn’t stopped developer Atlus from crafting a ferociously-engaging GBA title hearkening back to the coin-guzzling arcade hit of 1987. As an original GBA launch title, Super Dodge Ball Advance allows players choose and individually customize a seven-member squad prior to engaging in an exhibition, championship, or two-player versus mode. The core of the game is intrinsically simple, coupled with a shallow single-player campaign, but there’s a fair amount of complexity discretely lurking beneath the cutely-detailed animation and 16-bit design.
Each team member looks and performs differently, a hallmark evidenced by their individual skill sets and available special throws, and court formations can even be chosen to alter player arrangement when you’re not controlling a teammate directly. The controls are responsive and rooted in precise timing — urging you to pass the rubber ball around in hot-potato fashion before hurling it at the opposing team — but the AI is predictable and the general lack of rules can wear on you. Nevertheless, Super Dodge Ball Advance is colorful and charming blue-ribbon of a sports title, especially when releasing those zigzagging powershots a la White Goodman. Stick it in your ear, La Fleur.
The odds you haven’t played a Mario Kart title are slim to none at this point. Mario Kart Super Circuit was one of the first games announced for the GBA, and while development took quite longer than anticipated, it delivered in every aspect players have come to expect since the premiere go-kart title launched on the SNES in ’92. Like its spin-off brethren, the GBA version of Mario Kit is aswarm with an abundance of obstacle-laden courses on which players go head-to-head with one another. The single-player Mario GP mode features all the familiar locales, from Bowser’s Castle to the Boo Lake, and offers the three standard difficulty modes (50cc, 100cc and 150cc), the latter of which will having you shouting obscenities in no time.
Super Circuit is chock-full of familiar faces, each divvied into three distinct weight categories and playing styles that translate well regardless of the course. Weapons remain a huge component to the title, whether you opt for boost mushrooms or homing shells, and a single cartridge even allows multiple players compete in both versus and battle modes, however limited it might be. The graphics are reminiscent of the title’s predecessors, sporting bright animation and crisp background details, with foreground sprites that scale wonderfully as characters trudge through the title’s 40 tracks. Sure, the controls take a while to grasp given the handheld’s cramped configuration, but once mastered, you’ll feel right at home among Mario and his banana-totin’ cronies.
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