It’s been a long, long time since Mario Golf has appeared on a Nintendo home console. Fans got a portable Nintendo 3DS installment in 2014, but the last proper console version was 2003’s Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour on the Nintendo GameCube. To put that into perspective, that means the franchise has missed the Nintendo motion control era entirely in its nearly 20-year absence.
Considering the gap, Mario Golf: Super Rush has a lot of lost time to make up for. The developers at Camelot appear to be up to that challenge with what’s looking like a fairly robust Nintendo Switch game that balances traditional golf, RPG gameplay, and some creative new topspin on the established format.
In an hourlong preview event, Nintendo shed some more light on how all three of those components work. So far, Mario Golf: Super Rush looks like it’s perfectly toeing the line between colorful chaos and straight-laced sports simulation.
When it comes to the basics, Mario Golf: Super Rush isn’t too different from its predecessors: Players will attempt to properly time a few button presses to fill up a power meter and thwack a golf ball. The biggest change here is the addition of motion controls, which can be used instead of traditional button taps. Unlike Camelot’s Mario Tennis Aces, motion controls can be used in just about every mode, online and offline.
There’s a fair amount of customization when it comes to setting up a round of golf. Players can choose between six 18-hole courses, which are unlocked as they progress. Those who don’t want to play a full game can reduce the number of holes or change what hole they start from. Players who don’t want to start from hole one every time could set up a three-hole game starting from the seventh hole instead.
One handy little addition is an “all-at-once” option that allows players to tee off at the same time. That means no more sitting around watching computer players take their shot. That option can be selected in both local and online play, though it won’t work with more than two players on one console.
Little quality-of-life changes like that run through the game in subtle ways. For example, it features an entire glossary of golf terms that defines everything from club types to techniques. Whether players are golf fanatics or total newcomers, Super Rush is looking like an experience that’s built to accommodate both levels of expertise.
If those new features sound minor, Mario Golf: Super Rush features some much bigger ones too. The most exciting addition is a full-blown adventure mode, which heavily leans into the series’ RPG roots. Players create a Mii golfer, exploring at least six worlds full of missions, story cutscenes, and characters.
The demo showed two specific sections of the game, which give a sense of the variety. The first section featured a Mii walking around a quaint little town, referred to as the “birthplace of golf in the Mushroom Kingdom” (a sentence so absurd, I burst out laughing upon hearing it). Players can chat with NPCs like Birdo or stop to try some training drills.
The second chunk is a little more out there. I saw a Mii golfer wandering around a stormy, spooky golf course and completing trials, like lobbing shots over a wall of water.
That section culminates in something especially surprising for a golf game: A boss fight. A giant statue comes to life and starts launching electric attacks. The Mii character runs around and dodges incoming shots, which drain their stamina meter. The boss eventually starts charging up a big ball of lightning and the Mii enters a golf stance. With a bit of perfect timing, he launches a golf ball at the attack, sending it back to the statue. After three hits, the boss is defeated, and the Mii receives a lightning sword that can summon storms (thunder is a weather condition that can impact shots, alongside wind and rain).
That’s the level of weirdness that fans can expect from adventure mode. It’s packed with surprisingly deep RPG mechanics, too. I noticed a level 71 Mii on the demo’s character select screen, so there’s a lot of grinding to do. Every time a player levels up, they’ll be able to allocate one stat point to anything from stamina to spin. Players can also equip clothing or clubs that have specific perks. Judging from the small snippet of gameplay, fans can expect a robust single-player campaign.
The last piece of the puzzle is Speed Golf, the game’s brand-new multiplayer mode. Similar to indie hit Golf With Your Friends, it’s a mode where up to four players all shoot at the same time and race to the hole. They can either select a high score or best time option to determine how the mode is scored.
Speed Golf looks like a clever bit of multiplayer chaos where friends can mess with one another by dashing into each other or landing special shots that disrupt the field. At one point, Luigi hit his special right around the hole, dropping a big icy circle around it. That left the three other players struggling to putt their ball in.
The free movement in this mode looks a little slow, ironically. Power characters like King Bob-omb really seem to trudge forward at a snail’s pace. Players can dash forward a bit, but that’ll cost some stamina, which refreshes over time. What’s yet to be seen is how that balance works with Mii characters that carry over from the adventure mode. Why not use a level 99 Mii character with maxed speed over Mario? We’ll have to wait and see how that works in the final version.
Nitpicks aside, Speed Golf is just one of the many ways Camelot has created a Mario Golf game that seems to have a little bit of everything. Those who just want a normal golf experience can play a clean 18 holes, while someone who just wants a single-player game will have a full-fledged RPG to tackle. Mix in creative multiplayer that looks like clean family fun, and Nintendo just may score an eagle on this one.
Mario Golf: Super Rush launches on June 25 for the Nintendo Switch.
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