Golf That I Can Enjoy

A few days ago, my wife and I had some friends over for dinner. We rented a movie, and I thought we might rent a party game, since Mario Party 4 had been such a hit during a previous visit. I saw Golf on the shelf, and it looked like a decent bet.

The publisher/developer credits are given by Wario and Waluigi, who pop out of holes holding Wile E. Coyote-esque signs that read “Nintendo” and “Camelot.” That was pretty much a sure sign, to me, that this game was going to rule. It did. I bought it tonight.

There are a whole mess of play modes, but I’ve only tried two: plain ol’ multiplayer and plain ol’ single player. Single player’s basic mode is tournament play, and multiplayer’s basic mode is a PVP challenge. In both, you play eighteen (or nine, or six, or some number) of holes on a golf course. The game is the same as anywhere else: you tee, you drive, you approach, you put. I have no idea whether the simulation is accurate, but it certainly is deep.

When you begin any shot, you first choose your club. The game acts as a fairly decent caddy; it starts you off with a reasonable club and facing for every shot. Your club determines how far and at what angle you’ll hit the ball. You can also pick a swing type: normal, power, and approach. Approach shots are basically for chipping, normal shots are normal, and power shots just give the swing more oomph. You receive a limited number of power shots, but you can avoid losing them by hitting the ball well when you make a power shot.

Hitting the ball well means hitting it with an ideal power level and at the sweet spot. When you start your swing, a bar begins flying left across the slider and you hit A or B to stop it at the desired power level. You can determine how power relates to distance by an indicator over the slider; the indicator can be moved left or right so that you know just where to aim with the power bar.

The button pushed to set the power determines whether you’ll make a manual or automatic shot. A manual shot gives you full control over whether to hook or slice or hit the ball on its sweet spot. An automatic shot will hit the ball at a random not-awful location; while it is less likely to get a perfect shot, it’s guaranteed not to totally flub it. You can also put spin on the ball so that it rolls when it lands. I imagine there are other, scarier ways to control the ball in flight. I’ve noticed that you can use the D-pad to move a red indicator mark on the ball.

Most of this stuff is way over my head. I just try to hit the marks on time. This is plenty good enough for me to play, and I enjoy it a lot.

During PVP, the non-golfing players can taunt (or encourage) the current golfer by mashing their controller. A little speach bubble appears, subtitling audio clips of the off-screen characters remarks. So far, my favorite is (obviously) Wario, who sometimes quips, “Eef you ween, I hate you!” Waluigi, whom I find to otherwise be one of the worst characters in Nintendodom, has some excellent taunts as well.

Characters also have distinctive little dances or poses when they finish a hole. Yoshi does a totally adorable hopping dance when he makes par. Wario slaps his ass and waggles his eyebrows. Luigi, making a double bogey, passes out from the shock.

The taunts and animations are what really gives this game a Mario feel. The menus are Marioish, too, but they’re also mercifully absent from most of gameplay. It’s unfortunate that, so far, the courses are not very distinctive at all. I’m told that later courses get more Mushroom Kingdom-y, and I’ve seen some in-game video that suggests that’s true. Why didn’t they start out with some very Mario courses? I think it’s a shame.

The character selection is also strange. Birdo and Koopa are here, finally, but Shy Guy is missing again. I’ve seen a list of unlockable characters, and while I don’t remember what the glaring omission was, there is at least one glaring omission. Still, there are about a dozen characters available from the start, including the most major players. Wario is there, so I’m happy.

The music is also awesome. It’s classic Mario music (mostly) and has been modernized and made nicly unintrusive. It’s also contextual; putting almost always means the Level 1-2 (underground) music, for example. I’ve noticed other relationships like that, but remember none.

I don’t know what else to say except that it should be considered a big statement that I bought a /golf/ game! The big thing that got me was the realization that the single-player mode was still really fun. While Mario Golf was a great party game, it still was fun without the party. I’m hoping that I can keep unlocking courses to use at future multiplayer events.

It’s just really well done.

I’ll have more when I get through more courses.

Written on August 29, 2003
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