Mario Golf World Tour
It's been almost 10 years since developer Camelot delivered the last Mario Golf title (Mario Golf: Advance Tour for GBA). That may seem like a long time – especially for a sports franchise – but three-click golf hasn't changed over the years. Mario Golf: World Tour doesn't reinvent any wheels on the venerable golf cart, but it does get with the times, offering plenty to shake your clubs at and making good use of the 3DS' touchscreen.
What's deceptive about World Tour is that even though it has a career hub called the Castle Club, it's not the be-all, end-all of the game. Instead of making this mode a destination, you must visit other parts of the game you otherwise might ignore (like the Play Now-esque Quick Round mode) in order to see everything on display. These detours earn you coins that buy better clubs and outfits (including Nintendo characters' costumes) for your Mii golfer. It won't take you long to beat the champions of the Castle's three 18-hole courses (yes, just three), but that's only the beginning of the journey.
Also on the castle grounds are six special nine-hole courses that you must earn Star Coins to unlock (more on that later). These fantastical courses based on Nintendo characters and locations are filled with item boxes, environmental hazards, and difficult layouts. Items, such as Bullet Bills that make you impervious to wind or Fire Flowers that burn their way through trees (these can be used on normal 18-hole courses in certain situations) can be used at various times to make things interesting.
All of the courses in the Quick Round mode host various challenges for Star Coins, such as golfing through in a set amount of time, beating a particular opponent, or making sure your ball passes through specific rings on the course. To see all the game has to offer, you're always switching between the two modes, snacking from an appetizer buffet rather than digging into a full meal.
I would have preferred a more unified structure with less menu hopping, but the larger inconvenience is that grinding for the Star Coins wears out its welcome. Given the lack of a larger progression structure other than buying new items (some of which don't improve your stats), I was less inclined to plow through the challenges. Netting an item I don't want isn't as exciting or deep as building up your attributes over time. Having more than three normal 18-hole courses (more are available via paid DLC), would also have helped keep the game feeling fresh.
Online tournaments are ready to go on day one as well as scheduled for the future. Similar to the rest of the game, tourneys are in both the Quick Round and Castle Club modes, and they earn you coins and items. You can also create your own around certain perimeters (handicap, number of holes, items you can use, characters you can use etc.). The online tourneys provide more content and fill out the feature set, but don't imbue the game with any higher sense of purpose. Missing is any summation of stats and achievements that defines and showcases your profile to the online community other than your leaderboard placings.
Despite some of the missteps, World Tour's bedrock gameplay remains a reason to check out the title. The 3DS' touchscreen is used to add draw, fade, loft, and drive to your shots, and it works well. Additions like this and online play show that the series hasn't remained stagnant in its long interval, but they aren't entirely unexpected, either. Mario Golf: World Tour is a welcome but not irrefutably triumphant return.
It doesn't reinvent any wheels on the venerable golf cart, but it does get with the times.