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Mario Golf - Nintendo Wii Virtual Console Review

by: David Sanchez ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 5/25/2012 • Leave a comment

It may look a little dated, but the Nintendo 64 iteration of Mario Golf has proven to be a timeless golf game that doesn't rely on complex mechanics, but rather invites players of all skill levels with its intuitive and addictive gameplay.

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    Pick Up and Play Golf - Mario Golf N64 Review

    Mario Golf - Original Nintendo 64 Box Art 

    If you’ve never played a golf sim due to fear of overly complicated gameplay and complex mechanics, you need to forget about all of that and play Mario Golf for the Nintendo 64. In 1999, this title took the realism of golf and mixed it with simple controls, intuitive mechanics, and Mario characters. Suffice it to say it was a whole lot of fun, and it was addictive beyond belief. Gamers who played Mario Golf can attest to that, and those who missed out can download this compelling golf game on the Wii Shop Channel for 1,000 Wii Points ($10). And yes, it’s worth every penny.

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    Mario Golf N64 Gameplay

    Mario Golf is easy to get into, but it packs a good level of challenge. 

    Rather than featuring complex simulation gameplay, Mario Golf is streamlined to the point where anyone can learn the ins and outs of golf. That’s not to say the game is without challenge, however, because this is a very challenging golf game with realistic golf mechanics. Wind, rain, and rugged turf all affect your game, so you need to be ready to adjust and plan your shot before you take that swing. If you’re on the green and it’s raining, you’ll have to swing harder than normal, because we all know a ball can’t roll far on wet grass. Is there a strong wind blowing to the left? You’ll have to change your character’s aim and trajectory. You can access a top-down view of the field before you hit the ball, and doing this comes in handy because you can plan where you want to shoot the ball before swinging your different golf clubs.

    The game includes six different courses with 18 holes each. While this number definitely seems small, there’s a lot to do in Mario Golf. You can enter tournaments for each of the six courses, and it’s easy to see the level of difficulty rising as you progress. Later tournaments really require you to go for those birdies, and you’re eventually going to want to go back and score birdies on every hole as doing so rewards you with Birdie Badges. Earn a certain amount of Birdie Badges, and you can unlock different rewards. Mario Golf is really the kind of game that follows the mantra of “play more and unlock more.” The game’s Get Character mode requires you to face off against different characters that aren’t readily available. This mode will keep you busy for a while, because each new challenger gets significantly tougher than the last.

    This is a Mario game, though, so you can expect some crazy modes. Ring Shot requires you to hit the ball through rings in the sky. In Speed Golf, you must clear a course as fast as possible. There are even two Mini Golf courses for you to enjoy. And of course, Mario Golf comes with a nice multiplayer component for up to four players. Even if you don’t have four controllers, you can play by passing around a single controller. It’s fun, and it adds to the longevity of this title.

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    Graphics and Sound

    Early courses have a realistic country club look to them... 

    Back when Mario Golf launched in 1999, it looked pretty good. These days, the game’s visuals really show their age. The courses look a bit plain, there is an overabundance of 2D trees scattered everywhere, and character models are really blocky. Still, the game has an undeniable amount of charm, and seeing Mario-themed landmarks around the game’s courses is a nice touch.

    The game’s music has always received mixed reactions from gamers. Nothing really sounds Mario-esque—save for the characters’ spoken catchphrases—and this has drawn criticism since the game’s Nintendo 64 debut. The sound design in the game may not be the most dynamic, but it features some calm, cheery music that actually mixes well when you think about the premise of Mario and golf. Some gamers will enjoy the music in Mario Golf, while others will not. Luckily, the game allows you to turn the music off and on.

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    Lasting Value

    ...while later stages feature Mario-themed layouts. 

    It may seem that six courses is a rather small amount, but when you take into consideration the bevy of playable modes, the challenging tournaments to participate in, the unlockable characters and courses, and the multiplayer component, you’ll see that there’s a lot of life in this game. Sadly, a number of unlockable characters were left out from this Virtual Console port. Back in 1999, gamers could link their Game Boy Color version of Mario Golf to the Nintendo 64 version and add four characters to their roster. These characters aren’t included here, and there’s no way to unlock them, leaving four empty spaces on your roster of selectable golfers.

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    Mario Golf N64 Overall Score

    Fun fact: Wario's shoes are pink in Mario Golf, rather than their usual green color. 

    To this day, Mario Golf remains a playable Nintendo 64 title that’s easy to get into and fun to master. It’s not as complex as some other golf sims out there, but it does require practice and patience to become a pro. It’s a shame that there are some unlockable characters missing, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this game will keep you hooked for a long time. And while the game’s visuals look dated, this title has proven to be a timeless game of golf.