Developer(s) – Camelot Software Planning
Publisher(s) – Nintendo
Director(s) – Haruki Kodera (N64)
Producer(s) – Shinji Hatano, Hiroyuki Takahashi, Shugo Takahashi & Hidetoshi Endo
PEGI – 3
Released back in 1999, with a separate port finding its way onto the Game Boy Colour. Mario Golf was met with an overwhelmingly positive response on release and would then go on to spawn a whole new series in the Super Mario franchise, garnishing even more critical and commercial acclaim. A vast majority of spin-off Super Mario series’ historically start as well as what could be expected, such as Mario Kart, Luigi’s Mansion, and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. There are some, however, that in my opinion, started off with evident flaws, but then later go on to have games developed that are far better than the original. Super Smash Bros. is probably the best example of this, but the way I see it, Mario Golf under Camelot started the same way as well.
Graphics – 6/10
The visuals of the game, as what any fan of the series would’ve come to expect at the time, fit in well with the tableau of the Super Mario mythos; the courses are extremely reminiscent of parts of the Mushroom Kingdom as seen in previous Mario titles, and the developers did relatively well to diversify each tournament’s settings in that respect. When comparing it on a technical level to previous Super Mario games ported to the Nintendo 64, players will find that the level of detail is also on par with many of them; arguably even better than some too. The biggest problem I had with this game, in terms of both graphics and gameplay, is the character roster. Of course, you have classic Mario characters, such as Mario himself, Luigi, Donkey Kong Peach, and Bowser among others, but as well as that, there are also a lot of generic characters included alongside them, like Plum, Harry, Sonny, and Charlie; the majority of which have never been seen in a Mario game again, and for good reason.
Gameplay – 6/10
The game has several different modes to choose from, such as playing 18-hole tournaments, speed golf, ring shot, and the head-to-head mode that pits you against other characters to unlock. The game has a lot to offer in terms of variety, but with the get-character mode, it’s a mixed bag due to how equally exciting and boring it can feel to unlock certain characters. It’s also not the most accessible game in terms of difficulty too. I remember playing this game when I was growing up, and even unlocking Luigi seemed like an endurance test; and I still find it to be the case now, even after playing other games in the series.
Controls – 7/10
Probably the worst thing about this game, however, is its control scheme. The heads-up display is not self-explanatory like it is with future Mario golf games; the putting system is unnecessarily complicated, as it becomes almost impossible to determine how much power should be put behind the ball. There were many other 3D golf games even back then that had much better control schemes attached to them, and although this would be improved in later entries, it didn’t start out well in my opinion.
Originality – 6/10
Although this is one of those games that was probably dreamt up by many Nintendo kids before it was even conceived, it does fairly well to keep things unique on its own merits with its diverse settings for different tournaments (again, something which would be improved on further. Again, the thing holding it back most in terms of originality is having so many unoriginal characters included in addition, which by Nintendo’s standards, were profound to me, even at the time. There were so many other characters they could’ve included at this point that it just baffled me to know that they chose to go with Camelot’s idea of including so many generic ones instead.
Overall, Mario Golf is not the best entry in the series; not by a longshot. And later, a plethora of improvements would be made with the likes of Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour and Mario Golf: World Tour. The upcoming Mario Golf: Super Rush also seems set to break new ground with its story mode and additional challenges attached to it, but in terms of the Nintendo 64 game, the developers could’ve done better.