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Mario Golf: Super Rush review

Speed limit

When I think about the game of golf (which is an admittedly rare occurrence), the first thing that comes to mind isn’t speed. As a perennial observer of the Wild World of Sports, I see golf and baseball occupying a similar space as leisurely, summertime activities that are basically an excuse to day drink and be outside.

But, when it comes to Mario sports games, there’s usually a catch—something that turns normal, dull sports into a more arcade-like, game-y experience. That hasn’t always been the case for Mario Golf games; despite some courses having hazards like Chain Chomps, the Mario Golf games have generally been more straightforward when compared to Mario versions of tennis, baseball, and soccer. However, more recent Mario Golf entries on Nintendo’s handheld consoles have tried to inject the sport with some Mushroom Kingdom wackiness, and for its latest Mario Golf title, developer Camelot has landed on running.

Mario Golf: Super Rush’s marquee mode is Speed Golf, which tasks players with not only finishing holes before their opponents, but also running to the ball after each stroke as fast as they can. Of course, it isn’t as simple as just running to the ball, because players have to worry about their character’s stamina gauge and manage it properly, as well as super dash moves that opponents can use to briefly stun them or knock their ball from, say, the green to the rough. A gentleman’s game, Speed Golf is not.

Is it a fun concept for a Mario Golf game? Sure. Running around a pristine golf course with the energy and wild disregard for etiquette of a toddler on a sugar high while goosing your friends and messing up their shots seems like an obvious choice for good old-fashioned, Mario Kart–style shenanigans.

But in practice, Speed Golf feels slightly undercooked, and maybe even a little empty, as a mode. Part of this is due to the lack of variety in the courses compared to Super Rush’s standard golf experience. You’re playing on the same courses, with all the same layouts, save for a few hearts that refill your stamina gauge as you’re running between strokes. There are no additional obstacles that you have to overcome or items like Koopa shells or Super Mushrooms to make you consider diverting from the shortest path between points A and B. Sure, Speed Golf presents some of the obstacles that already exist on Super Rush’s courses in a different context, but you mostly just run around them. For the most part, Speed Golf feels like a player-made mod that takes existing assets and lets you run on them.

It doesn’t help, either, that Mario Golf: Super Rush’s courses are just kind of… boring. As Josh noted in his review of the last Mario Golf game, World Tour, the developers at Camelot seemingly love golf and want their players to love golf as much as they do. But it feels like Camelot loves golf more than it loves Mario, and that shows most in course designs. There are some obligatory Mario signifiers here and there, like dormant Piranha Plants laying in the rough on one course or Pokeys shuffling across the fairway on another, but these seem like concessions to the “Mario” name rather than foundations for how the courses were designed.

This is how Mario Golf games have always approached its courses, so the lack of variety or inventiveness in Super Rush’s courses might be just fine for existing fans. But seeing as how the game’s main mode asks players to navigate these courses on foot in real-time, it would have been a great opportunity to mix things up a bit and give players more interesting topography to navigate.

Where Speed Golf’s mechanics of running around and hitting balls into holes as fast as possible really shines is in Battle Golf. Instead of taking on challengers on standard golf courses, Battle Golf places up to four players in an arena and tasks them with being the first to claim three holes. Once one player claims a hole, that hole is off the map, so it’s part golfing skills and part strategy as you scramble to find the nearest hole and claim it before another player does.

What makes Battle Golf fun is that it seems to lean more into the Mario half of Mario Golf. There isn’t a whole lot of platforming, but there are more ways that you can mess with your fellow golfers, like banana peels and Bob-ombs, as well as the Super Dashes and hearts from Speed Golf. Battle Golf’s main disappointment is its lack of arenas. There are only two: the Strategic course, which has a much simpler terrain, and the Technical course, which features all kinds of elevation changes. Both arenas have the exact same aesthetics, and playing in the same two courses over and over again gets old fast. Battle Golf is fun, but it feels more like it’s meeting the minimum requirements for a bullet point for the back of the box.

The last mode that’s new to Super Rush is Golf Adventure, and it’s easily the most fleshed-out mode in the game. Golf Adventure is basically an extensive tutorial for all of Super Rush’s new mechanics, with a heavy emphasis placed on Speed Golf throughout. In it, you take your Mii from rookie to world-saving hero while leveling up your character and learning a variety of techniques. There is a story in Golf Adventure, as well as several boss fights that test your mastery of whatever gameplay mechanic the game just taught you. The different challenges you face lend the game some much needed variety, and it’s worth playing through just to level up your Mii and improve your golfing skills. Golf Adventure also seems to be the only way to unlock Super Rush’s six courses, so in that way you’re obligated to play through it.

Like the rest of Super Rush, Golf Adventure is a great idea, but there are definitely parts that could have used a little extra attention. For one, there’s a lot of unnecessary walking in Golf Adventure. Every time you complete a gameplay segment, you’re kicked back out to the overworld and need to walk to your next objective, and I have no idea why. There’s no incentive to explore the world and absolutely no reason why any of these transitions couldn’t be accomplished with cutscenes and menus. Sure, there are all kinds of Mushroom Kingdom background players like Goombas and Koopas to talk to, but none of them have anything consequential to say or items to give you. It just feels like a waste of time.

The strangest part about Golf Adventure is that it lets you level up your Mii to the point where they are far and away the best character in the game. By the time I was done with Golf Adventure, my Mii could drive farther than power hitters like Bowser and Donkey Kong, had more control than technical golfers like Peach and Toad, and had more spin than Boo, Mario, and Luigi combined. This is partly due to the generous and completely unbalanced pace of leveling up your Mii in Golf Adventure, but it also speaks to how samey all of the Mario characters feel in Super Rush. Yes, Donkey Kong can drive about 20 yards further than Toad, but it’s not like you’re going to struggle getting on the green in regulation with any of them. Meanwhile, the one stat that could have distinguished characters from one another—i.e., Spin—is pretty much the same across the board.

Thankfully, even though its new modes left me feeling underwhelmed, Super Rush shines where it matters most, and that’s in the actual golfing. While Mario Golf has always taken a sneakily deep approach to the sport it’s mimicking, Super Rush feels the most like an actual simulation. You don’t have to manipulate the joystick with the kind of precision that a title like PGA Tour 2K21 requires, but you do have to consider more real-world factors when hitting the ball, such as the angle and elevation of your lie, which can add a significant curve to your shot. Thankfully, the game’s shot gauge tells you exactly what curve your ball’s trajectory will take, so you aren’t left guessing in most situations.

In fact, Super Rush manages to be both the most technical and most approachable Mario Golf game I’ve ever played. The biggest changes come in Super Rush’s shot gauge. You’ll still have to time a button press for your shot’s power, but you no longer have to time a second button press for its accuracy. Instead, your shot gauge tells you when you have a chance of hitting an inaccurate shot based on your lie (whether it’s in the rough or fairway, essentially), your club and how hard you hit the ball, as indicated by a red outline on the side of your gauge called the risk zone. The larger the risk zone, the more chance you have of “shifting” the ball, meaning hitting a slightly less accurate shot. If you’re on the fairway, your shot will have a smaller risk zone, but if you’re in the rough, your entire gauge will be flanked by red. It adds a level of risk-reward decision making to each shot you make, while also allowing players to worry less about the timing of the shot and more about things like spin and curve.

Spin and curve are also handled slightly differently in Super Rush. Now, when you time the power of your shot during your backswing, you can either double-tap A for topspin, press B for backspin, or just press A once for standard spin. You can then add some curve to the ball with the left stick after determining your shot’s power. The more you tilt the left stick, the more curve you’ll add to a shot. It’s incredibly handy for getting around and over obstacles, and adds a bit of creativity to how you start thinking about your approaches.

The one disappointing aspect about golfing with standard Mario characters, as opposed to your Mii, is the amount of curve you can add to the ball. After upgrading my Mii in Golf Adventure, my shot gauge was divided into multiple sections where I could add curve, meaning my shot would curve at different points during its flight. Standard Mario characters can only add curve to their overall shots, which gives them less options and is one of the biggest reasons why all of the characters feel the same to use. It would have been nice if different Mario characters had different amounts of curve they could add to their shots, but that’s just not the case.

Online Multiplayer

I got to test Mario Golf: Super Rush’s online multiplayer in a few rounds of Speed Golf and Battle Golf. It works as you’d expect, with some options like giving players who came in last on the previous hole a head start on the next one.

One thing to note is that you can toggle whether players can use their leveled-up Miis or not. In Speed Golf, this might be a good idea, since having a character who can both launch drives and run faster and longer than the standard Mario characters is a bit unfair. On the other hand, I didn’t notice too many issues playing against Miis in Battle Golf.

I also experienced a few instances where lag definitely messed up my shot. A couple of times, my screen froze when I started my shot gauge, resulting in mistakes that I couldn’t control. Another freeze lasted for at least 3 or 4 seconds before the game picked back up, though that appeared to affect everyone in the lobby. Otherwise, the experience was pretty smooth and would have undoubtedly been better if I had used an ethernet connection.

Mario Golf: Super Rush is filled with those kinds of moments, where you’re left wondering if Camelot couldn’t have pushed the series forward just a little bit further. Considering this is the first Mario Golf game we’ve gotten on a home console since 2003’s Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour on the GameCube, Super Rush feels stale, especially considering how much iteration and inventiveness mainline Mario titles have experienced in the meantime. Super Rush’s actual golfing feels great, but there are way more creative and exciting golf games on the market now than there were two decades ago. If Super Rush wanted to be a standout title like previous games in the series, it needed to focus less on the “Golf” half of its title and more on the “Mario.”

Images: Nintendo

★★★☆☆

For the first home console game in the series in nearly two decades, Mario Golf: Super Rush is a bit underwhelming, at least in terms of what it has to offer. Speed Golf and Battle Golf are both great ideas, but they aren’t fleshed out enough to feel like main modes. Golf Adventure is a great way to add depth to what basically amounts to an extended tutorial, but it too suffers from pacing problems. Thankfully, the bulk of the game—the actual golfing—feels better than ever by being both technically challenging and more accessible.

Developer
Camelot Software Planning
Publisher
Nintendo
ESRB
E - Everyone
Release Date
06.25.21
Mario Golf: Super Rush is available on Nintendo Switch. Primary version played was for Switch. Code/hardware was provided by Nintendo for the benefit of this coverage. EGM reviews on a scale of one to five stars.

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