sunnuntai 7. elokuuta 2011

REVIEW - Mario Golf: Advance Tour (2004)

GENRE(S): Sports / RPG
RELEASED: April 2004
DEVELOPER(S): Camelot Software Planning
PUBLISHER(S): Nintendo

Golf games have existed on Nintendo consoles since the beginning of time; a game simply entitled Golf was released on Famicom in 1984, and it was one of the first games for the NES. That game already starred one of the many incarnations of Mario. The real Mario, as we've grown to know him, got his first golf game in 1991 in the form of NES Open Tournament Golf. In 1999, Mario Golf was released on the Nintendo 64 and the Game Boy Color. Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour for the GameCube followed in 2003, and in 2004, the Mario Golf sub-franchise was brought to the Game Boy Advance with Mario Golf: Advance Tour. This game differed from all that had come before by mixing traditional sports with role-playing - except for the Game Boy Color game, which already had some RPG elements in it. Critics loved the game and christened it one of the best sports games ever; as I said before in the case of Mario Tennis: Power Tour, I came here for a sports event, not a half-assed RPG, but being the first full-blooded hybrid in Camelot's awkward series of sports RPG's, Mario Golf: Advance Tour is not quite as unbalanced and annoying as its previously reviewed "sequel".

Down in a hole

Neil and Ella are among the newest members of the Marion Golf Club. They're training under the watchful eye of a group of pros, aiming to some day equal the skills of the greatest golfer alive: Mario.

Yeah, sure, but where's the golf course?
Let's start with something positive for a change; I'd like to tell you a bit about a few things I love, that are crucial to this case. Camelot proved their worth as video game developers to me with Golden Sun for the Game Boy Advance in 2001; I consider the game one of the greatest in history, and perhaps the best handheld game of all time. It's fabulous. I never really got into Shining Force, since I was far from being a Sega fanatic when that franchise was the second hottest shit in the RPG scene, and as I have told you in the past, I'm not a huge fan of strategy games or strategy-based role-playing. In 1998, Camelot put the Shining Force series on an indefinite hold, and began making sports games, first for Sony, then for Nintendo. I believe it was my much-loved Golden Sun, and the following indecision whether Camelot wanted to make sports games, or RPG's, and their previous success with Mario Golf for the Game Boy Color, that sparked their interest to make these sports RPG's. I think it was a bad call, but what do I know? I'm a player, not a critic. (Feel the sarcasm. Feel it.)

Then, another essential thing I love: the golf game in Wii Sports. Yes, I know Wii Sports was released in 2006, which means it should not be compared to any golf game with traditional control, it's unfair - but it's also damn true that it revolutionized my personal, as well as many other people's take on video golf. Golf has never been enough of a physical sport to make a real impact as a video game, if you ask me. Golf games have always been fun to some extent - I remember long sessions with Golf on the NES - but after Wii Sports came along with the real, physical swings of the club, all the old golf games haven't really done it for me. Wii Sports pointed out all the flaws in old golf games. Golf is simply a sport in which you need to have a true feel of the game. After having a gazillion tournaments with my friends actually standing up, measuring the wind and its potential effect on my game, swinging the imaginary club and cracking it in half against my knee after failing the most generic putt, it feels awkward to backtrack in time and do all of these things by using traditional action buttons of a traditional controller - or in this case, an even more awkward Game Boy Advance unit. ...And, once again, Mario Golf: Advance Tour is a damn role-playing game rather than a no-frills sports title. Not the most exciting trip for me to take, but all things considered, it's not exactly an awful one either.

Ah, here we go. But who's the dork?
The graphics are quite good. Golf is a game in which dimensions are very important, and I think that point has been well considered and executed. Even though the game's missing a visible wind effect (naturally), it's comfortable to play... once you get to actually playing golf, that is! The RPG portions of the game chime of a cuter Golden Sun. The music in the game is quite good, at least better than usual.

The fact is that I don't care much for golf as a real-life sport. To me, it's always been the game of rich, self-absorbed, old, cigar smoking corporate leaders rather than one I would ever be interested in. Like I said before, I've played a lot of video games based on golf, and Mario Golf: Advance Tour turns out one of the best of its traditional kind... once it lets you play golf. The role-playing parts of the game are not quite as lengthy or dull as those of Mario Tennis: Power Tour, but they're still very much detached from what I expected out of this game - what I expected was what it says on the cover: "GOLF". Well, this game's box also clearly states "Role-Playing Golf!". The Story Mode has a decent pace and it's much more balanced than the Story Mode in the "sequel" - that's all I'm going to note about it, I'm just interested in what should be the game's sole purpose, and enjoying a straightforward game of golf, one should steer away from the Story Mode and head into Quick Game.

Now, this is more like it!
The Quick Game introduces several fun game types and I'm glad to see there is much content squeezed in with consideration to the real target group. By default, you can choose from four Mario characters: Mario, Yoshi, Peach (Toadstool. - I promise this will be the last time I do that!) and Donkey Kong. You'll be able to unlock the generic original characters as you make progress, win games and gain levels in the Story Mode. Each character varies in skill, or to be more precise, their swings are different. DK is the toughest character to learn to use efficiently due to the impressive spin he puts into his one-hand swings, but since Bowser isn't in, I'm compelled to play as him. Stroke Play is pretty much standard golf in which your aim is to win a whole round with the fewest total strokes possible. In Near-Pin, your aim is to land a single shot as close to the pin as possible. Go-Go Gates is like croquet, but on a golf course. In Club Slots, a slot machine determines your club for each shot. Speed Golf is quite self-explanatory; your goal is to finish a whole round in the shortest possible time. Doubles lets you team up with a character of your choosing, against another team - standard in tennis, quite awkward in golf. All of these modes increase the game's lifespan by quite a lot, but should you pay for it? The actual golf game in Mario Golf: Advance Tour is so well put together for a handheld, that I'd say: yeah, sure. If you're a golf fan. If you can tolerate a half-baked RPG on top of it, it's a mandatory purchase.

Mario Tennis: Power Tour was not too comfortable to play from any angle, at least not for me, but Mario Golf: Advance Tour, aside from the completely useless and out-of-place RPG elements, is a fairly entertaining game of its kind. It's way more of a sports game than its spiritual sequel, and a well-designed one when it comes to the actual golf interface. I'm probably never going to play the game again, but at least it left a better aftertaste than the tennis game. 

SOUND : 7.3


a.k.a. Mario Golf: GBA Tour (JAP)

GameRankings: 85.59%

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