Friday, July 2, 2021

Mario Golf: Super Rush (NSW) Review

Leading the way to the Fourth of July weekend is a brand-new review, the first for the month of July. It's a golf game that launched onto the links last Friday: Mario Golf: Super Rush. Is this a game you should rush to buy, or is it just a game that feels super rushed instead? The answer, as the SPC review will tell you, lies somewhere in the middle.

The links on layaway

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, well, you know how the rest goes. After the lackluster launch of Mario Tennis Aces with its barebones amount of content (which to be fair, would be remedied to make for a much more serviceable offering), Camelot has returned with its second Mario sports game on the Nintendo Switch. This time around, it's a long-awaited home console return to the links with Mario Golf: Super Rush. While the golfing gameplay is rather up to par, it's the content--or lack thereof--that once again sullies an otherwise solid game of golf.

Let's start off with a heavy positive, and that's the golf on offer here in Super Rush. It's superb and it's almost the best the Mario Golf series has ever seen. It's approachable for beginners, but at the same time it doesn't exactly hold players' hands either. The traditional three-click system that most arcade golf games prior to Super Rush have used is completely absent in this entry. Instead, you start the gauge with the first press of the button, and then set the power with the second press, using a combination of A and B to determine topspin, backspin, or super backspin. Accuracy of your shot is determined somewhat randomly, but not completely. The more power you set on your second button press, the more the gauge enters into a red risk zone. It's here where your shot is more likely to go off course and lose power, though you'll never actually duff the shot like in previous Mario Golf games. This change will most likely instill the wrath of longtime fans and veterans of the series, but other parts of Super Rush have been made more challenging because of this change.

Luigi's all dressed up for his return to the links.
Let's aim for a birdie, shall we?
For instance, the dotted line that shows the arc of your upcoming shot is incomplete this time around. It doesn't trail all the way to the point of where the ball will land. There's also factoring in the carry of your shot (aka how far the ball will fly in the air) and the roll when it lands (aka how far the ball will move along the ground once it lands). You only have two ways to see the lay of the land of where your shot will fall, and that's either with the overhead view or scanning the area with a first-person viewpoint. This no doubt makes for a more challenging round of golf, but one that I very much enjoyed. No longer is the process as automated as it was, and while it did take some getting used to in order to learn how the lie of the ball, the lay of the landing area, the wind, as well as slopes and inclines would affect my shot, once I got these down pat, I was having rounds massively under par. That didn't mean I wasn't making errors here and there, but my successes on the links and putting on the greens felt well earned and the rewards felt far greater than past Mario Golf games.

Depending on how much club you take, the red risk zone at the top of the shot gauge will increase, so be careful!
Alongside the Standard Golf mode, which allows for stroke play or points-based play (where the player who scores the lowest on a hole earns that hole's points, and if there's a tie, the points carry over to the next hole until someone wins), there is also Speed Golf, a much marketed and hyped mode with Mario Golf: Super Rush. This mode makes the careful consideration and precision that golf normally needs and requires its player to haul butt on the links, hitting their shots quickly but also as accurately as possible. It's not just about getting the ball into the hole as fast as possible but also doing it in the least amount of strokes possible, as the time added to your overall score is dependent on both of these factors. 

A sibling rivalry on the links! All golfers can take their shots at once even outside of Speed Golf.
Meanwhile, when competing with other players, you can wreak all sorts of havoc as you grip it and rip it, and run to your ball. You can dash, perform a special dash as long as you have the stamina for it, and knock other players and their golf balls out of your way. Unlike Standard Play, I loved having character-specific special shots on for this mode, as this really added to the party-like atmosphere and feel of Speed Golf. There's nothing like messing up another player's putt by smashing your special shot down right on top of the green to ruin their shot, and potentially ruin their chance for par in the process. Each of the game's seventeen characters (your Mii included) has their own unique special shot. For instance, Wario's special shot launches his ball up into the air before it gets struck by a lightning bolt, causing a cloud to appear above where the ball lands. Players underneath this cloud cannot hit the ball too hard or they'll get shocked by a bolt of electricity themselves, messing up their shot gauge. Meanwhile, Yoshi's special turns all impacted golfers' balls within its target zone into extra-bouncy eggs. 

Luigi's particular special shot coats its area of impact in a slippery layer of ice.
While special shots are fun to use and unleash in Speed Golf and the arena-based Battle Golf, where players compete in an arena to get their golf ball into three holes before the competition, in Standard Golf it's less fun and less fair--at least if you're competing with other players. There is no time limit per strokes in Standard Golf, which means when you have a special shot opportunity, you can simply wait for the other players to hit their tee shots or whatnot first, and then unleash your special to cause them trouble. Not exactly the most sportsmanlike way to play, for sure. Furthermore, Speed Golf doesn't show you a closeup of your shots and where they land. Many times I've gotten a chip-in from far away (and this is not to brag) and couldn't see it. Throw in a total lack of replays even in Standard Golf modes, and that feels a bit disappointing, even with the video capture option built into the Nintendo Switch hardware.

As a single-player game, Mario Golf: Super Rush is a better offering than that of Mario Tennis Aces. Part of that is due to the more enjoyable solo adventure mode, but the other part is that golf is a sport that is more that you're competing against the course itself rather than other players. There's always room for improvement to better your scores, better your rounds, and simply better your overall play. 

For Super Rush's solo outing, Golf Adventure, it's important to immediately eschew the thought that this is a deep RPG like Camelot's Mario Golf games on the Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance. Golf Adventure is not this whatsoever. You do level up your Mii from participating and completing rounds, matches, events, and challenges, but there is no deep story, side quests, or anything like that present. That notwithstanding, you get the most variety out of this solo mode. You start off being a rookie at the golf academy in Bonny Greens, and learn the ropes of golf alongside a series of Mushroom Kingdom denizens, such as Toadette, Boo, and Chargin' Chuck, who makes his first playable appearance in a Camelot-developed Mario sports game. By the end of Golf Adventure's somewhat sporadic story, you're saving the kingdom from a monstrous snow lord who wishes to turn the world into his own personal icebox. 

Golf Adventure doesn't make a hole-in-one, but it's not necessarily a bogey either.
Golf Adventure takes your Mii across six courses, but a lot of it seems artificially lengthened by often having you have to run to your ball after hitting it instead of the more traditional Standard Play. This isn't exactly the most fun way to play golf, as first of all, in real life that's what golf carts are for. Thus, why does Camelot think rushing to one's ball throughout the adventure mode seems like a fun idea when it's absolutely not? Still, there are plenty of unique ideas and concepts within the Golf Adventure which I'm surprised aren't available outside of the mode, such as the Cross Country Golf mode. This gives you a set stroke limit to hit your golf ball into all of the required holes of a course. Sure, the devs picked one of the most obnoxious courses to perform this in, but it was enjoyable enough to do. For a lot of players, however, I can see Cross Country Golf being overly obnoxious and a frustrating stumbling point because of all of the height disparities of the course selected. 

Level up your Mii from experience points earned from events. 
Just be mindful to balance your customized character out.
Aside from events like Cross Country Golf and Speed Golf-like events, there are boss battles to be found in Golf Adventure. However, these advertised battles are stuffed into the last stretch of the game, which makes for some odd pacing. There are also occasional side challenges to complete in the Golf Adventure mode outside of the necessary events required to progress, and these are generally putting, approach, and driving challenges. These are also generally quite--well--challenging challenges as well. If you're looking for an easy time in Golf Adventure, you might want to look elsewhere as the 8-10 mode is rather difficult at times. 

Mario Golf: Super Rush features online play, but like so many parts of the game, this feels undercooked and underdeveloped. There are no online tournaments as seen in Mario Golf: World Tour whatsoever, nor are there ranks or leaderboards of any type. There's just matches with randoms or friends in various lobbies. It's massively disappointing, but on the subject of friends, the rarely used "invite" feature of the Nintendo Switch is available for Super Rush, which is one helpful inclusion. That said, matches are on a peer-to-peer basis, so your match quality is only as good as the other players and your connections. 

As ZZ Top once sang, "Every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp dressed golfer. WAH!"
Despite falling for the trap of getting yet another Camelot-developed Switch game with an utter lack of content at launch, I overall have enjoyed my time with Mario Golf: Super Rush thus far and see myself ultimately playing long after this review is published. The main reason is that golf is a more satisfying sport to me, and Mario Tennis Aces lacked a strong single-player component by virtue of being a sport better player against other people. And no, the AI just didn't do in Aces, much like the AI doesn't do it in Super Rush because it plays absolutely terribly (and there are NO difficulty options for the AI from what I saw either--another cut corner of the game). 

Still, the six courses on offer are enjoyable enough, if not a bit sterile in presentation, save for Bowser's course, which feels and looks like something as creative as World Tour's themed courses. Planned free DLC should open up the creativity level some with the course ideas, and it's reasonable enough to suggest that new characters will also get added to the roster. (Though the roster is the least of the game's content problems.)

Balmy Dunes features visibility-reducing sandstorms, Pokeys, sand creatures,
and undulating greens to create one challenging course!
Really, though, Mario Golf: Super Rush seems like a bittersweet time on the links. The golfing gameplay is as stellar and solid as it's ever been, but everything surrounding the game doesn't quite seem par for the course, especially when compared to other entries in the Mario Golf series and even other contemporary golf games. There is a lack of Ring Shot, unlockables other than star and superstar club versions of characters (though, this is fun to use different characters to earn points to upgrade them), online tournaments and leaderboards, and even basic stuff like taunting, post-hole celebrations, and replays. Mario Golf: Super Rush could have been so much more, and perhaps like Mario Tennis Aces, in a year we will see the game we should have gotten at launch. As is, unless you're devoted to improving upon your scores and replaying courses and hopping online like I am, you should give this particular golf game a pass for the time being.

[SPC Says: B]

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