Mario Golf: Advance Tour
Feel like taking a swing with Mario again? Advance Tour gives you the chance!
Call me a hater, but I really didn't like Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour on the Nintendo GameCube. I wasn't sure how Mario Golf: Advance Tour was going to turn out, but I was looking forward to it with the same amount of excitement as found in those golf announcers on television. (There, we got that clich out of the way). Thankfully, I found myself pleasantly surprised with Mario Golf: Advance Tour, adding yet another addictive game to my portable library.
In Mario Golf: Advance Tour, you play as the student of Kid, a former great in the golfing world who is now letting you loose in the world of Mario Golf. Starting with the Marion Course, you and your doubles partner need to practice and explore ways to make your game as great as it has to be to become a champion golfer. It's not much of a story, but what do you expect? It's a golf game, no matter how long you stare at that big ol' RPG stamp on the box.
However, no matter how sparse the RPG elements turned out to be, they're still technically there. As you complete lessons and rank in tournaments, you earn experience points you can use to improve certain aspects of your game. You also have to take care of your doubles partner, so make sure to keep things balanced or you'll end up regretting hogging all the glory once those doubles tournaments come around!
Mario Golf: Advance Tour starts you off in the Marion Club, where you can look around and speak with other golfers to get whatever small amount of information they care to give. Eventually, you hit the links, starting with the practice area that will teach you all the different kinds of shots you can take. Once you're good and ready, feel free to enter the singles or doubles tournament as you try and become the champion of that course, thus unlocking the next one.
In those practice areas you'll find a ton of people willing to teach you new techniques, and most of them will challenge you to execute what they've taught you (again, for points you can use for upgrades). These side games are a nice distraction from the tournaments, and they help you get into the game. Keep in mind, though, unless you've played previous games in the series, take your time learning the nuances. While there aren't very many, it's still smart to keep your patience as you learn everything.
Even with those techniques to learn, the gameplay is still fairly simple. When you start a hole, the game automatically chooses the club it feels is most appropriate for the shot (though you can change it if need be). It'll also point you in the direction it feels is best for you, which isn't always directly towards the hole. In fact, all you need to do is hit A to get the power meter going, and then hit A to try and hit it as hard as you can.
That's for amateurs though, and you're no amateur! If you hit B when measuring your power, you'll now have the chance to input special button combos when the meter returns to zero. Want to put a backspin on it? Hit B twice. How about a topspin? Hit A twice.
There are also more advanced moves that aren't hard to pull off. Want a "super" backspin? Hit B, then A. Now the tricky part... do you want a "super" topspin? Guess what? Hit A, then B. Overall, these special moves are vital to advancing through the game's later courses and many of the harder side games.
In fact, even with the advanced techniques and harder courses, the game can be extremely easy to play. After a few hours, my character was hitting balls well over 300 yards, easily scoring ten under par in the first two courses. In fact, the golfer closest to me was two over par. It's not a very challenging game until the very last course, but even then the long-term difficulty is relegated to addicts who want to score 100% of the game's goals.
Even if the gameplay may get a little stale, Mario Golf: Advance Tour looks great from start to finish. The game is colorful and full of nice, if subtle, animation. The different hills and contours of each hole is clearly laid out, and there's even a nifty 3D view that's strikingly reminiscent of the GameCube game.
Audiophiles will find a mixed bag, though. The speech in the game is great, and the sounds effects are spot-on. Unfortunately, the music can get on your nerves. While the tunes may be catchy, they quickly turn sour after 45 minutes of the same few notes. Still, no one buys Game Boy Advance or golf games for their music!
Mario Golf: Advance Tour does a few things I didn't expect. It offers an extremely fun game of golf with a deep enough Story Mode to keep players involved for hours on end. It also leaps over the GameCube version with its additions, and stays as true to golf as any other video game out there, complete with 3D aspects to each hole. The last thing I really didn't expect? It kept me on the GBA for several non-consecutive hours. Playing golf. For those that know this hardcore basketball fan, that's a tremendous feat in itself.
What's Hot: A great handheld golfing experience.
What's Not: Music sends you to sleepyville.