A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, I landed upon a sort of Holy Grail of video games – a sports-themed one that I fully enjoyed, and understood the nuances of. It actually even taught me something about the sport in question. I hadn’t had this much fun playing a “sports game” since, well, WCW Wrestling on the original Nintendo – or maybe even ever, since my WCW days were full of button-mashing. And the name of this unicorn of a game? Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour, for GameCube.
The game was kinda perfect. It was simple enough that you could pick it up quickly, making it a genuine game for the entire family. If you wanted to get tricky, however, there were advanced options that allowed you to do so. It was also fairly easy to get “good” at the game quickly, but there was always the possibility that a tricky putt would blow a close game.
And, of course, there were the familiar Mario characters and themed courses. Just like any other Mario game, when you saw lava and smoke, you knew you were in for a tough time. The characters “felt” different enough in play that everyone had a favorite. If it wasn’t your turn, pushing the buttons on your controller let you “taunt” the current player – an admittedly juvenile gag, but one that somehow never failed to elicit a smile.
It was a fun, simple, casual party game, and it was so well-loved that it has far outlived the GameCube it was intended for. Thanks to the Wii’s backwards compatibility, Mario Golf was probably played on the Wii (with GameCube controllers) far more recently than any actual Wii games. It’s proven itself to be a true classic (for me, anyway). My only problem was that, to the best of my knowledge, there weren’t any sequels.
Back to the Future
As previously mentioned, I’m finally trying out PS3 games, which I’ve managed to completely ignore over the last several years (seriously, it’s amazing what you manage to tune out when it’s not relevant to you). This may well have been well-known to everyone else in the world, but I was floored when I played Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds and discovered it’s basically a spiritual successor to Mario Golf (or maybe it’s that they have the same spiritual origins – however you want to think of it).
“But J,” you’re likely saying, “It’s a spiritual successor to all the other Hot Shots games as well. You could have been playing this stuff the entire time. Furthermore, there was a Mario Golf game for Nintendo 64.” And while you’d be entirely accurate, I simply didn’t know about it ’til now. Rather than bemoan my lack of sport video game cred, I consider it a happy surprise.
This game obviously doesn’t feature Mario and friends, but honestly that’s the only downside I’ve noticed so far. Most of the characters are friendly anime-types of both sexes, with varying outfits and often accents hailing from the UK. I prefer playing Sackgirl myself, who was apparently a later addition to the game; it’s definitely an adjustment playing a shorter character with a smaller swing, but she never fails to crack me up.
The shot system has been tweaked, so both the “advanced” and “traditional” methods were a little different than what I was used to. Weirdly enough, the traditional option was a lot of hassle for me, while the advanced option was incredibly intuitive – so don’t be afraid to try both and see what works best for you. Once I tried the advanced option, it’s actually proven to be more fun than playing on Mario Golf.
The weather factor is frustrating and a little less predictable than I expected – it seems like the closer you get to the pin, the more your ball is affected by the wind – but I suppose that’s weather in general for you. Unlike some Mario Golf courses, I haven’t yet encountered one with hazards that are so ridiculous the hole is basically unsalvageable; in Hot Shots, I’ve managed to survive even the odd gust into a water hazard with a bogey.
It’s more than possible to chip in, and I feel like a superhero every time. However, like Mario Golf, putting can smash all your hard work. While it can be frustrating, it’s probably that element that helps contribute to the replay factor – there’s always something to improve, and it’s not just a guaranteed win.
Knowing myself, I’m pretty sure that Hot Shots: Out of Bounds will have a high replay value anyway. It’s got all the fun of Mario Golf, plus the improved graphics of the PS3, a play system I love, and someone cute and squishy to play as. What more could I ask for?
What about you? Have you played either a Mario Golf or Hot Shots game? Is one clearly superior to the other? Share your thoughts!