MARIO GOLF: TOADSTOOL TOUR / Nintendo / Gamecube
Developer Camelot hits the links again for another round of Mario Golf, and it's pretty much just a grade-up job that's quite similar to the N64 game.
One difference is that instead of starting with a handful of crap characters, you get most of the popular ones at the outset and there are only a few more obscure ones to unlock. Other than starting with one course and having to unlock the rest by winning them successively, there really isn't anything else to unlock other than upgraded versions of each character and some new levels in certain game modes.
On the positive side, there is an obvious upgrade in visuals and sound. The courses here are also particularly nicely designed from a visual perspective. Between the pleasant courses and the relative lack of unlocking focus (as well as no real "campaign" mode to speak of), Toadstool Tour really feels more like "golf for golf's sake" than a golf game trying to cobble in other genres and elements to broaden its appeal. You either like golf and you want to play it for its own sake, or this just isn't the game for you.
That's not to say it's a purists golf game, because this title works Mario hazards and gimmicks into the playfield for the first time. Chain Chomps that eat the ball for a penalty if you land too close, warp pipes, Thwomp Traps and so on. These aren't introduced until relatively late in the going, however. You get four whole courses that are free of them before they start appearing in the final three.
It's a nice package and a fun day out on the greens for the most part, but not entirely perfect. It has the same weaknesses that the previous game had (as well as the Camelot Hot Shots games) in that putting and hitting out of the rough still feels too much like a guessing game. You need to sink some time into getting a feel for both a particular character and the courses to be able to actually accurately estimate these shots and not just guess at them, and when you first start playing the game putts and chip-in attempts feel quite cheap sometimes.
Some players also might be put off by the lack of goal-focused single-player content. I think a big reason for this is that Toadstool Tour was released in tandem with Mario Golf: Advance Tour to take advantage of the GBA-Gamecube link cable functionality. Advance Tour is much more about single-player content and unlockables, so I think Nintendo was hoping players would double-dip to scratch that particular itch. A rather cynical ploy if true, but to be fair Advance Tour is also a completely different game with its own unique merits.
I notice reviews of the time tended to pan the camera, but I really don't know what they wanted to see that you don't get here.
Some of the individual challenges can be quite frustrating, but Toadstool Tour gives you so many play options that there's always something to have fun with and the main selection of courses gradually ramp up in difficulty nicely. As mentioned, the main thing here is that this was designed more as a "golf for golf's sake" and multiplayer game than for the single player who wants lots of little unlockables and characters and markers of progress. If you're cool with just firing up a virtual round here and there just to relax and test your skills, however, this is one of the better choices out there for sure.
* Gameplay Video
* Toadstool Tour: Too Hot For TV
* ch ch chang chang