Growing up in the 2000’s, I was treated to a great plethora of Nintendo GameCube gems. Common memories with the purple cube console include Super Mario Sunshine or The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker; however, there was another game that had me swinging with joy: Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour. Placing Mario characters into an otherwise underwhelming real-life sport was a stroke of genius, and something I cherished as a young Nintendo fanboy. So imagine my surprise when earlier this year, Nintendo announced another Mario Golf game for the Nintendo Switch. Let it be known that Super Rush had me super hyped.
Of course, golf isn’t exactly a flexible game. It has its specific ruleset, and deviating too much from it could end up overcomplicating a rather straightforward sport. Given Nintendo’s fascination with innovation and changing experiences, there’s something to be said about how Super Rush ended up in its final state. Not only does it try to ring in the golfing crowd, but those who would otherwise sneer at the prospect of playing it, Mario-themed or otherwise. How much this succeeds ultimately depends on what you want in a golf game—so be careful what you wish for.
Mario Golf: Super Rush is available now on Nintendo Switch for your regional pricing.
Note: This review will contain mild spoilers for the game’s single-player Mii campaign.
Story – Golf Until the World Freezes Over
Typically, one wouldn’t expect any sort of overarching narrative to a sports game in Nintendo skin. Recent titles, such as Mario Tennis Aces, have shown a stronger insistence on making these titles more cinematic. Mario Golf: Super Rush is no different, with a single-player campaign starring one’s created Mii character proving themselves as a pro golfer… initially. This will serve as the basis of this Story section, as well as the “main draw” to the game.
Featuring several hours of content, the story mode involves a traditional rookie to pro story involving one’s custom Mii character. Earlier “chapters” (they’re not categorized as such) involve a heavy amount of tutorial work and some character interaction with other Mario creatures. As it progresses, it slowly opens up various differentiations to the game of golf that makes playing more strategic and challenging. At least, it does until a certain point, where one slowly deviates from playing golf altogether and ends up slipping into a pseudo-Legend of Zelda storyline of world-changing proportions.
In the latter portions of the campaign, the player character will become a focal point in some devious plot by “the Snow King” to freeze the world over. Complete with partaking in trials to acquire a “lightning sword” and fighting a giant phoenix, it goes from 0 to 100 pretty quickly. This bizarre change in tone comes almost out of nowhere, and certainly isn’t built up enough to take too seriously. Some will find it so funny that it ends up amazingly absurd, though with the already sterile display of world-building on display to that point, I was simply ready to be done with it. Perhaps they felt the more “epic” turn of the story was a means of boosting interest in the plot. An “interesting” turn, to say the least—golf has never been quite so adventurous.
In essence, the story campaign is a means of unlocking things to play and use in other game modes. Additionally, one can use the campaign to improve the statistics of one’s Mii character to use in other game modes. So, if one wishes to have more content to play and a better Mii to use, going through this campaign is nearly essential. And one can tell Camelot put a lot of effort into making the story mode as immersive as possible, with tons of NPCs to converse with and dozens of little tutorial challenges. I simply wish the NPCs did a better job of being characters instead of info-spouts.
Gameplay – Gotta Go(lf) Fast!
Prior to delving into this aspect, I would like to elaborate on my expectations of this game prior to release. Mario Golf (N64) and Toadstool Tour are both fantastic games with a lot of content to them. While I have not tried out the handheld titles, based on my joy of the prior two home console games, I was looking forward to seeing what this title would do to cement its place within the franchise.
Days before its release, I read a piece from Screen Rant that it would only have four game modes. I thought of the prior games and all the different things they had for the player to dig into. Coin Attack, Ring Shot, Tournament Play, Mini-Golf, Putt Challenge, Character Match—none of these are in Super Rush. All that’s available here includes the aforementioned story campaign, normal stroke play, Speed Golf, and “Battle Golf,” with the two latter options being new to the franchise. This, by far, makes this the most barren Mario Golf game to date.
Such also necessitates that the story mode, the mode most jampacked with content, be enough to service this as anything more than a casual party game. While it will certainly take time to complete, it’s little more than a big hub world of tutorials and challenges. I couldn’t see myself replaying the story mode unless my memory was wiped, so after a one-and-done, it’s down to just three modes. Solo play is pretty important to my preference in gaming, so this ends up being a substantial detriment overall. Thus, I agree, Kyle Gratto of Screen Rant: Super Rush only having four game modes is pretty disappointing.
Modes and More
The one sole advantage of this over others is its incorporation of online play. Both local and worldwide, one can match up with players in rooms of up to four for normal, speed, and battle golf matches. Despite Nintendo’s reputation with online play, this title turned out okay in its implementation. A little slow overall, with some noticeable lag here and there, though nowhere near unplayable. If playing against people is your preference, the online mode is (perhaps surprisingly) solid. Getting into rooms might be a bit of an arduous process, however.
Outside the story mode, the major draw here is Speed Golf, which was heavily advertised in commercials and events. For those unaware, it’s essentially golf, but with more interaction after swings. One has to chase after their balls as quickly as they can, with other players doing the same in real time. With dashes and other collectibles along the way, it can become rather chaotic with other players. A cute way of trying to innovate the game without actually changing the way one goes about it. I don’t mind it, though the constant necessity of being involved with it might turn off those looking for a more relaxing golf escapade. Certainly not enough to make this a surefire purchase, however.
Battle Golf is kind of an intriguing venture, as well. Also referred to as XC Golf during solo play in the story mode, it’s a matter of playing against others in an arena where you need to sink your ball into holes all throughout the area. Like with Speed Golf, speed is the name of the game, as it’s a matter of sinking more holes first. While this is relatively harmless fun against others in the sleek, metallic arenas available, it hit different in story mode. Having to sink nine holes within forty strokes while battling tornadoes and inclines and obstacles along the way… it was among the most infuriating things I’ve had to face in Mario Golf to date. That aside, like Speed Golf, Battle Golf is a fun distinction from normal golf. Just… with others.
Finally, if you want to play Mario Golf, Super Rush is just that. At its most core basics, it’s still the same addictive nature of golf that any other game in the series provides. Some accessibility measures have been added from Toadstool Tour, such as not needing to time buttons on the power gauge for accuracy, though most advanced techniques still persist. Topspin, backspin, wind speed, elevation, etc. You can also manipulate the direction of your shot by tilting the control stick in certain directions after the gauge builds. This inclusion in particular saved me quite a bit from rough situations. Being able to angle it just out of the way of obstacles is lovely, albeit not totally realistic.
Graphics & Audio – The Grass Is Actually Greener
When it comes to its environments, Super Rush looks fairly appealing. Different frontiers of green, sand, and bizarre hot-and-cold Bowser stages are among what’s on display throughout. While perhaps not as varied as Toadstool Tour, the graphical fidelity is pretty noteworthy. Course structure, taking obstacles into consideration, also have quite a bit going on at all times, with rarely any slowdown. To that end, the game is a colorful joyride onto modern consoles.
Character models, on the other hand, look pretty suspect. This is especially noteworthy for Donkey Kong, whose fur looks unbelievably plastic. Others aren’t quite as egregious, though they have a certain glossiness to them that looks almost uncanny. Some pixelation occurs in close proximity, as well, which is especially noteworthy during result screens. For a Switch title this late in its lifespan, it’s somewhat shocking to see it look worse than plenty of titles prior.
Believe it or not, the entire Mario Golf soundtrack throughout the series was handled by Motoi Sakuraba. This man has been responsible for the soundtracks of many games, including Golden Sun, Dark Souls, and the Tales series. Toadstool Tour, in particular, had a phenomenal soundtrack full of Mario references and extremely catchy beats. Which makes it all the more disappointing that the soundtrack here is pretty underwhelming.
There’s definitely the same amount of energy and gusto to it as per normal. Unfortunately, it tends to lean a little too much into losing the Mario identity for simply energetic rhythms. Some may be fine with this alone, though I like when these types of crossovers offer a best-of-both-worlds approach to tone and sound. It just didn’t click here. The one track that sticks out to me seems to be the main theme, which plays during most result screens and such. Otherwise, it’s a pretty suitable soundtrack in tone only.
Mario Golf: Super Rush was reviewed on Nintendo Switch.