Editor's note: This review has been updated with new screens and video. None of the text has been changed.
There are two kinds of video-game fans who play golf games: the kind who play hard-core golf simulations and the kind who play everything else. Mario Golf is, amazingly, the kind of golf game that could appeal to both. Camelot - the team responsible for last year's PlayStation golf hit Hot Shots Golf - is back with two golf games this year: the sequel (to be released in Japan first) to Hot Shots Golf and Mario Golf for the N64. Camelot builds on the fantastic engine it developed for Hot Shots Golf. In Mario Golf, the company eschews the 2D sprites of the former title for a fully polygonal golf-powered display of some of Nintendo's most famous characters: Mario, Wario, Luigi, Yoshi, Peach, and even Baby Mario. Yet another title featuring a greatest-hits lineup of some of Nintendo's best-known characters (the others being Super Smash Brothers and Mario Party), Mario Golf pits these characters against one another, along with Camelot-designed players, in one of the most comprehensive golf games released on a console to date.
Until this point, a golf fan's only option on the N64 was to play Waialae Country Club: True Golf Classics - an easy-to-play, if limited, golf-sim. Thankfully, Mario Golf comes with the large assortment of options that made Hot Shots Golf so enjoyable (tournament, stroke, training and mini-golf), along with a host of exclusive modes, like speed golf, ring shot and get character. The get character mode offers you the opportunity to unlock the more powerful characters, like Mario himself, Luigi, and Bowser.
In ring shot mode, you must send the ball flying through the various rings suspended above the course, testing your understanding of the ball arc and the variables affecting its path (wind, club selection, etc.). This mode must also be kept under par for you to pass to the next set of greens. The game's controls let you view the various courses from practically any angle, allowing you to plan your club selection and stroke accordingly. Want to check the wind? Press the Z-button and your character will toss up a handful of grass to see which direction the wind is blowing in. Swinging the club is a simple matter of pressing the A button once to start the swing, pressing it again at the apex, and once more at the starting point. 1, 2, 3 and you're off like that! The game also selects the best club for the situation, simultaneously tutoring and removing the guesswork for gamers who are not familiar with the subtle nuances of golf.
While there is still a fair learning curve to overcome before you start swinging three under par, it's not that steep, and with a little practice you'll start seeing your stroke-per-green tally drop like a rock. There are a good number of greens to shoot at, thanks to the variety of courses. Each successive course is unlocked by accumulating the necessary number of points from the previous course.Fortunately, Mario Golf takes the expected advantage of the N64's four controller ports for four-player gaming. You can use one controller and play in turn, or, if you have a few friends you want to trash-talk with on the greens, you can attempt to throw off the timing of their stroke by pressing the taunt buttons. This elicits up to four different raspberries from each of the players. The resulting chaos that can result has to be heard to be appreciated. With up to three players whacking on the taunt button, it can be difficult to time your shots. Nerves of steel are needed in multiplayer.
Since the number of gameplay options is so extensive, the eye turns next to the graphics, which improves upon the engine found in Hot Shots Golf. The courses are rendered smoothly, with a decent frame rate, which isn't much of an issue anyway, being that this is a golf game and not a racer. Some smooth light-sourcing permeates the polygonal characters and their surroundings, resulting in a very lush-looking golf game. The sounds are what you'd expect from a cute Mario-related game like this, with the familiar assortment of whimsical tunes, bleeps, and bloops handily stored on the cartridge. Character animation is smooth, and the various poses your golfer strikes when bogeying or getting a birdie are amusing to say the least.
Although Mario Golf is a little on the cutesy side, anyone who wants a great golf game need look no further. There really isn't much of a choice, even if there were, Mario Golf would likely be your best bet anyway. This is a top-quality golf game, despite the cartoony premise. Anyone who would turn a blind eye to Mario Golf because of its exterior qualities will be missing perhaps the best golf game on a console. With an extensive amount of options in either single-player or multiplayer, Mario Golf is the game that will keep on giving. It's not like golf games suffer from the need to update on a yearly basis, like, say, hockey games. Therefore, to say that this game has lasting power would be an understatement. While a true golf fanatic would certainly enjoy this, perhaps the most important thing is that it's user friendly enough to appeal to the masses. As far as golf games go, and as a game in general, Mario Golf comes highly recommended.