Mario Golf: Advance Tour (Game Boy Advance) - Review by Andrew
Those of you who've been on the GameBoy scene for some time may remember the GBC version of Mario Golf produced some three years ago. Also developed by Camelot, the cart was packed full of gameplay and featured a level of production values rarely seen on a handheld system. It was critically successful and sold well, topping the Nintendo best sellers chart for quite some time. It's all GBA now though and even finding a outlet stocking 'Color' titles has become something of a challenge so the obvious problem is how to improve upon something that was near perfect in the first place. No doubt Camelot are up to the challenge and we'll be happy to try out a game where we don't have to move from our armchair or wear those ridiculous golfing threads.
Advance Golf is based around an RPG framework and if you wish to become the best golfer around you have a long slog ahead of you. As you'd expect it starts out at the clubhouse and like real golf, success is as much about networking and meeting the right people as being a good golfer and initially the game is very text heavy. Your main aim though (with your partner) is to become the overall champion and this demands practice, which fortunately you'll have more than enough of over the course of the game. You start out with very average abilities as a golfer and it's up to you to enter competition and excel at an ever more demanding succession of challenges to raise your skill level. It's only then you can rise up the ranks at the club but beware, pitting your team against a pro early on in the game will leave you severely embarrassed. The challenges themselves are varied and it's not all about simply finishing a course with the lowest score. Instead some will home in on a specific skill while other 'lighter' moments include a rather mischievous gopher taunting you to hit it. Success means more points and so a greater overall skill level.
If you don't want to go down the RPG road there are more than enough 'quick fix' routes to keep the casual gamer happy. This gives you a number of courses and games to play at your leisure without your golfing partner continually criticizing your game.
Here you can play any course as a 'stroke play', which simply put is a straight game. This is a great way to practice before you even consider delving into the more immersive RPG section. Not everything is as serious as the main game though, for instance in one challenge you must reach the hole through a series of gates whilst others are based around the speed and accuracy of a single shot. One of the more unique modes here is Club Slots where, although you do always have a putter, you must play a round of golf with the clubs selected for you via a slot machine. This is surprisingly good fun if you manage to get the required combination of symbols. If you don't you may end up with a hole in 20. One thing Mario Golf also does is resurrect Nintendo's severely underused 'link' capabilities in almost every department. For starters if you have the GameCube version (Toadstool Tour) you may be able to download extra characters onto your GBA with the link cable. There are also the multiplayer aspects that can now not only be enjoyed via the link cable but also the new wireless adaptors that many GBA owners have thanks to their inclusion with the latest Pokémon games.
Over the years I've played many golf titles on the GameCube with various developers trying out all sorts in regards to actually hitting the ball. Mario Golf sticks to what can best be described as a 'tried and tested standard', which no doubt everyone has encountered. Not only that, it's perfectly suited to the handheld format. Choose your club, direction (taking the wind into consideration) and then swing using the power gage at the base of the screen. The closer to the indicator the better the shot. However as any good golfer will tell you, that's not all there is too it, you can also introduce 'top spin' to your golf ball by hitting a random combo of buttons just before you swing. While this is all pretty intuitive it's also reasonably comprehensive for a handheld golfer and as Nintendo are always at hand for the casual gamer you'll also find an in depth tutorial section to ensure you make the very best of what's available in Advance Tour.
The challenge that always confronts a handheld team is just how can we make it look as good as the console version? Clearly the raw processing power isn't there and instead developers are left to employ ingenious visual tricks to make up for the lack of graphic capacity. Fortunately this is something Camelot does very well and by mixing a variety of gaming engines the action is almost seamless. The RPG elements are probably the most commonly used and well established on the GBA. The actual 'swing' screen also works well with you viewing the action from slightly behind your character. The only problem is the middle distance where the objects that appear in front of you (represented here by a flat graphic) don't always correspond with the map of the course. It's a little disconcerting at first but you do get used to the fact that you can hit through some trees and the odd hill can be overcome with little effort. The actual ball in flight is depicted by a rather ingenious use of 'mode-7', which actually works a lot better than you'd expect. The standard of presentation will no doubt be the envy of many a development studio and it's worth taking some time to digest just how good games can look on the GBA.
Turn your volume up as high as it will go because you're in for a treat here. Mario Golf quite simply features some of the best audio we've ever heard on the GBA and you will be completely amazed at just how the developers managed to squeeze so much high quality sound effects and music into such a tiny cart. Things kick off with some typical televised golf type music but then quickly move into a type of calypso experience which while completely inappropriate is wonderfully composed. A lot of the music seems to follow this pattern and it's almost like Camelot had its best people creating tunes with nowhere to put them. Until now that is. Sound effects are spot on whether it?s Mario speaking, golfers grunting or balls splashing in the water. Audio perfection
Advance Tour manages to highlight just what Nintendo do best: universally accessible gameplay supported by a deeper, more immersive gaming experience. What this means to the gamer is that you can be playing Mario Golf in a matter of minutes or, if you prefer you can take the all-encompassing (not to mention time consuming) RPG route. Which ever way you choose to go the level of enjoyment this cart provides is unparalleled and rather than hiding in the shadows of its more powerful GameCube brother the GBA version actually excels and in some instances surpasses the Toadstool Tour. One other thing that's abundantly clear is that Camelot know how to get the best out of the GBA in terms of sound, graphics and gameplay and as a result they've produced what can only be described as the ultimate golfing challenge. Quite simply if you love golf and have a GBA you should run out and buy this now.
Pro: Seemingly Endless Gameplay
Con: Not For Everyone
Final score: 9.1
|Platform:||Game Boy Advance|