Mario Golf (series)
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Mario Golf (マリオゴルフ Mario Gorufu) is a sports video game series developed by Camelot Software Planning and published by Nintendo. The series brought the Mario universe to golf, even though Mario himself had appeared in multiple golf games on older systems. Mario Golf, the first Camelot game to use the Mario branding, debuted on the Nintendo 64 in 1999 and was ported to Game Boy Color. Releases followed of one game for both the Nintendo GameCube and the Game Boy Advance, while the fifth installment was released for Nintendo 3DS in 2014. The handheld versions feature role-playing game elements, where the console versions do not.
The N64 and Game Boy Color versions can communicate with each other via Transfer Pak connectivity, and the GameCube and GBA versions can do the same via the Game Link Cable; the connectivity features allow players to upload characters and data from one game into the other.
Players can play as a variety of recurring Mario characters, including Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Princess Daisy, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, Wario, and Bowser among others. The first- and second-generation Mario Golf games also feature original human characters created by Camelot specifically for these games, like Plum, Sonny, Harry, Maple, Charlie, etc. (all of whose last names are anonymous, as is the case with Mario and Luigi); none of these characters have made any reappearances save for Plum, who has appeared as a trophy in Super Smash Bros. Melee and as a sticker in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
Mario Golf games are typical golf games, where the player's objective is to hit the ball into the hole using as few strokes as possible. The games in the series specifically have simplified "pick-up-and-play" type gameplay, which does away with many of the complicated real-life aspects of golf as found in other games relating to the sport, such as Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2000 on PlayStation, which was released around the time Mario Golf debuted. However, despite the simplicity of the games' appearance and play style, they run on very deep game engines. Before each swing, the player chooses a club, a general direction, and a range for the ball to travel. During the swing, the player determines power by timing a button press for a marker to stop at the desired point on a power meter; at this point, the player can choose to influence the direction of the ball by applying spin. Players can alternate between auto and manual shots, with the latter providing the player with more control, albeit at a higher risk of a poor shot. Many of these gameplay aspects, such as spin, are affected by characters' individual statistics. These relate to features such as control of the ball and the general height of shots, which determines how much the character's play is affected by environmental factors like wind, rain, and relief of the land. The first- and second-generation Mario Golf home console games also have characters use recorded voice samples to comment on their opponents' shots.
Mario Golf games contain several gameplay modes and variants of golf, including the traditional stroke and match play, speed golf, ring shot, mini golf, and skins match. The main mode is "Tournament Mode," where the player competes against artificial intelligence (AI) opponents on a series of courses to win trophies. With the progression of the series, new modes were introduced, such as "Character Match," where characters battle computer-designated AI opponents to be upgraded into "star characters" and gain statistical enhancements; "Coin Attack," where players can collect coins scattered around courses; and "Ring Attack," where players are required to direct the ball through rings of varying locations, angles, and diameter while keeping on or under par.
The courses in Mario Golf games are based on traditional locations within the Mario franchise, such as the grounds of Princess Peach's Castle in the Mushroom Kingdom. Most courses have features adapted to the Nintendo world. As the series progressed, more complex terrain and exotic features were introduced into courses, and courses were designed that resemble real-life golf courses. More advanced courses offer a higher frequency of difficult terrain and elevation, as in bunkers, which limit the accuracy and range of shots. There are also hazards themed after the Mario universe: these include lava pits, Thwomps, Chain Chomps, etc., which will incur one-shot penalties if landed on, as will water sections and out-of-bounds areas; and Warp Pipes, which can change the location of the ball.
The handheld Mario Golf games are styled after role-playing games. They feature an overworld map, where the player can walk around and interact with different courses and objects. There are four golfing clubs, named Marion, Palms, Dunes, and Links, which hold tournaments. The player controls a young golf player (either male or female) who wants to become the "ultimate golfer," and must prove this by winning the tournaments in the aforementioned clubs, defeating their champions in match games, and earning the right to engage in a one-on-one match against Mario, the ultimate golfing champion in the game's world. There are also side courses where the player can train or earn special clubs. Each of the four clubs has two places of interest: the main golf course and the practice area; while Marion has a third, the clubhouse (changed to a lodging area in Advance Tour). The main course is accessed by entering tourneys or playing practice rounds; the practice area allows players to test their skill with minigames; and the Marion clubhouse is where the player's character is based, and can talk to other golfers (in the GBC game) or their partner in the lounging area (in Advance Tour). By progressing through the game and completing its various elements, the player can gain experience to distribute among the two characters to enhance both their drive as well as their hitting capabilities. As a character levels up, they gain stat points to improve their abilities.
Home console-to-handheld interactivity
The first and second generations of Mario Golf consisted of one home console title and one handheld title; each pair of titles had content transferrable from one game to the other. Using the Nintendo 64's Transfer Pak, players were able to upload characters and data found in the Game Boy Color version to the Nintendo 64 version, meaning that the players exclusive to the Game Boy game could be seen and played as in full 3D. Data from the Nintendo 64 version was also saved onto the Game Boy Color cartridge. Transfer Pak functionality is not included in the Virtual Console release. The connectivity functions returned when players were able to use the Nintendo GameCube - Game Boy Advance Cable to transfer characters between Toadstool Tour and Advance Tour. However, these functions are absent from the third generation of the series, as World Tour does not have a console counterpart.
Predecessors and spin-offs