The Backlog: Mario Golf (GBC)

Welcome back to The Backlog. The Backlog is space where we talk about games from our piles of shame: the game we've had for some time and are just now playing. This week, it's Mario Gold for the GBC. You can also checkout last month's Backlog here and last week's edition of If I Made a Game here.

It surprised me that there has only been five Mario Golf titles - and that's including the just-released World Tour on 3DS. Nintendo is no stranger to putting out golf games; Golf, released in Japan in 1984 for the NES, was its first. That made way for NES Open Tournament Golf, wherein a more traditional and dynamic course view emerged along with the Mushroom Kingdom's aristocracy and friends thereof. By 1999, there could be no doubt that Mario and pals loved them some links: Nintendo shipped two golf games that year, each sharing a name nearly as pared down as that twenty year-old release - Mario Golf.

I was ten when the Gameboy Color version released. It was the later of the two, positioned as a companion piece to the N64 original released months before. I never did get around to the portable version then, but now that I've played Mario Golf on my Gameboy Color I'll never go back to my N64 cart. Its main virtue is, unsurprisingly, that it provides a great game of golf anywhere. The way the ball reacts to a long drive or a precision fade feels just as right now as it must have back then. Its no simulation, but its internal behaviour is totally consistent. The courses are cleverly - often devilishly - designed. And the entire thing is built on top of some simple but incredibly effective RPG elements. The main drive is doing the best you can on each hole, of course, but the advent of levelling a character over time and drastically changing his or her capabilities with a gear set is strategically enticing and awfully addictive. It all looks pretty primitive today, of course, but the consensus seemed strong then that Mario Golf was one of the best golf games of its day. And it's still plenty enjoyable today.

The simplicity of its presentation is all the more stark and interesting in the wake of the new World Tour, a fun and eye-popping game that I feel goes a little too far in its introduction of shot-altering power ups and not far enough in having gear make anything but a cosmetic impact. The RPG elements of Mario Golf could also be considered extraneous, but they are considerations that directly and thoughtfully alter your control over the ball instead of simply taking control of it with flashy shots that break the exacting nature of golf. That new direction is still plenty enjoyable, but there's something to be said for how robustly the swing mechanic is built in Mario Golf, and how all of its systems compliment that accomplished core.

This series - this genre - has certainly grown since the Gameboy Color days, but the ways in which Mario Golf can still represent both the strategy of its sport and the RPG elements it taps into feels great right now. So many trips through my backlog end with a whimper, a sensation like I missed the game's most meaningful moments in time. I had no such lamentations with Mario Golf, no more or less than a challenging game of links with a great look that could go with you anywhere. With its 3DS eShop release, it could still.

Well, that does it for this edition of The Backlog. Join us next week as we set forth once more Into the Red.