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Innovation in sports games can often be a challenge. The two styles of the genre, arcade and simulation, have pretty much been etched into the stone of its foundation since the Atari days. I respect any attempts to mix up these formulas, with perhaps the most successful being the introduction of RPG elements. The Mario Golf series has often been the blueprint of how to do this, but when the franchise tries too hard to have its RPG cake alongside a heaping helping of simulation-style gameplay pie, the simplicity the franchise has been known for is cast aside for frustration and additions that undermine the quality of the ideas the series was built on.
Mario Golf: Super Rush is the Switch’s entry in the long-running golf series, developed as usual by Camelot. They’ve made every Mario Golf (and Mario Tennis game, for that matter), with a straight line down the middle between their more straightforward home releases that included more modes and activities, and portable games that included a story mode in which you raise a character’s stats and take on Mario and the gang with your own golfer. With the Switch acting as both a home console and a portable, Camelot saw fit to combine the experiences of both kinds of game, trying to have a variety of modes while also including the RPG story mode.
Unfortunately, it feels like trying both of these things, while also trying to bring more realism into the series, has made for a bit of a jumbled mess here. The RPG, instead of being its own experience, feels like nothing more than introductions to the new modes and mechanics that are stuffed into the game. Said additions are half-baked and unfun, such as the bizarre XC Golf, which has you play through the entire course at once, starting each new hole wherever your ball lands. On top of this, you often have to hit the ball into whirlwinds to reach higher holes, which is incredibly difficult when you add the sim aspects into this. The aforementioned simulation aspects, which add more randomness to your swing to theoretically mix up matches, mostly just makes for more shouts of “COME ON I AIMED RIGHT THERE WHY DID IT FLY TO THE RIGHT SO HARD!!!????” There’s also a lot less personality in this mode, where instead of new characters in the RPG mode, you just play as your Mii, who makes absolutely revolting noises every time they talk.
This lack of personality bleeds into the rest of the game. Something people loved about the older titles was how characters would react to their scores. Here, there are both measurably fewer and noticeably less-quality reactions compared to older titles, with characters reacting the same to getting a bogey through triple bogey. I want to see Waluigi suffer, dammit, why are you forsaking me? They’ve even added some fan favorite characters, such as Pauline and King Bob-omb, who barely have a chance to shine, making their debuts feel limp. Even though each character has unique special moves they can use every once in a while, they get pretty old pretty fast, and none of them are a visual treat in the first place. Yeah, alright, Yoshi hits an egg. We get it.
The Speed Golf mode…oh boy this mode. I do not even understand what’s going on here. The twist here is that everyone hits the ball at once, and between shots you have to run to where your ball lands. Is there a major reason to get to the ball faster? Do you get any bonuses for this? Not really. You can pick up coins, I guess. Your time is a part of your score, but it doesn’t factor in a major way to how well you swing your club. You can knock your opponents over to keep them from playing for like three seconds. But the actual score is mostly about your stroke count, so it all feels moot. The third mode, Battle Golf, is basically a smaller version of the XC Golf mode with everyone playing at once on a very small arena course. It’s a first to three holes game, it lasts like five minutes, and doesn’t feel good at all.
All of these things could be a bit less annoying if there weren’t also those simulation aspects! Your slice changes slightly due to random chance, which lessens if you hit the ball softer. This can make your swings fly wildly off from where you expect, which does happen in real life, but in a fantastical golf world where you sometimes have to aim directly for tornadoes to boost your ball upwards, it gets extremely grating.
I couldn’t help but think about old golf games, Neo Turf Masters of course, but also Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour in particular. Toadstool Tour was exactly what I wanted from this release: a cute, easy-to-slide-into golf game with some Mario personality and simple mechanics. Super Rush is a bloated mess, which says a lot when there’s a pretty basic amount of content in the game. It’s not as bad as Mario Tennis was at the start of the Switch’s life span, but what should’ve been a lean golf game with a fun RPG mode feels like a bunch of wasted effort to prop up modes that dampen the experience.
Mario Golf: Super Rush isn’t a complete disaster. There’s still some solid gameplay under the pile of unnecessary muck heaped onto it. It’s a massive headache that you have to dig so deep to find a fun time, and that even then you’ll be met with frustration if the wind decides to make your ball shift left. It seems like Nintendo is going to be adding more to the game over time, and that might make it an easier recommendation, but the way the game is now, I’d rather play almost any other Mario Golf game, or even something like Everybody’s Golf.