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FORE! It's time to take to the links again with the Nintendo/Camelot Software sequel to the Nintendo 64 title Mario Golf. Mario, Luigi, and a cast of famous Nintendo characters hit the courses for a friendly game of golf in 2003's Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour. This Nintendo GameCube title brings the best elements of the original Mario Golf, enhances them, and adds plenty of new things to keep duffers busy for a long time to come. There's traditional golf challenges for up to four players as well as a number of side-games to test your swinging skills. Courses range from the standard greens to Chain Chomp-infested bunkers to water hazards to warp pipes. The Toadstool Tour has something for everyone.

The heart of the game is the Tournament mode where up to four players compete against computer-controlled players. The computer players do not actually play live on screen; instead the scores of twenty players (including human players) appear on the scoreboard between holes. Placing first in a Tournament game unlocks another set of eighteen holes. Character Match pits human vs. computer controlled mascot in a quest to score better than the opponent in ten holes out of eighteen. Ring mode challenges players to not only score par, but also send the ball through a series of rings suspended throughout the course. Coin Shoot mode requires players to gather coins with their shots as well as finish within par. Speed Golf requires a fast finish in a "beat the clock" style of mayhem. Stroke Match is played as in traditional golf; whoever scores the lowest number of strokes over eighteen holes wins. Skins Match is also available where 2-4 players compete for points awarded on each hole. Club Slots limits the number of clubs available on a course. There's a Doubles mode where players take turns hitting the same ball over a course, switching off between shots. Let's not forget the number of side-games that will help improve your skills, such as the Birdie Match, Pin Practice, and Putt Practice. A training mode rounds out the game to help players learn the basics of the game. The game will hold you to the rules of golf despite all the Mushroom Kingdom scenery. On-screen indicators will show you weather conditions, wind, golf club choice, swing meter, guide path, impact zone, range marker, and ball lie. If these words don't mean anything to you, don't worry - the instruction manual explains how it all works and even provides a golf glossary to help you with the terminology of the game.

So, who's teeing off this round? Nintendo has assembled an all-star team of characters, each whom has a differing style of golf. Some hook, some slice, and some hit straight. Each character as their own quirks, and it's advised that players try them all until they find one that compelments their own style of play. The playable characters include...

One of Toadstool Tour's best features is its personality. This game simply oozes character. Each Nintendo mascot reacts in different, unique ways to events that occur during the game. If Yoshi double bogeys, for example, he'll spin around and fall down in defeat like he did in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island after taking a hit. Likewise, if Wario scores well on a hole he'll slap his rear end and proclaim himself to be hot stuff. Players can taunt each other with fun little quotes during play, and each character has a unique way of teeing off. Donkey Kong, with his massive size, can whack the ball single-handedly, whereas a little guy like Koopa Troopa has to put his whole body into a swing. The visuals are everything you'd expect from a recent GameCube title: crisp, clean, well animated, and pleasant to watch. The music features some new tunes in addition to remixed melodies that span from the original Super Mario Brothers to Super Mario 64 and beyond. Voice clips add to the experience as the characters speak their mind when they feel the need.

Like most newer Nintendo games Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour will connect to the Game Boy Advance. The upcoming Mario Golf: Advance Tour will allow gamers to develop their own custom characters in a RPG setting, and these characters can be imported into MG:TT for play against the Nintendo cast. Adding to the interaction are the online golf tournaments. Nintendo and a variety of retailers are sponsoring special tournaments during the month of August 2003. Target, Hollywood Video, and Blockbuster Video are distributing special passwords with purchase/rental of the game and, after playing a round of golf with the password, the game will give back another password that can be inputted into the Mario Golf website. Top scores are posted on the leaderboard and cheaters who use GameSharks and Action Replays to fabricate passwords for impossible scores (such as eighty under par) are disqualified. It is unknown if the special passwords unlock a finite number of tournaments or if the passwords are encoded with the name of the tournament, meaning that an indefinite number of tournaments could be hosted in the future. It is unknown how many tournaments, if any, will be hosted in the future.

Even if you're not a golfer I'm betting you'll have a good time with this game. It will take you a while to explore all the different play modes and unlock the secret characters, courses, and challenges, and the multiplayer modes make the game a worthy addition to your video game library. Get ready for fun when you tee off with Mario and friends in Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour.

* Denotes a secret character


References:
Game manual
http://www.GameFAQs.com

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