Nintendo has been doing a good job of providing ongoing support for its multiplayer-centric games for the last few years. Splatoon 2, Super Smash Bros., Mario Tennis Aces and, most recently, Mario Golf Super Rush have all enjoyed numerous substantial updates — both paid and free — since their respective launches.
Today, we’re going to take a look at Mario Golf’s September 2021 free update, which was announced as part of the September 2021 Nintendo Direct and available for download shortly afterwards. This is the second free update to the game since its release, with the first adding the New Donk City course and Toadette as a playable character; read all about that one here.
Mario Golf’s September 2021 update includes two new courses named Blustery Basin and Spiky Palms, plus Koopa Troopa and Ninji as new playable characters. I put the two courses through their paces in a game of 4-player Speed Golf against CPU players, trying out one of the new characters on each course.
Blustery Basin is a snowy course that features a lot of Ty-Foos blasting wind across the fairway. The course as a whole is arranged in a kind of circular “hub” arrangement with interconnected fairways, with each hole tasking you with getting from one point on the hub to another. Consequently, there’s a rather free and open feel to the course; even on the shorter holes, there’s a sense that you can very much pick what route you feel like taking to your destination — though note there are plenty of trees and inconveniently placed banks around the place to make life a bit tricky.
The “intertwining” nature of this course gives the whole thing a very distinct feel, since you’ll find multiple holes will see you passing over familiar and recognisable geographical features. Over time, you’ll determine the best way to navigate around the course’s various obstacles and the proper timing to get you past the Ty-Foos; the latter is especially important during rounds of Speed Golf since although you want your shot to end up on target, you also don’t want to give your opponents too much of a head start!
I used Ninji on Blustery Basin. Ninji is quite a speedy character but his Special Shot proved to be a little troublesome on this course in particular; rather than simply being a powerful shot, his Special Shot bounces several times on the way to its destination, blasting balls and opponents out of the way as it does so. Unfortunately, with the prevalence of trees and banks on this course, these bounces occur at extremely inconvenient moments far more often than you might perhaps like, making it a bit of a liability to use the Special Shot on this course in particular. Evidently he’s best suited to courses that are a little more flat and, dare I say it, “conventional”.
Spiky Palms, meanwhile, is a deserty course where you play your round at sunset. This makes for some very attractive lighting conditions in which to enjoy your round of golf, and gives Spiky Palms a distinctive atmosphere all of its own.
Like Blustery Basin, Spiky Palms’ holes criss-cross over one another somewhat, but there’s less of a “hub” feeling to the level. Instead, the core feature of Spiky Palms is the various waterways that meander throughout the course, with most holes involving a touch of island-hopping over narrow water hazards.
The water hazards themselves aren’t difficult to avoid — assuming someone’s Special Shot doesn’t knock your ball into one, of course — but Spiky Palms hasn’t put them there to make your shots more difficult; rather, the waterways are there to make games of Speed Golf a bit more challenging, since none of the characters can swim. As a result, in order to cross any of the rivers and streams that wander over the course, you’ll need to find bridges, sometimes meaning you’ll have to go a bit out of your way to make it to your ball.
There is an alternative, though; some characters’ Special Dash allows them to pass over water safely and, as it happens, Koopa Troopa, the character I tried out Spiky Palms with, is one of them. Koopa Troopa’s Special Dash sees him retreat into his shell, spin rapidly and move at high speed (including skimming over water hazards) until his stamina runs out; unlike most other characters, his Special Dash will continue until he is exhausted rather than for a set amount of time, so most of the time it’s probably in your interests to set it off at full stamina.
Because if you run out of stamina, the Special Dash ends — and if you’re in the middle of a water hazard… well, Koopas may be turtles, but they apparently can’t swim.
Both courses are an enjoyable addition to Mario Golf’s lineup. They’re both less obviously gimmicky than the New Donk City course, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their own distinctive charms — and their more conventional, simple scenery works rather better in Mario Golf’s graphics engine than New Donk City does.
The new characters, meanwhile, are fun to play as but perhaps don’t feel quite as distinctive as they could — at least at first glance, anyway. Doubtless over time and after playing a few more games they’ll show their own unique benefits and drawbacks a little more clearly, but if you were hoping for a reason to drag yourself away from Best Girl Daisy, then, well, I don’t know what to tell you.
More than anything, it’s pleasing that Nintendo is offering these new additions to Mario Golf for free. They could have easily charged money for this, but since the game is a somewhat more niche-interest affair than something like Smash Bros., it makes sense for them to want to keep the entire somewhat smaller playerbase on the same level rather than fragmenting it into DLC-haves and have-nots. So hooray for that.
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