Get More Pang For Your Buck
PANGYA: Fantasy Golf is a PSP version of Albatross18, an online golf MMO that's incredibly popular in Japan. Here in the West? Not so much. Since its release we've seen two console versions of the series on the Wii under the guise of Super Swing Golf. The North American publisher has switched hands from Tecmo to Tomy, so now we have a brand new name for a brand new installment in the series-- PANGYA: Fantasy Golf. Is this game a golfer's fantasy, or is it more of a nightmare?
Pangya is a game a lot like Earth's golf, but the course design is more imaginative, the cast of characters is more wacky, and the abilities of each player are much more fictional (e.g. hitting a ball around a lighthouse at a sharp arc to the left, so it lands perfectly behind the lighthouse). It's certainly a wacky sport. What else can you say about it when the beginnings of the sport revolve around a hero hitting a magical ball into a hole in order to plug all the evil coming out of it? Not much is what I say. With phenomenal shots, extravagant course design, and giant white bears playing alongside human loli-girls, this isn't your father's golf. It's pangya!
There's a lot of content to play through in PANGYA: Fantasy Golf, and the first is the Story Mode. Story Mode is one of two main areas of PANGYA: Fantasy Golf. It follows a ragtag group of characters each with their own reasons for coming to the mystical island to play pangya. There are two episodes to play through. First you complete the original eight character's story modes, and then the second episode opens up featuring brand new characters to play as bringing the total to eighteen. Once you complete a character's story, you'll unlock them for use in the other modes. The characters range from a galactic cop after a loli-pirate, a beer-bellied police officer whose heart is his guide, a cute aquatic creature named Dolfini, and many more. Each character has a set number of matches to play through. Some only have five story events while others may have seven or eight. The events are either three or six hole match play games or a nine hole tournament. There's also tutorials to master your swing, learn new shots such as the powerful Tomahawk and Cobra shots, and get a feel for a new expanse of the game.
The other main mode of PANGYA: Fantasy Golf is the Tournament Mode where players go against the field on all nine courses for nine or eighteen holes of golf... er... pangya. Victory rewards a brand new costume set for your character to wear as well as prize money in the form of pang. Some of the early tournaments are no sweat, but later tournaments can become increasingly more frustrating as your opponents seem to get overly lucky-- an eagle here, a hole-in-one there. You have to play at the top of your game or get lucky yourself to have a chance at winning. Of course, you have to earn the right to compete in a course's tournament first.
License mode is where this happens. You get a choice of a flurry of different events to partake in each with a different experience point value. Complete the event to earn experience points. Accumulate enough experience, and you'll unlock the ability to play in tournaments for that course. Events include challenges where you need to reach a specific score or amount of pang before the round ends, approach matches against other players, and chip-in and hole-in-ones challenges where you get ten shots to reach the cup in one. There's more than enough events that you'll seldom get stuck being forced to play the most difficult ones just to advance.
Speaking of pang and costumes, for each action you perform on the pangya course, you earn pang, the currency of PANGYA: Fantasy Golf. You get pang from tournaments, yes, but you can also accumulate money through normal play. Drive your ball further than expected? Have some pang. Sink a chip-in shot? Here's some pang. Get a par, birdie, eagle, albatross, or hole-in-one? Nope. No pang. Psych! Here's a load of pang for you. You get the idea. Pang can be used to purchase new attire to customize your pangya players which can be mixed and matched accordingly, buy new golf equipment such as club sets and aztecs (the golf balls of pangya), and to play the lottery game for new items and rare costumes. Wearing a new wardrobe during a round nets you a percentage boost from your pang round total for even more pang to spend.
Sure, you have to play well to earn pang, and you have to master the multiple venues of the island if you want to earn loads. There are nine courses in all in PANGYA: Fantasy Golf, and they really put the fantasy golf part of the game's title through the ringer. The first course, Blue Lagoon, immediately does away with any design Jack Nicklaus would ever come up with. There's holes where you're driving the ball from island to island, holes where you need to chip the ball around the boundaries of a whimsical castle, and tons of bunkers and water hazards to contend with. Each course has its own theme from a valley full of dangerous windmills to playing on the soil of an active volcano with lava flowing near your feet. These are courses even Tiger Woods might not want to tackle. Still, not all is well with the course design. Early on you'll have par 3s that will take you two shots to reach the green when they should traditionally just take one, and par 4s that require three shots to even have a chance at the green. Thankfully, there are tricks to shortening the amount of strokes it takes otherwise there would be a bigger problem.
Thankfully there's no problem with PANGYA's controls. The game uses the traditional three click method. The first click starts the meter, the second sets the strength of your shot, and the third sets the accuracy. Special shots such as topspin, backspin, and fantasy shots like the Cobra and Tomahawk are performed by setting where you want to strike the ball via the PSP's analog nub, pressing a direction on the d-pad or tapping the shoulder buttons before the gauge passes halfway on the way back, and making excellent contact with the ball. It takes a bit of skill in order to accomplish the trickier shots PANGYA throws at you.
PANGYA: Fantasy Golf has an adequate amount of appreciation dedicated to its presentation. Visually the game isn't as technologically impressive as the Hot Shots Golf series on PSP, but it's no pushover either. There's a ton of jaggies that abound. Some of the girl characters' legs you could dice onions on; that's how bad it can get. There's some graphical glitches with the camera. Sometimes the underside of holes can be seen or a choppy wall allows you to see through it. There's no voice acting which could have brought some life to the characters. Thankfully Story Mode does an adequate enough job of doing so, but it isn't necessarily enough. The lack of a saved shot feature is a missed opportunity. Being able to review your favorite shots such as an awesome albatross from 250 yards away would have been a great feature, and it's something I think golf games nowadays should have as a standard feature.
[SuperPhillip Says: 8.5/10]