Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Super Swing Golf: Season Two Review

This week celebrates the ending of the PGA's last major of the year, the PGA Championship! There will be four reviews for four different golf titles, two for the Wii, and one for the PS3 and PSP apiece. Let's head to the first hole, shall we?

Power to the Pangya

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The golf game of Pangya returns to the Nintendo Wii with new courses, new characters, new costumes, and various other new additions. This game is once again modeled after the massively multiplayer online golf game, Albatross18. Does this second season of Pangya differentiate itself much from its online counterpart-- or for that matter the original Super Swing Golf-- or is this anime golf game sinking bogeys?

The biggest addition to Season 2 is the inclusion of a brand new Tour mode. This mode has players starting as the precocious young Scout or the bouncy redhead Hana as they travel from course to course challenging various Pangya players to a round of golf. You start on a world map very similar to what you'd see in New Super Mario Bros. You advance spaces by beating opponents via Match or Stroke play and by winning the various minigames, all the while earning Pang to spend on new items in the Clubhouse.

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Swinging with the Wii remote is by far my favorite way to play.

The Clubhouse has seen a massive overhaul in its array of goods-- all that can be found already on Albatross18. As you advance through Tour mode you'll unlock new goodies to purchase from sports jackets to new equipment such as newer Phoenix balls (the golf balls of Pangya) and even newer caddies. The ability to customize your character in this fashion is a fantastic bonus, and unlike Albatross18 you need not fork over real life cash to stylize your characters-- all you need is Pang. Pang is the currency of Super Swing Golf, and it's earned via completing matches in Tour mode, driving the ball an extra distance, sinking an under par opportunity, long putts, and chip-ins.

And what you equip isn't limited to looks either. What you wear and who's your caddy has an effect on how you play. Each item in the Clubhouse increases your stats in some shape or form-- either by increasing the power of your shots to see how far they can fly, giving the ball much needed spin, or giving you enough control over your shots to make sure they don't go astray.

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They don't call it Super Swing for nothing.

Making your way through each course's map isn't always so straightforward. There's alternate paths leading to hidden goodies, and multiple branching paths to take on your way to the area's boss. Best the boss of an area, and you'll be rewarded not only with new goods to purchase, but also that boss to join your team to play as. All those multiple paths lead to new matches and a lot of Pangya to be played.

Playing Pangya on the Wii isn't as simple as button-clicking. Yes, you can play that way if you desire with the traditional three-click method used in golf games from Mario Golf to Hot Shots, but the most intuitive way to play is by swinging with the Wii remote itself. Start a shot by pressing the A button. Swing the Wii remote behind you to determine your shot distance, then press down the A button and initiate your strike at that ball! Hit too far to the left, and your shot will fall to the left. Hit too far to the right, and your shot will drop to the right. Thankfully, there's a tutorial mode for players to perfect their swings.

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Sink it in the hole? Earn some Pang.

Super Swing Golf Season 2 is filled to the brim with courses. Those familiar with the original will be accustomed to most of the courses, but there's several new ones as well. There's a whopping fourteen courses in all to select from ranging from the crystal beaches of Blue Lagoon to the cherry blossom-filled Pink Wind. There's courses set in a volcanic wasteland, and there's even a course set on top militia battleships! The courses are designed decently, but some of the Par 4 holes feel a little more like Par 5 holes in their distances.

Unfortunately, the character side of things isn't as rich. There's only eight characters to select from as well as eight different caddies. Each character and caddy has their own distinct voice as well as background which is explained in the numerous loading screens. A plus about having only eight characters is that there's less work in discovering your favorite.

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If normal golf has you down, why not try Balloon Pop?

For those with friends over, there's the multiplayer mode. You can Pangya in regular stroke play or match play on 1, 3, 6, 9, or all 18 holes of a particular course. There's also numerous minigames to play such as Darts where you try to hit your ball into the target area for a certain amount of points. Or maybe you'd like to pop some balloons for points? Then there's the Driving Contest which is pretty much self-explanatory. You can even save your character to your Wii remote and bring it over to a friend's house to play.

The world of Pangya is rich and colorful. While the graphics don't press the Wii in any shape or form, what there is of the visuals is pleasant to look at and serve the Super Swing Golf world well. The music is entertaining to listen to, and there's even three themes for each golf course-- just in case you dreaded a lack of variety. Most of the voice work is passable, but there's some that can make the corniest man cringe.

What is severely lacking from Super Swing Golf Season 2 is online play. This is painfully apparent seeing as the game Season Two is based off of is an online golf title. The online system's there, so why isn't there anything here, Tecmo? Also, playing through Tour Mode can be grating as there's really only two types of matches-- either match play or stroke play-- and the only differences are the amount of holes played and the course chosen. This can get quite tedious to play through as the first half of Tour mode is mind-numbingly easy. Thankfully though, the cheap AI from the original Super Swing Golf isn't around for the party until after Tour mode is completed.

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This new lava course is quite the sight to behold.

Super Swing Golf Season 2 might not be on the level of the Hot Shots Golf series, but it's definitely trying to rival it. There's an exorbitant amount of content to play through, items to purchase, and courses to hit the links on. The glaring omission here is online play, and while it's no deal-breaker (especially with the hours upon hours one can lose in single-player play), it's still amiss regardless. Those waiting for a round of golf to play but are stuck in the coldness of winter to actually go out and play a round can find solace in this virtual form. It's not the perfect golf game, but it's getting close.

[SuperPhillip Says]

Graphics: Colorful visuals on par with the Gamecube. It works for this type of game.

Gameplay: Master button play, or use the more intuitive swing controls-- for right or left-handed golfers.

Sound: The music is particularly good. The voices? A mixed golf bag.

Replay Value: There's just so much to do here. There's Tour mode to complete 100% (good luck), Vs. CPU mode, costumes such as certain Tecmo garments to purchase, and countless hours to spend trying to do it all.

Overall: 8.0/10 - Great. The Wii's best golf game so far. Can We Love Golf top it?

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