Wednesday, August 13, 2008

We Love Golf (Wii) Review

Golf week continues with an entirely brand new review! Check out to see if We Love Golf outclasses Super Swing Golf Season Two as best Wii golf game!

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Then why don't we go marry it?

Camelot is a name pretty much synonymous with golf games. Who else could tailor and craft such competent to excellent titles such as the original Mario Golf, the Gamecube Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour, as well as beginning the highly successful Playstation brand of golf games, the Hot Shots Golf series? Sure, the Nintendo faithful would rather Camelot get to work on the third installment of the popular Golden Sun series, but that doesn't mean that their most recent golf outing, We Love Golf, isn't worthy of praise or at the very least a modicum of attention. Does Camelot sink another eagle with their latest trip to the links, or should they hang up their collective golf bag for good?

We Love Golf is your typical Japanese golf game filled with anime-inspired characters, bright and colorful courses, and addicting gameplay. There's a multitude of modes for players to sink their balls into (yep, I went there). Tournament mode pits players against twenty-nine CPU opponents in 18 holes of fierce competition. Simply enough, the best score after exhibition play wins the tournament and progresses to the next course. You won't ever see your competition during play, so really you're only competing against yourself and the errors you may or may not burden yourself with (and the set score of the highest CPU player during each tournament). Don't be surprised when you beat the field with a score of -13 while your closest competitor is at +23. However, it's deceptively easy. As you complete the first series of tournaments, a new tournament mode unlocks featuring harder greens, fiercer conditions, and harder competition. Even after beating the Pro Tournament, the Mirror Tournament unlocks where the CPU's best scores are anywhere from -7 to -13. So easy birdies in the original tournament mode may become much more difficult to attain in later competitions. Each time you come within the top three of a courses' tournament you unlock a brand new course to play on. There's eight total ranging from a seaside resort to a Japanese garden to a beautiful desert oasis. Each course is varied enough both in challenge and design to keep things fresh with a bevy of different obstacles to circumvent around.

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The courses are quite nice to gawk at.

If tournament isn't your immediate preference, there's a number of other modes to play through. There's the Near-Pin contest which has three exclusive short courses where the goal is to aim and hit as close to the hole as possible (or at least make it on the green). Then there's the Camelot favorite, Ring Shot. Mario Golf veterans should be familiar with this mode by now. There's six levels on each of the eight courses where the aim of the game is to drive the ball through all rings and make it into the hole with par. The first courses are simple enough, but later levels can prove to be quite challenging. One will have you needing to ricochet the ball of a mountainside to have it fly through two rings. Moreover, there's also Target Golf with four modes each-- approach, tee shot, second shot, and putting. You have ten tries to beat the target score as you aim for a target filled with multiple point values. The closer to the hole you are, the better the point value with a hole-in-one being worth 100 points.

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As you'd expect there's a ragtag group of characters to select from. Only two are available at the beginning of WLG, but by playing the Vs. Play mode you can unlock more for a total of ten characters. You can even unlock the ability to choose from your collection of Miis. There's nothing funnier than playing as a hispanic-speaking David Letterman Mii. After beating a character once you can challenge them again for a stronger version. This can be done up to three times for some powerful hitters. Just a word of warning though, their shots can be much trickier to time. Despite that, the characters themselves don't really emanate too much personality. They're just your typical pro golfer, young whippersnapper, girl with glasses, et cetera- type of bunch. Thankfully since Capcom produced this title, there's a Capcom-themed costume for each of the ten characters to unlock via in-game challenges such as completing Ring Shot to beating Tournament mode. There's Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, Guile, and Sakura from the Street Fighter series, Zack and Captain Rose from Zack and Wiki, Arthur from the Ghost and Goblins franchise, along with many more. Unfortunately, there's no Mega Man costumes which had me befuddled a bit. A small problem, but a problem nonetheless.

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Arthur is just one of the ten costumes aspiring champions can unlock.

The BIG problem with the majority of Wii golf games is that they don't truly mimic an actual golf swing, or when they attempt to, they don't work as well as they're supposed to (see Tiger Woods '08). On the other hand, We Love Golf does an admirable job of simulating a realistic enough golf swing albeit with its own quirks. For instance, instead of simply performing a golf swing and having the power and angle of your shot calculate as to how far and where your ball will go, WLG institutes the traditional three click swing mechanic found in Camelot's past golf expeditions. By pointing the Wii remote upwards, you'll get an overhead view of the current hole. By aiming the Wii remote at the screen, you'll be able to get a peek at the vicinity of where your ball is projected to land. After selecting the appropriate club (if needed) by cycling through them via the plus and minus buttons, you can use the d-pad to move the cursor around to select exactly where you'd like to shoot for. Pointing the Wii remote downward towards the ground puts the camera and game into shot mode. Holding the A button will allow you to begin your shot. You then swing back far enough to reach the target marker on the power gauge at the bottom of the screen. When the cursor hits the target market it will start heading in the opposite direction. You time your downward swing for when the cursor hits the impact zone of the gauge. The closer your timing is to the impact zone, the straighter and better your shot will be. Of course, the Wii remote mascot will tell you this from your own controller. Thankfully, you can turn it off if you choose to. It actually helped me in getting my rhythm down.

Unlike something like Hot Shots Golf where your projected landing site is portrayed by a grid shape, WLG's projection shows actually where the ball will hit and even which way it will roll. Now this may seem completely stupid and easy at first, it can trip you up at times (and in a good way). First, the projection does not factor in wind velocity at all. Second, the projection does not factor in the current lie of your ball, so you'll have to guess if you're in the rough or a bunker. Lastly, the projection does not really factor the slope of the green, so there is some guesswork to be done. In fact, after playing this game for over forty hours, I've only managed to sink a hole-in-one twice as opposed to Hot Shots Golf Fore where I've sunk four. Anecdotal evidence, but evidence all the same!

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Once you get used to the swing system, you can pull off some spectacular shots.

At first, the swing mechanic takes a little getting used to, but after a few holes or so you'll think of it as second nature. Thankfully, the developers through in the ability for practice swings which are performed by holding the B trigger instead of the A button for when you're setting up a shot. The mechanic doesn't feel as natural as a realistic golf swing as there's the timing of the down stroke to consider (if you want an actual golf swing, wait for Tiger Woods '09 which promises this feature to almost 1:1 movement). However, it still feels very good and rewarding. A cool and literal twist on the formula is that you can actually twist the Wii remote to the left or to the right to hook and slice your ball to the left or right. This is perfect for when a straight shot would have your ball crashing into a mountainside or Rosie O'Donnell is in your way, and a slice to the right would angle the shot just to the right of the obstruction. Well, perhaps in Rosie's case you'd want to hit her... hard. Backspin and topspin are executed merely by holding the 1 or 2 button during a shot and are perfect for gaining some extra yardage on a mammoth par 5 or putting the brakes on a ball on a particularly fast green. And hey, if you make a particularly cool shot, you can watch a replay of it in the options menu, a feature that I couldn't believe Super Swing Golf didn't even have.

A feature that Japanese We Love Golf players didn't even have that Capcom USA happily included for Western release is online rounds which can be played either with an anonymous stranger from around the world or a pal via those damned friend codes. Regardless of the mode you select, you match play a series of holes and the player with the most wins is the victor. I would have preferred to have a choice between stroke play and match play online, but this current online system is better than no online system. I particularly enjoyed the time limit for each player. Don't make your shot within the time limit? Then you lose that hole. How's THAT for you people who decide they have to pee while I'M playing you!

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This is the fifth of eight courses of different challenge and design.

On the aesthetic side of the course, We Love Golf features a very bright, colorful, and eye-catching presentation to it. Characters are animated well, the game chugs along smoothly at almost all times, and the game is genuinely pleasing to look at to the majority of us who have played an HD system and haven't said they can't go back to SD ever again. The sound side of the course features the composition of one of the busiest composers in the game industry today, the irreplaceable Motoi Sakuraba of Tales, Golden Sun, and Star Ocean fame (among others). The voice work is good even if the lines the actors speak range from passable to punishing. Overall, WLG is an admirable effort for the Wii's hardware-- though the Wii is capable of much more.

We Love Golf offers a lot of content for both players who've never set foot on a real life golf course to those who eat, sleep, and breathe golf and for those who love golf games and can't stand playing golf in reality such as yours truly. Blasted bugs and sunburns! WLG has many modes, many unlockables, many challenges, and many hours to invest and play through. Online play only enhances the experience offering closer competition than you'll find in the main game. The characters may be cookie-cutter and the difficulty may be nonexistent in the beginning stages of the game, but that doesn't detract enough from the experience to bar a recommendation. We Love Golf is one of my favorite golf titles in a long time. It's not perfect, but it's still a blast to play.

[SuperPhillip Says]

Graphics: Nothing that will make you weep with envy, but it's all rather pleasing all the same.

Gameplay: Getting the swing of things may take a little getting used to, but once you have it down cold it feels second nature. Just don't swing like that on a real life golf course.

Sound: Nothing really horrible to complain about regarding voices. The Wii remote may get on your nerves, however. Lastly, Motoi Sakuraba is fantastic as always.

Replay Value: There's eight courses, three tournaments, ten characters, multiple modes, ten Capcom costumes to unlock, and online fun to be had. There's plenty to do in We Love Golf.

Overall: 8.75/10 - Excellent. The most fun I've had with golf since Hot Shots Golf Fore. It's a great little golf game deserving of attention.

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