Monday, August 24, 2020

Golf Story (NSW) Review

Following the announcement last week of Sidebar Games' Sports Story and the following disappointment from fans from that announcement, I wanted to finally check out the developer's first game, Golf Story, and see just what all the aforementioned disappointment was about and what I've been missing all of this time. Now that I've played the game... darn it, now I'm disappointed about the delay of Sports Story, too! See why with my review of Golf Story for the Nintendo Switch. 

A solid time on the links

As a famous Rolling Stones song goes, "You can't always get what you want." And boy, do many Mario fans know that. Between the lack of traditional Mario RPGs nowadays and the lack of Mario sports RPGs in the vein of the Game Boy Mario Golf and Mario Tennis games, Nintendo has left a massive hole in many fans' hearts. Thankfully, Sidebar Games is more than happy to provide a solution to the latter with its own original take on Mario Golf-style sports-themed RPGs with Golf Story. I'm pleased to say that the developer mostly succeeds here, nailing its first shot off the tie with fantastic results.

Golf Story's... story sees you playing as a golfer who wishes to make it to the pros, but first he must find a coach to teach him the ropes and get his game in working order. From there, the golfing adventures takes players across a world map filled with unique courses, characters, and quests to take on and complete. In all, the campaign of Golf Story lasted me just over ten hours to complete, and most of it kept me entertained from beginning to end. The story itself is humorous more often than not, taking you through a colorful world of kooky characters where your golfer pretty much plays the straight man to the insanity of their world. That said, the game does have a nasty habit of being a bit verbose to the point of annoyance at times, occasionally trying a bit too hard to make the player laugh and becoming long in the tooth in the process.

The world map in Golf Story connects all of the game's courses together.
A major piece to Golf Story's Story Mode is exploring the many courses that open up one by one in your golfer's adventure. Along the way, you'll encounter numerous NPCs which task you with completing various quests that mostly have to deal with golf-related objectives that instill the fundamentals of the game to you. Whether it's learning how to hit fairways, make difficult chip shots, play out of bunkers, practice proficient putting, or a myriad other important concepts, you'll need to take on a heavy number of challenges if you want to make pro. Many of these occur on the links themselves, while others bring some more creativity into the mix, such as having you need to hit bait into specially marked areas of water for fish to consume, which helps teach you precision driving and chipping.

Use Precision Mode to more accurately aim your shots in this chipping-intensive quest.
Just mind the slope and the wind!
Then there are other types of golf like Disc Golf and Mini Golf introduced to keep the fun coming. Other quests remove golf entirely from the equation, having you take on fetch quests, engage in foot races, and even control certain machinery to complete the quest offered. The point here is that the variety is strong in Golf Story, giving players enough to keep the experience fresh enough to remain enjoyable. Additionally, the bonus of being able to tee off anywhere in a given area to complete certain challenges and further progress makes for a gameplay mechanic that is oftentimes cleverly used throughout the Story Mode.

Completing quests not only progresses the game, allowing you to compete in more significant challenges like Match Play events against characters and full-fledged nine-hole rounds on courses, but it also gives your golfer experience points as well. Like a traditional RPG, once you earn enough experience points, your golfer levels up, granting you points to use to increase various stats, such as power, accuracy, control, and spin. 

Words to live by for this old man perhaps, but not for THIS golfer!
When it concerns the actual golf in Golf Story, what you get is a simple yet engaging three-click system (or I guess in this case, a "three-press" system). Pressing the button once starts the gauge, a second press will set the power and distance of your shot, and the final press of the button will set the accuracy. It's nothing that players of modern arcade golf games like Mario Golf and Everybody's Golf won't feel accustomed to or familiar with right from the beginning. Making Golf Story's system an easier time is the ability to utilize Precision Mode, which grants you the ability to adjust the distance of your shot in order to visualize where it will land by manually sliding the distance marker of your shot. While this does help set up your shots more easily, it's definitely not an "instant win" feature, as you still need to factor in other variables such as wind velocity, hazards like trees, rocks and bunkers, and when it concerns the green, its slope direction and surface speed. 

Everything in Golf Story is done in this top-down perspective--putting, driving, chipping, etc.
The courses of Golf Story run the gamut of both locales and challenge. You have the starting Wellworn Greens, featuring wide open fairways, minimal hazards, and easy-to-reach greens; and then you have more fantastical courses such as the prehistoric Lurker Valley with tar pits to lose one's ball in, the high cliffs and steep chasms of Cheekybeak Peak (also featuring the titular birds which will scoop up your ball and transport it to a usually less than stellar lie if your ball stops near them), and the winter wonderland of Coldwind Wastes, complete with slippery ice and snow that will stop a ball dead in its tracks if it lands inside. 

Golf Story is a gorgeous game with splendidly done sprites and colorful environments. While the music didn't impress me at first, with its flatulating brass and uneventful tunes, as the game progressed, I became a fan as tunes became catchier and had better sounding instrumentation. The game's music simply didn't leave me with a good first impression, but by the end, I was in love. Another part of the presentation that I loved is something I don't go into much with regard to Nintendo Switch games, and that's the HD Rumble. If you can, play Golf Story with the Joy-Cons, and specifically with them detached. The way the rumble accents text bubbles, whether they're expanding or contracting based on the way a character speaks and the emotion they exude is impressive, but more so is how the controller vibrates with an ebb and flow as you sink a putt into the cup or make strong contact with the ball. It's amazing and one of the best uses of HD Rumble I've experienced with the Nintendo Switch--obviously so for me to mention it in one of my reviews.

Even without its Story Mode attached, I believe there would be enough here with Golf Story to make for a good game of top-down golf. Thankfully, however, there's no need to be concerned with that, as not only do you get a good game of golf with Golf Story, but you also get an overall well done Mario-style golf RPG as well (though not without its issues, of course)! With its strong mix of rewarding exploration, creative scenarios, and solid golf mechanics, Golf Story, for the most part, comes off of the golf course and into the clubhouse a champion.

[SPC Says: B+]

No comments: