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Golf Story Review

Nintendo Switch Review

First Impressions

Presentation

This top-down pixel-art style looks great, with character and environmental sprites that pop and golf courses that are colorful and show clear differences between rough, fairway, hazards, etc. Courses all look and sound different, too, with a different soundtrack for each course and varying color schemes and landscapes. Character dialogue comes in thoughtfully animated text boxes, which I love. Overall the game is cute and the music is relaxing which is just what you are looking for on a nice trip to the golf course.

Initial Thoughts

From the start I was happy to see how much freedom I had in the RPG nature of the game, which is much more than a typical sports game’s story mode (which are sometimes non-existent). It reminded me of the old Gameboy and GBA Mario Tennis games which are exactly what I was looking for as I loves those games. Players start off as an amateur golfer who quits their job and leaves his wife to pursue his childhood dream of playing golf. The golf mechanics are about what I would expect from a top-down golf game, simply aiming the shot and timing button presses for power and accuracy. However, with different cuts of grass, slopes, wind speed, wind direction, clubs, loft, spin, shot types, special shots, and obstacles to avoid, this game really pushes these simple mechanics to the absolute limit. It was fun to explore all of these options which are given from the beginning but slowly explained further throughout the campaign. I enjoyed the loop of the golfing side-quests, leveling up my character, and buying new gear, with the reward of playing in a full (9-hole) tournament at each course, and the game surprisingly kept giving me more and more to do.

Gameplay

Open World

Players are free to roam the open world and tee up a shot wherever they feel, though this mechanic rarely is useful aside from a few side quests and some secrets that can be found. Mostly the game involves walking around and talking to NPC’s who will give side quests which will typically train the player in different specialty golf situations and earn experience and money, or main quests which will push the story forward. Players can also freely play at any unlocked course to earn more money and experience at any point.

Missions

The missions in this game start off pretty fun, but it quickly becomes apparent that 80% of quests simply asked me to hit the ball into a designated area, and whether that be from the rough, around obstacles, or in powerful wind, these were rarely a challenge and grew monotonous by the end of the game. It didn’t help that these side missions and the actual course golf play were basically the same, with the normal course golf play being less challenging.

Thankfully, the “Story” part of Golf Story really holds its weight with the other 20% of the missions involve puzzles and different gameplay changes of pace including racing levels, frisbee golf levels, a Pac-Man level and more that are refreshing and usually offer a good bit of humor along the way, though frisbee golf was more annoying to me than refreshing.

Golfing

Okay so now to the golfing. This is what the game is all about, and as I’ve said, the core mechanics are pretty simple. Press (a) to start swinging, time hitting (a) at the right power, and hitting (a) again for accuracy. Players will perform this action thousands of times throughout their playtime, and this being a pixel-art top-down view of golf there were only so many possible tweaks to that formula they could add. Credit to Golf Story, though, they squeezed a whole lot of depth into that simple formula. Using different clubs to find the right distance, hitting the ball at a different point to curve or loft the ball more, adjusting approach shots to be short but more accurate, accounting for wind or slope of the ground, accounting for different cuts of rough or hazards, and utilizing special shots like max power or a focus shot that ignores wind, or a tee shot that ignores terrain effects.

All of these elements add a good amount of control over my rounds and allowed me to feel skilled for planning and executing to get a birdie and not just good at timing (a). Still these mechanics are stretched thin over the ~16 hour campaign, and its hard to say they couldn’t have done any more when they showed off the cool concept of the super max driver in one mission.

In a specific mission, the mechanics change slightly where the player uses a special driver and has to hit (a) four times in specific zones, and then tap (a) repeatedly before hitting again for accuracy. This showed that we have the potential for cool variations of shots. If there were different skill shots I could select that forced me to press (a) in different patterns like this for a great reward like more power, crazy curve, or cutting though obstacles, this would have added another layer that would have been welcome.

Progression

Throughout the campaign players earn experience and currency. Earning experience will level up the main character, allowing players to allocate skill points on power, purity, strike, ability, and spin. Each of these are vaguely named and I had to look up what those skills actually influence. There are interesting decisions to be made as power decreases all other skills, but some skills like spin have no noticeable change on the course, as balls would still roll forward considerably even with full backspin.

Different clubs could be purchased with the currency throughout the game, and these could be more interesting as eventually the best woods, irons, and wedges become clear, though the sand wedge and the water wedge may offer tactical choices going into certain courses.

Lasting Impressions

Story

The story of Golf Story is amusing, following a man who leaves his wife to play golf while meeting some lively characters along the way. It isn’t a very deep story, and I did lose interest at times skipping the dialogue that I knew would just end with me playing another round of golf. Though it isn’t memorable I do commend the effort in giving more to experience in this story mode than just hopping event to event like we see in other sports games like Dirt 5 etc.

Replayability

After the story concluded, though, I was disappointed in the lack of post-game content. There seemed to be little-to-no reason to go back into courses besides maxing out my character’s stats, but even if I did want to master each course there was not even a simple leaderboard that kept track of the best rounds played on each course.

Takeaway

I enjoyed Golf Story, but I think I enjoyed the idea of Golf Story even more. I loved the idea of RPG elements in this fun and interesting golf adventure akin to old Mario sports titles. And although Golf Story does a great job of adding twists to its extremely simple golf mechanics, the game suffers a bit from those simple mechanics growing monotonous over its 16-hour adventure. The campaign’s progression systems and story are just good enough to make up for the repetitive side quests. Anyone looking for a fun and easy-to-pick-up golf game will enjoy this and will find an entertaining campaign to experience along the way.

Pros

Fun and simple golf mechanics

Rewarding progression systems

Amusing characters

Cons

Monotonous side quests

Lacking post-game content

Hoped for deeper RPG elements

Overall

5/10

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