Product provided by SideBar Games
When I initially heard of a game combining elements of both Golf and Earthbound, I was skeptical. Never being a fan of Golf games myself, I was not sure how this would turn out. Would this be my cup of tee (pun-intended), or would it fall flat on its face? As I’ve only played mini games of the sport, I decided to dive in, and what’s under the hood of Golf Story is everything that I hoped it’d be.
The story begins with a young boy first learning the ropes of Golf with his father, which quickly progresses you twenty years into the future, where you are now a young man wanting to return to the sport that bonded him with his father. The city you once knew and loved has now gone corrupt, with the courses being overrun by Lucky (a character you will meet in the tutorial). The characters will help aid you to glory, but not without a challenge. Throughout the eight varied environments, the player will encounter multiple side quests that steer you away from the campaign in an enjoyable change of pace. The core gameplay of the title is what matters the most, and it is the most simplified yet entertaining Golf experience that I’ve ever played.
Golf Story’s visual appeal is in its 16-bit graphical design, they are nothing mindblowing, but they do the job. They put the character into an atmosphere that feels like a successor to Earthbound. Everything has color to it, making all the environments vibrant and very unique to one another. I decided to play through most of my experience in handheld mode, which is where some of the issues come into play. It runs at 720p 60fps on the handheld, but random blackouts and stuck speech bubbles steered me away at times. After finally finishing the last hole of a long course, my game would crash and cause me to restart. These didn’t happen frequently enough to where I’d consider it “game-breaking”, but enough times for me to take notice. On the other hand, the docked version runs at 1080p 60fps, where I have not seen any problems myself. HD Rumble is utilized in this game more than any other, where good hits and bad shots will be felt. There is even a callback to the Wii, with small sound clips that come out of the controllers. Other companies should take note, as this enhanced the experience and made the quality feel so much higher. Overall everything seems to run fairly smooth, but a few hiccups here and there stirred away from what was otherwise a enjoyable journey. The developers have been notified of these random outcomes and have begun working on a patch. Gameplay:
When booting up the game for the very first time, you’ll be entered into a simple enough tutorial. Through there, you will learn the basics of the game and how to shoot your shot. While the main story is revolved around improving your Golf abilities, side-quests will have you throwing “discs” to earn money on the side, or improving your endurance and a wide variety of other minigames to interact with. The first few rounds of golf start off fairly simple; you can maneuver your location and distance based off a bar on the bottom of the screen, two diamonds will move from side to side and by pressing A you can choose how hard you hit the ball/how far the ball will go. It sounds simple enough, but overtime obstacles will be thrown into your path (including moles, birds, and wind, to name a few). The disc (not frisbee, please do not call them that) minigames play almost like remote-controlled planes, easy to learn but hard to master. While other side quests like running around trying to deliver objects and prove your worth are satisfying, they don’t prove to be memorable moments and are often forgotten. Dialogue is also a key feature to the game, as every scene is filled with communication between a group of characters. Speech bubbles are how you can read the story play out, with emphasis being put into some and the font becoming really small once a character was scared, it was a really neat touch. Perhaps the most enjoyable addition is the ability to drop a ball at anytime and swing anywhere. This gives you the freedom to just hit shots to wherever you please, including at side characters, who will often react with funny phrases or noises that make the world feel alive. However there were times when the gameplay got rather difficult due to all the wind affects and animals, but that added to the enjoyment so that I wouldn’t have to breeze through the main campaign. For those not looking to jump into the campaign each time, there is also a couch co-op Quick Play mode which allows the player and a friend to enjoy rounds of golf together. This mode is perfect for the Switch because only one joy-con is needed to play, meaning you will always have co-op capabilities wherever you are.
The sound effects throughout the game vary in each region/event, but most prove to be moreorless very generic themes. Yet in Golf Story, they work like a charm. They sound retro but new all at once, and give a greater sense of wonder and fun. Each theme sounds so familiar even though this is my first time hearing them. There is nothing revolutionary about them, but they get the job done in such a good way. Character growth also exists between all the characters you meet, as some will grow jealous while others will give you new tasks. Each time the player is given a new activity they take a note, which can then be viewed by pressing + to view the selection screen. There is a ton of stuff to love about this game, and hopefully even more to uncover.
As someone that was never a fan of the sports genre, Golf Story grabbed my attention in more ways than I could ever imagine. It’s charming, quirky, colorful, and super unique, and by far one of the best exclusives on the console. It works as a perfect combination of an RPG and a sports game, and I would love to see more variations of this gameplay style down the road. For only $15, this game makes a great impression and gives the player freedom to do as they want for many hours. It may not be the longest story in gaming, but there is so much to do that makes the purchase worth it. I definitely recommend this to anyone wanting something exciting before the big players hit the Switch.