Review – Golf Story – Teeing Up For Adventure
For most of my gaming life, I’ve never been typically drawn to sports titles. Games of that genre have had to find a unique approach to entice me to play them. Golf Story is a title that did this for me, but after several hours of playing it, I’m not sure it’s fair to really call it a sports title at all.
Golf Story puts you in the driver’s seat of a player going through a difficult time in his life. He has no job and his wife has left him for someone else. All he has left is a set of his dad’s old golf clubs and a nearly forgotten dream of going pro. That journey will meet with a lot of problems along the way, some of which aren’t simply story related.
Bugs and Issues
From the outset of the game, there are things you notice right away. Golf Story has a terrible habit of adjusting the frame rate. After playing it for a few hours, I stopped noticing it, but after picking it up a day later, it became pretty obvious again. This is something that can most likely be fixed pretty easily with a patch update. Some of the other issues, however, may not be as simple
There are moments in which the game gets really buggy, and sometimes freezes altogether, forcing players to restart the game entirely. Thankfully, the game auto saves as you complete most quests or enter a new area, meaning it won’t take much backtracking when these incidents do occur.
Most arguably, the biggest glitch comes in the form of a console mini game you can play, called Galf. This is a throwback to the classic NES game, Golf, but the game freezes there very frequently, and I had a lot of trouble leaving the mini game once I started playing it. In fact, I had to actually restart the whole game to do it at all.
Control and Mechanics
Playing a golf game (a video game at least) is about precision, power and control. You need to read the situation and take the best shot you can. Golf Story tries to balance these pretty well, and once you get the hang of it, it’s an easy system to navigate. That said, it also comes with a pretty steep learning curve.
I spent the first few times at the driving range and even with some of the earlier holes trying to master the difference between lining my shot and changing clubs. Even as I became more attuned to the gameplay, I still did this from time to time.
That said, once you learn how to take your shots, the game becomes much more intuitive. Scoring well becomes more about strategy. Powering through just won’t get you very far. For me, the most difficult part of most courses was the putting. I had a lot of trouble interpreting the slope, lining the shot and determining how much power to use. Sometimes I would shoot with too little, and others I’d overshoot entirely. I actually found that I preferred the moments when my ball hit the rough or bunkers near the green. For me, it was easier to chip it in from there than it was to make a putt.
Story, Graphics and Sound
Golf Story may be all about playing golf, but it’s a lot more than playing courses. The designs and themes of the game are well made, the holes are challenging and playing them is fun. That said, there is a lot more you can do. Scattered throughout all of the different maps there are people with small quests to be completed. They range very notably from the reasonable to the insane.
Teaching others to make trick shots was fun and challenging. Shooting eggs back to angry birds or driving eyes into skeletons was a little more bizarre. All of it, however, was done in particularly good taste, and never becomes too serious.
In that, I can say quite assuredly that Golf Story comes with a lot of cheese. It is constantly littered with moments that make you shake your head or give you a good chuckle. The game itself preys on the nostalgia for cheesy classic games, and it delivers on those sentiments quite well. In fact, it was designed, in part, to serve that very purpose. While the game has the look and feel of something you might have played on a classic NES once upon a time, it’s as crisp and polished as it needs to be. In a similar manner, it also uses a lot of similar elements in regards to sound. The music and sound effects seem very dated, but I walked away feeling that was the point.
Gameplay and Challenge
In your pursuit to finally make in the big leagues, Golf Story takes you on a pretty big journey, and once you complete a course, you still find yourself going back to it at one point or another. Each time often comes with new challenges, keeping the holes feeling fresh even if you’ve played it a few times already.
I found some of the best matches were those I had to play as part of a team. My AI partner would often tee off badly, leaving me with the challenge of finding the right way to recover and win the hole. There are other considerable challenges a well. One individual walks through the practice course and invents a new course for you to play through. The first course wasn’t that challenging, but it scales quickly.
In that regard, I won’t say that Golf Story, itself is overly challenging, but some parts of it can be brutal. Some of the mnigames (Disc throwing), were a bit too much for me, and I dreaded having to complete some of them, sometimes spending a considerable amount of time to do something relatively short. Some of the challenges require a few perfect shots and nothing less will work.
For the most part, however, many of the challenges Golf Story offers are well crafted. They are just challenging enough to help you improve your game and learn new ways to approach the courses. This pays off huge when you actually compete on holes. Most games give you the tools to play a game better, but Golf Story actually teaches you how to.
All of this earns your player two things, money and experience. Money allows you to purchase new equipment, which has it’s own benefits and flaws. For starters, you really have no idea if new clubs are an improvement over the old ones. In some cases, they have special abilities that you don’t know about, or never will until you finally stumble onto them. A good example of this are the skimming woods. They allow the player to bounce shots off the water, much like skipping stones. Once I stumbled onto this realization, I started taking more risks on certain courses, and some of them paid off quite well.
As a player games experience, he eventually will level up. This allows players to assign points to the various stats, allowing the player more accuracy, spin, and power. Be warned, however, that increasing a player’s power hurts the other stats, meaning you have to find a way to balance them accordingly. Even so, players can still use this to build a play style they prefer. For me, I preferred being better at getting the ball where I wanted rather than how hard I could hit it.
Golf Story tries to be a lot of things, but overall it does them well. It’s a tribute to classic games and the players who dreamed of one day playing them professionally. It’s an RPG that uses a lot of cheesy humor to soften the blow of some of the more sinister elements. It’s a great game for players who enjoy the game of golf and for players who want to try something different, all for a relatively low price of $14.99.
This game isn’t perfect by any means. It has a lot of bugs and challenges that just frustrated me, but those were only moments of the overall experience. For the most part, my time with the game was pretty enjoyable. The story is rich and comical, and the gameplay was good once you learned the basics.
For the price of admission, Golf Story is a worthy trip, and an excellent title for the Switch Library. If you can look past the sand and rough, players will discover a solid game that will continue to challenge them. Even when it frustrates you, you’ll find it enjoyable enough to take another shot at it. If Golf Story is aiming to make par, I’d say it was a birdie. It’s not a perfect game, but it’s a lot better than expected.