My first impression upon hearing about Golf story was filled with more curiosity than optimism. The concept of a top-down,16-bit styled sports role-playing game is unique and when described provides more questions than answers. I’m glad to say that this game answers those questions with confidence. Upon stepping up to the tee, Golf Story gives a swing at being a hybrid-genre game and is ultimately successful in its approach. Though Golf Story is often more story than golf, the charming writing in the game shines and the golf mechanics are solid for providing fun gameplay moments.
The flow of the game is simple; you walk around golf-courses, talk to the characters, and complete quests using your golf-related talents. My favorite aspect of Golf Story is the way it takes the traditional structure of a top-down RPG and applies golf mechanics to the foundation while understanding how ridiculous the premise of the game is. It’s a golf RPG. There’s a leveling up system, a quest system, and gear equipping, but these systems are at their most laid back and stripped down. I barely felt any of the effects of the leveling system while playing. Usually I was participating in only one or two quests at a time with the maximum being four. There are four types of gear which are all varying types of golf clubs. The game is fairly basic when it comes to numbers and systems, but this is fine because Golf Story isn’t about its depth. This may be disappointing to some because this means that there are missed opportunities for a layered customizable gameplay system. Complexity is instead substituted with the game’s main attraction, it’s fun, nonsensical story.
In Golf Story you’ll meet a large cast of characters with their own personalities and quirks. Many of the characters make fun of you for being bad at golf, even though you seem to be playing just fine. Some characters visibly try to scam you. Others lie to your face. All of this done lightheartedly; however, as the game’s main gags poke fun at how serious every character takes himself, including your own. I’m left in awe by the amount of times I have caught myself laughing out loud while playing the game. The humor is cheeky and the small details like dialogue boxes tilting and changing size adds personality to the characters. The overarching narrative doesn’t take itself seriously and is quite cartoon-ish in its over the top left turns and surprises. All of the writing and characterization in the game is ultimately satisfying because of how freely Golf Story plays with its own world.
The golf game itself is accessible and engaging. As I progressed through the more difficult courses, I constantly found myself balancing the power of my shot and the spin of the ball along with the distance of the wind and the slope of the fairway. Many traditional golf mechanics are found in the game, but since the game is top-down, slope and wind become harder to keep track of. In games like Everybody’s Golf and Rory Mcilroy’s PGA Tour slope is more easily gauged because of how it is communicated to the player with perspective. Golf Story is missing that tool which made it difficult at times to hit a perfect putt.
The courses in the game are diverse and provide a fun variety of experiences for both exploration and actual golf. You have your straight-forward green pasture course, along with a snowy course, a beach course and some fun surprises. Out of the eight courses, most of them range from good to great however there is one course that is not fun to play golf on. The course requires you to use a specific type of golf club which inhibits the game and the course is filled with a lot of rough surfaces which makes for an outright dreadful putting experience. This is a bummer because this course also contained some of the best parts of the story.
Outside of golfing, your time on courses is spent running around and solving quests that characters give you along your journey. Many of the quests involve hitting your golf ball at a certain target, nailing a type of shot, or collecting items for characters. Quests can often get repetitive as there is only so much variation in the ways you can tell the player to “hit your ball towards this area”. Although this is the case, the writing is generally enjoyable and the more clever quests in the game often make up for the repetitive ones.
All in all Golf Story is a treat. There’s nothing like the freedom of running around a course, teeing up wherever, and playing a casual match. The world in the game is fun to run around and explore while the characters you’ll meet during the story are a joy. Though it lacks some depth in the golf systems, it makes up for that depth with a fun story and some engaging activities.