Golf Story Review
Golf Story is the latest indie darling to release on the Nintendo Switch, much to fans’ delight. Interestingly enough, a lot of hype for the title originated just a month before the game’s release in the Nintendo Nindies Showcase in August. Essentially, Golf Story is a mix of RPG elements and golf and has been oft compared to games such as Mario Golf on the Gameboy Advance. While I personally never played that title, I was heavily interested by Golf Story due to both the RPG elements as well as the aesthetics.
The game begins with a flashback to the player character’s childhood, where he recalls learning to golf with his father, also acting as a tutorial of sorts. Flash forward twenty years, and the player character looks to get back into golf, leaving his family to pursue his former pastime. From there, we are introduced to a variety of interesting, unique characters in a plethora of settings. While the game does focus on golf, many of the characters and side narratives paint an overall robust story. While the game can be cheesy or predictable at times, it honestly adds to the charming narrative.
The game is divided into two primary portions, golfing and RPG. Before getting into the golfing portion of the game, it should be noted that Golf Story is more than just about golf despite it playing a major role. Rather, the game features a charming narrative that moves alongside the flow of the game. That is to say, Golf Story features eight unique areas with various side quests and challenges, not all of which relate to golf. Without spoiling too much, “combat” and “mystery” elements also come into play.
The golfing element of Golf Story is robust, especially so for a top-down sports game. With most of my personal video game golf experience coming from two or three series, I can safely say that I was right at home with Golf Story’s “three-click” golfing mechanics. Though the game is top-down and looks “simple”, the golfing mechanics feature spin, power, and adjusting for wind speeds in addition to the slopes on the green. While playing rounds of golf is the major portion of the game, various activities also include disc golf, mini golf, and a variety of challenges such as alternate courses, driving ranges, and more.
Completing challenges and rounds of golf give your player character experience points which lead to level ups. In doing so, the player can choose to upgrade their power, spin, control, and other aspects of their golf game. In addition to pure statistics, players will gain access to a variety of equipment that will allow them to tune their skill set to their environments. While the mechanical aspect of the game appears simple on the surface, Golf Story’s golfing system is intricate enough to make the game fun yet challenging at points. As the player progresses, various skills are perfected in increasingly challenging stages and hazards, but the game does a very good job in progressing its difficulty alongside the player.
While the Nintendo Switch has some absolutely wonderful games releasing in its first year, Golf Story is right up there with the best of them.
With some charming 16-bit graphics, Golf Story looks like a top-notch indie title. Perhaps the most impressive graphical feature of Golf Story is that the game avoids falling into the trap of having environments look very similar to each other. Rather, the game does an excellent job in distinguishing between the various unique areas both in color and design. While the game will not be winning any technical awards for their graphical prowess, the game looks awesome and is very pleasant on the eyes.
Likewise, the game’s soundtrack is simply delightful, with upbeat cheerful tunes that match their designated environments. Despite a lack of any voice acting, I never felt like that was a feature that was missing, but rather one that was noticed. A lack of voice acting takes nothing away from the game, though the impressive soundtrack keeps the game light and entertaining.
Lastly, Golf Story has plenty of minor nuances that make it what it is. Firstly, players can tee up anywhere, launching golf balls wherever they see fit in order to solve puzzles and potentially find new areas. In addition to that, players can also throw golf balls at various characters to elicit a response. For the collector in some of us, there are also hidden caches throughout the game, found by solving various riddles provided by various characters. On the other hand, I did encounter a couple issues with the game, the most infuriating being a particular NPC standing too close to a hole and blocking the route of the ball.
Overall though, Golf Story is a smashing success and does so much more than it needs to. While the game would have been well received simply for its golfing aspect, Sidebar Games has built a great narrative and world around it. With a great look and sound as well, it is hard not to claim that Golf Story exceeds all expectations despite the late surge of hype behind it. While the Nintendo Switch has some absolutely wonderful games releasing in its first year, Golf Story is right up there with the best of them.
***A Nintendo Switch review code was provided by the publisher***
- Familiar yet effective mechanics
- Charming overall
- Balanced progression
- Narrative could be deeper
- Minor technical issues