Golf Story - A birdie putt left just short
I've never understood why there aren't more games like Golf story; the sports genre is the perfect candidate for an RPG cross over. Golf story takes the player on the journey from bright-eyed youngster to all-star pro, growing your skills to suit your playstyle. It looks, plays and feels like the classic Mario Golf Gameboy game using the arcade-y 3 click swing. The game's story leads you through 7 different courses and also provides some fun diversions like disc and mini golf. Each course contains a number of side-quests that have you doing some type of shot challenge to appease your quest giver. Completing quests gives you experience used to increase a number of skills like accuracy, spin and power. It's a simple system but it works; increasing power causes the other skills to take a hit, requiring a bit of a balancing act if you want to prioritize distance and another skill.
The main issue I have with Golf Story is it tries to be both an RPG and a golf game, without fully committing to either or both genres. The story is interesting enough, you play a man who has quit his day job to chase his childhood dream of becoming a professional golfer. You begin at Wellworn Grove and slowly move your way to more prestigious and challenging courses. At Wellworn you earn the aid of the local coach, as well as the anger of a rival golfer. The game is well written, with humorous dialogue and a solid through-line, but the story is more a vehicle to move you through the various courses rather than something that keeps you engaged in your player's tale. The side quests also suffer from this as most are simple shot challenges. Speaking to someone and then hitting x targets within y shots gets repetitive and boring very quickly. More variety in the challenges would have helped keep the game from running out of steam.
The bland quest structure is not helped by the golf mechanics either. Simply put, the golf part of Golf Story is not very challenging. As long as you can hit the “A” button in time with the power bar, you won't have much trouble with the game. This is especially frustrating during big story points within the game. About halfway through you play in the Wellworn Grove club championship against a "pro" golfer. To win? Simply shoot under par. Later in the story you face the same pro in match play, and he struggles to shoot bogey on most holes. It cheapens the experience of the game, and doesn't make your player's accomplishments feel that impressive.
Shooting low is fairly easily accomplished thanks to the simplicity of the courses and the lack of any real effect that shot conditions have on your swing. It's almost trivial to chip in from the rough or avoid hazards on the course, and the golf gameplay loses its excitement the farther into the game you get. Compared to another arcade golf game, hot shots golf, Golf Story really does not hold up in terms of gameplay, immersion or challenge.
Golf Story had all the ingredients to be a true indie masterpiece, however it comes off feeling a little half-baked. The story doesn't hold your attention, and the golf becomes monotonous well before the credits roll. The game itself isn’t that long either, taking about 12-15 hours to play through depending on side quest completion. That said, it is right at home on the switch as it’s a great game for playing in short bursts on the go. If you’re looking to scratch that golf itch, you could do a lot worse than Golf Story, just don’t expect more than the game is planning to provide.
Value: Fine at Full Price ($15.00)