From developer and publisher Sidebar Games comes Golf Story, the story-driven role-playing game where you become a golfer who is forced to give up all that he holds dear for one last shot at accomplishing his dreams.
But all is not so simple in the world of golf. In order for you to best today’s players you have to be able to keep up with them not just on the course, but also outside of it.
Golf Story was a game that, when first announced, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on for my Nintendo Switch. As an RPG sports game crossover, it offers what I think is a perfect balance between the two: a well developed story ark that ties the game together and drives it forward while also not sparing any expense in the actual golf gameplay mechanics. When you throw in the addition of more traditional RPG elements, like being able to level up your character and customize their abilities with different equipment, you’re able to develop the golfer in a way that truly plays the way you want it to play. This gives you the player a meaningful gaming experience that you feel incredibly invested in and allows for hours of enjoyment in this Golf Story.
Golf Story opens in a flashback sequence twenty years earlier; your character is taking some time to practice golf with his father. This first section serves as both the tutorial for the game and also an introduction to the character you will be playing as for the rest of the game. After completing this first section, you’re fast-forwarded to the present day where the player is woken from his sleep with a phone call, only to be mocked and ridiculed by a woman on the other line who is very critical of your recent decision to drop everything to try and reach your dream of becoming a professional golfer.
From here on out it is your job, as the player, to lead this aspiring professional through 8 different course environments to play rounds of golf and solve problems, to find a coach, improve on your golf game, purchase additional equipment, and ultimately win the Blue Moon Dunes Championship. I really appreciate how seamlessly the story intertwines with the gameplay of Golf Story. With story-driven games it can be very easy for it to feel like you’re rushing to the next cut-scene, but with this game a good balance was struck and you never felt too far from the next round of golf.
The gameplay mechanics for this title take a refined approach on the ‘power-meter’ configuration for golf games. This leads to a more traditional approach to gameplay, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel with any motion controls. The basics of the controls are that you have a dual point meter on the screen working left to right. The first engagement of the moving meter determines the amount of power you will use on the shot (or the overall distance you’ll hit the ball) while the second meter determines the accuracy at which you execute your shot (you can use this to play a draw or a fade as well, depending on the shot you’d like). This concept is very similar to many Mario Golf games before it.
There are also more features in the gameplay that allow you to dial in the specifics of each shot. There is a ‘precision mode’ that allows you to fine tune the distance of each shot, something I found particularly useful when you’re at a distance that falls in between sets of clubs, and additionally there is a ‘hit-point mode’ that gives you the flexibility to control where on the ball you hit. This mode ultimately gives you greater control of the spin you put on the ball or whether you play a draw or fade.
As you progress through the game, you’re able to level up your golfer by completing rounds of golf or by completing side tasks. Leveling the golfer up allows you to enhance your stats, which ultimately allows you to complete rounds with greater skill and achieve better scores.
In playing each of the eight courses, you’ll quickly discover that they all have individual tricks and hazards that make them challenging. One course in particular is part of the frozen tundra, and you’ll likely be hitting out of snow for the first time in your life! The way Golf Story expands on these different course offerings is by weaving side quests and different story elements into each location. Some of the side quests are integral to the story, while others allow for more practice with difficult golf tasks. Some of these side quests even incorporate different events like disc golf, drone flight, long drive competitions, and even geocaching. This large variety of things to do always makes you feel like you have a reason to be at the course and gives you a ton of content to work with in this game.
One bonus with this game is that you’re able to play each of the courses with a friend in a local multiplayer match. This can be done from the ‘quick play’ menu when you first boot up the game and comes complete with a variety of options to differentiate the match. The only thing I would like to see is the ability to possible take the match online and compete against any number of players from around the world! Thank would make for some serious golfing madness.
For a game that is so well designed both in course concept and graphical quality, Golf Story also does a great job of incorporating some very well composed music to enhance the overall gameplay experience. Each of the courses has their own thematic music, and the game goes even deeper by providing specific themes based on the circumstance you’re in as a golfer. This level of detail really makes the game feel like you’re on the course, with victory only a quality shot away.
To me, Golf Story embodies everything that should be done with an RPG sports cross over title. It seamlessly weaves a creative, clever, and at times hilarious story into an equally as perfected golf game. There was never a dull moment for me in this title, and I think Sidebar Games hit an absolute hole-in-one with this quirky title. I would highly recommend this game to anyone who owns a Nintendo Switch.