Sports games are not something that hold any interest to me whatsoever. The likes of FIFA, NBA or PES have always completely washed over me with absolutely no sense of loss in any way. The franchises could stop in their tracks or re-invent the way gaming works and I’d happily sit in the corner paying very little attention. I’m not a lover of sports, point made, right? So cast your mind back several months to the announcement of Golf Story in the Nindies Showcase. Instantly my mind went “Golf….no thanks” and that was almost that, except for the fact that my attention held slightly. This was more than just some pixel-art style golf game, it was also akin to an adventure. But I’ll get to that part in a moment. Flash forward again and I see Golf Story on another Nindies Showcase and suddenly I’m really intrigued. I pay attention and see that there’s more to this than just hit the ball into the hole. Let’s look at it in some greater detail.
Golf Story is the brain child of Sidebar Games, who have created what many are describing as one of the best games on the Nintendo Switch right now. It is more than just a golfing game. You begin the story as a young lad on the green with his father learning about how to play Golf. In serving as the tutorial as well as setting up the story this part of the game gently eases you into a small part of what you’ll be coming across. Learning a few different types of swing, adjusting your aim and the all-important different types of golf club. Then it moves along in a nice cutscene until suddenly your waking up in bed and its 20 years later, you are now an adult and it’s time for you to start your quest to become a professional golfer. The sudden jump in pace of the game is only momentary, in that the timeline moving forward doesn’t really affect how you play the game at all. It’s a step into the interesting storyline that has been well woven into the game.
The artwork as mentioned previously is all pixel-based and quite honestly is beautiful. There is plenty of moments in the game where you can really stop and observe the scenery and environments around you and just feel relaxed. Should you stop for a few minutes, your character will idly swing a golf club around which I feel is one of the best demonstrations of the brilliant animations present. Every swing, putt and soaring golf ball move so seamlessly that the game feels alive in its own right. There is so much life to so many aspects of the game that even the wildlife has such an authentic feel to it. Perhaps this is what golfers really do experience, and this is a brilliant recreation of that feeling. Everything is just so well designed and brings Golf Story that little bit of magic. The music is melodic and soothing, ranging from soft beats and instruments to intense drumming at those moments of critical swings. It just gives that little extra bit of adrenaline as you try to get that last shot to claim a medal over your opponent.
The characters in this game really can command your attention with a mixture of witty dialogue and terrible puns. Without going into detail that will spoil the experience, I’ve gotten plenty of laughs from the game already. The way the dialogue is presented is also designed in a unique way, from speech bubbles expanding or shrinking to show different tones of voice, bubbles that fall sideways to denote a character’s mood and even text that trails off into a smaller size if a character isn’t being fully acknowledged. It’s something not often seen in many games and it emphasises the individual personalities of your fellow golfers. Also of note on the subject of your fellow golfers is the various side quests you will encounter during the game. There are a range of tasks from general golf games to hitting a golf ball as hard as you can at one poor fellows head to test your power. If you are a completionist gamer, these side quests will open up even more activities for you to tackle.
In terms of gameplay this game is a nice balance of simple and advanced. Your golf swings are determined by a meter at the bottom of the screen, which you will use to get distance and focus in the perfect balance to hit a perfect swing. Then the more complex things come into effect, such as using precision mode (the first time I encountered this was to hit a ball, bounce it across a pavement and still land my ball on the green) or ensuring you adjust your shot for wind and slope on the course. The more practise you get with these techniques the more of the lovely in game medals you will undoubtedly end up with. Thankfully many of the game’s NPC’s will happily remind you of which buttons you should be using for which skill, and as you progress through the game you will level up and further improve you skills by assigning points between Power, Purity, Strike, Ability and Spin. These points will really start to add up as you get a feel for golf and there is a noticeable difference the further along you progress.
The overall quality of this game becomes more and more apparent with more time spent on the numerous side quests and rounds of golf. What I would say is a downside to Golf Story is that it occasionally you may end up overwhelmed by the sheer number of available things to do. Believe it or not sometimes I actually find this to be slightly distracting, but it is in no way a negative to the game experience, it just presents a feeling of being overwhelmed at how big it really is. Of course, because of just how well thought out this game is, there is already something in place should this happen, simply press the Y button wherever you find yourself standing and you can just aimlessly hit balls at trees, wildlife, people or even cars. Golf Story truly is an amazing experience and has been a very welcome addition to my Nintendo Switch Library. I very happily give this game a hole in one, erm 9/10. Thank you for opening my eyes to a different style of gaming.
Golf Story for the Nintendo Switch is available now on the eShop for £13.49/$14.99. In order to review this game I received a review copy from a PR Representative, which had no impact on my opinions or my writing.