Developer: Sidebar Games
Publisher: Sidebar Games
I promise that as you read through this, I will try my best to keep from golf puns. Okay, I cannot promise that whatsoever. You may ask why, and the simple answer is with Golf Story, you will get an absolutely charming golf game filled with whimsy. If Sidebar Games can get away with it, why can’t I? Although I surmise my editor is watching right now. Alright, I will try to hold back. Let’s talk about Golf Story!
Golf Story is perfect for any age! I have not come across anything anyone would come close to calling foul (besides geese in the very beginning of the game! I know I’m sorry!). No cursing, no violence, no lewd content. There is one course named Oak Manor that has ghosts, but it is done tastefully. With not only a fifteen plus hour story, but the inclusion of a multiplayer golf mode, this game is a fantastic choice for parents who want something clean for the kids, as well as a game for two people of any age to play together. Given your Nintendo Switch has two controllers automatically, this is an ideal purchase.
I begin playing most games optimistically. Working in the video game industry, I spend plenty of time watching a game get a ton of hype and then fail to deliver. Horizon Zero Dawn is a game that is worthy of the hype it gets. There are plenty of others that do not deserve the buzz they get. Golf Story is more a story of personal expectations. I read up on it, got excited about the style and gameplay, and immediately downloaded it the second that doing so was possible. After fifteen hours of gameplay, Golf Story is one of my most memorable gaming experiences of this year.
You start a little tutorial on how to play the game, which also sets the stage of the story: just a dad and his boy playing golf. Once you exit the introduction, you jump 20 years ahead to face a different life. Your wife is gone, your dad is deceased, and you now live on your own in between all the golf courses.
The goal: to regain your childhood love of golf your father passed down to you. The current situation: your life is reduced down to becoming a golf pro or a life filled with failure. While an alternating path is not available in this narrative, the bar is set for your avatar’s future.
As you continue on, you face many hurdles on the way to the pros. The coach at your home course of Wellworn Groves wants nothing to do with you. The other trainee golfers think you have a funky swing. My character is an amateur, and that means plenty of training to get to.
The golfing is very simplistic, which is exactly what you want from Golf Story. In a game like this, the golfing itself does not have to be the main draw. You simply direct your golf balls’ trajectory and press the A button three times—once to start, and the second to set the power, and the third to set the accuracy. The aim of your shot changes when you consider several factors. The wind causes you to move your targeted zone in order to afford a more gracious landing. You must adjust on the slope of the green or you will miss an important putt. It is not hard to figure out how to mitigate these elements working against you, and the game leads you to the tools you need.
Golf Story provides three abilities to help your case against the course, precision mode, hit mode, and the approach shot. Without going into too much detail, each one helps as you attempt to make increasingly difficult shots as you go from hole to hole and course to course. The one I use the most is the precision mode, which allows you to better understand the power of your swing in order to land the ball closer to your intended target.
Where Golf Story succeeds the most is in its universe. Just like the Pokémon games, it’s characters are charming, but their personalities are absurd. When the pro golfer Max Yards (I know, punny) starts discussing the quality of Wellworn Groves members with the owner, one of the shirtless member pipes up, “Mate, I’ve got a robot vacuum cleaner.” There are many other moments that stand out like this in the writing, but it is a perfect example of just how farcical Golf Story is. I mean, just look at the last screenshot! I’m eradicating the undead with golf balls, because the mind-controlled moles have brought them golf balls for eyes. That’s wacky.
The world of Golf Story is a delightful evolution of the playful writing. If you’ve ever played Stardew Valley, it’s an easy game to compare it to in construction. It’s colorful and each course has a different design meant to teach you how to use each feature built into your arsenal. You learn to play the wind on Cheekybeak Peak, how to best play tough conditions in Tidy Parks, and fitting in tight shots on Bermuda Isles. The purpose behind each area is well crafted, and the characters match their surroundings. The true gem of Golf Story is it’s setting.
I absolutely love the old 16-bit graphics Golf Story embraces. Many games can try to capture your feelings of nostalgia with it, but Golf Story succeeds with it because of an original premise. Every course drips with color, and is a delight to traverse. The marrying of the sublime soundtrack with the graphics creates a draw to Golf Story other games simply fantasize about.
Golf Story runs phenomenally whether docked or undocked, and the visuals are crisp viewing them in TV mode or tablet mode. The biggest thing I noticed was a change in button press timing when you golf. The pro controller works well, but it takes a moment to acclimate yourself to it. Gaming Golf Story on the go is noticeably more comfortable when playing a big championship.
Something Golf Story needs improvement with is the guidance system. A map is missing from the game, and while not a horrendous omission, navigating the courses and finding quests are easier with one. With objectives, I understand Golf Story is not Elder Scrolls Skyrim. However, even with being similar to Pokémon, more can be done to lead the player in the right direction. The instructions you receive can be quite vague. For example, on one side quest I need to find materials for someone, but they are in another park. I did not know whether to look in another section of the current location or go to the next golf course.
There are very few flaws in Golf Story, and even fewer that would actually hurt your experience in the game. I cannot say enough about the charm of this title. The enjoyment Golf Story brings to a sport most gamers avoid is a testament to what Sidebar Games has accomplished. I hope they continue on updating Golf Story or give us a 2, because I need to get back to Wellworn Groves soon!
The Bottom Line
Buy Golf Story. Seriously! You will not regret one cent. I have fallen in love with the design, world and story. If you want one of the best indie games of the year for your Nintendo Switch, Golf Story is a hole in one!