Reviewed: January 6, 2007
Released: December 13, 2006
Once the new control scheme was officially announced for the Nintendo Wii gamers around the world started imagining what they could possibly simulate in their games. Swinging as sword, hitting a tennis ball, throwing a bowling ball, or crushing a 300yd drive on the back nine certainly rose to the top of the list, and Wii Sports gave Wii owners just a taste of what is possible with the Wii-mote.
I didnít really like the golf game that came with Wii Sports, and for many of the same reasons I probably shouldnít be liking Tecmoís new Super Swing Golf. My biggest complaint is that it is impossible to hold the Wii-mote with the same grip as a real golf club Ė itís just not long enough. Therefore, I end up doing this one-handed swing that, while works, is nowhere close to replicating my actual swing out on the golf course. Perhaps when somebody invents an extension or golf club attachment for the Wii-mote this game will come into its own.
Swinging mechanics aside, Super Swing Golf is a classic fantasy golf game along the lines of Hot Shots Golf on the PS2, only with much more Japanese flavor. Actually, Hot Shots is very Japanese as well but they take great steps to localize it for the USA Ė no so much with Super Swing Golf. If you are looking for a realistic PGA simulation then you had better wait for Tiger Woods, but if you are into colorful courses and charming anime characters, and some whacked out story that you probably wonít understand, then slip on the cleats and glove and prepare to tee off.
Get ready to use the Wii-mote like no other game before it. Not only do you need to swing the golf clubs with the remote, but there is some very clever integration used for navigating menus and zooming and panning around the course maps. It takes a few minutes to grasp, but quickly becomes second nature after a few holes. Sadly, other aspects of the game arenít as intuitive, as there is an odd mix of pointing and button commands that donít always make sense.
Even after you learn how to do things like adjust your shot trajectory or put spin on the ball youíll still find yourself fighting the controls and referring to the on-screen prompts. Super Swing also makes heavy use of the + and Ė buttons, which are nearly flush mount on the remote, until you put on one of those rubber no-slip grip sheaths and then you have a heck of a time trying to push those now-recessed buttons.
The first thing youíll notice about Super Swing, especially if you have put a lot of time into Wii Sports Golf, is that the swing mechanic is totally different. It offers a much more technical element to the swing rather than a natural recreation of a golf swing. Once you are in the swing mode you will start your backswing then push and hold the A button to lock in the power. Admittedly, this makes it easy to cheat the system since you donít have to really do a full backswing to get full power.
Once the power is locked you keep the A button down as you swing down and follow through. This is where the game really starts to process the variables in your swing, detecting any variance that would cause a hook or slice and reduce the distance accordingly. There is just enough room for error that you really canít cheat the system by playing the distance and power game. You actually have to make clean swingsÖor do you?
Yes, you can cheat the system; much in the same way you can easily throw strikes and bowl a 300-game in Wii Sports Bowling. While the Wii is clever about detecting motion, it canít always tell how you are playing the game, so you can effectively achieve a perfect swing with very little wrist motion. But if you are actually seeking a fun time and not trying to be a jerk, youíll want to make technically proficient swings for the best results.
You can play Super Swing Golf alone in the Pangya (story) mode, which follows a unique path based on the character you pick and how you perform throughout the championship. There are a ton of unlockables, new clubs, balls, characters, and courses as well as your never-ending quest to collect all those spinning coins required to purchase these rare items. There are numerous ways to earn coins, most of which come from making great shots. You can even earn double points while playing in the rain.
During the solo game you will acquire a lot of items that you can manage in the My Room screen. Here, you can choose your caddie, change costumes or even entire characters, equip new clubs and bonus items, and review your rewards and trophies. There is also an underlying experience point system that allows your character to rank-up permitting access to new courses and events.
If you donít want to tackle the Pangya mode you can try the Stroke and Match play modes available for single players or you can add in computer golfers to test your skills. There are only three tournaments available at the start for these modes but more can be unlocked after you win the initial three.
Multiplayer golf is available for up to four players in Stroke and Match play as well as a special Balloon Pop mode where you try to hit and pop balloons all around the course. The fun thing about this mode is that players who arenít actually swinging can make use of collectible Party Goods to adversely affect the player who is actually swinging. Some of these are really clever like the Graffiti Crayon you can use to draw on the screen obscuring the view, or how about adjusting the gravity, changing the wind, randomly assigning clubs, decreasing the size of your opponentís balloons, or even causing their controller to vibrate during their shot.
There is an impressive 40-page manual with a world map, character and caddie profiles, and detailed instructions and diagrams for making the perfect golf swing. It might not be the most realistic golf game on the Wii, but it certainly is the most fun and offers the most features to keep you playing.
I was shocked to see that Super Swing Golf supports neither widescreen nor progressive scan, and this from a company who has been consistently advancing the visual benchmark on the Xbox 360. The game still looks great, but can hardly claim the next-gen label. This is more of a high-end GameCube experience.
The courses and landscape are extremely stylized to fit with the Japanese and anime themes and matching character designs. You know you are in for an interesting time when your first caddy is a cross between a cat and a sack lunch. It only gets weirder and more charming after that. There is a fun variety to the courses that range from tropical to mystical and downright scary. There are all sorts of cute animations and weather effects that will have PS2 gamers reminiscing about Hot Shots Golf.
Character design is decisively Japanese as are the costumes, which range from flirtations to overtly sexual, probably just skimming under the E10 rating. Then again, if you let your kids watch Sailor Moon you know what to expect.
The cutscenes use game graphics and can be fun for anime fans, but are more of an annoyance for people wanting to just play golf. There are two full pages of world history and the origins of Pangya in the manual if you are really into all that. The HUD can be a bit overwhelming at first and there are numerous setup and menu screens to wade through. Younger golfers might need some assistance.
The soundtrack consists of light jazz infused with some fantasy themes. It ranges somewhere between magical and mall music. Sound effects are purely functional and included environmental noises like wind, waves, rain, and the whack of a club striking a ball or a ball dropping into the cup. There is a bit of speech but not that much and like most Japanese imports, not localized all that well.
Super Swing Golf is a very long and substantial golf game with numerous characters, each with their own costumes and unlockables and diverging story path. It can take months to unlock and experience it all. There are a dozen 18-hole courses, so there is plenty of real estate to master.
The three multiplayer modes are great fun and you can even play the stroke and match multiplayer games with a single remote, making this one of the better values for multiplayer fun. You will need extra remotes for the Balloon Pop game.
Until Tiger Woods hits the Wii console golfers donít have much of a choice when it comes to their chosen sport. The Wii Sports game has an intuitive swing system but none of the flair you need to make a compelling game. Super Swing Golf offers all the challenging gameplay of a game like Hot Shots Golf, and mixes that with charming and colorful Japanese characters and stylized locations that will delight kids and challenge adults.
My best recommendation would be to try this game before you buy it, either at a friendís house or rent it. Most everybody I know who has played Super Swing Golf either loves it or hates it and surprisingly, there is no middle ground. Personally, I had a great time with this game and fun is what itís all about.