Review: Super Swing Golf (Wii)

[ editorial ]
In many ways, Super Swing Golf's title is almost a misnomer; the motion-controlling "swing" mechanism is irreparably broken and certainly not "super." The readings the game takes from your swings are at times so imprecise that the shots seem almost invariably inaccurate and seemingly random. Take into effect the many directional, wind, and spin adjustments you make before every shot and an imperfect swing just ruins the entire thing. Over the course of eighteen holes it becomes so arduous that one could become almost completely turned off from the game.

At its core, though, the game is built on the idea of a traditional golf-game slider, and tucked into the game's clean menu of options is a large button that allows you to switch control styles from "swing" to "button," a move that enables a traditional style of control and instantly saves Super Swing Golf from the tarnished halls of tacked-on functionality launch titles—and actually reveals a long and enjoyable game underneath.

Super Swing Golf is at its core a refreshing nod to the playful golf games of yore; Hot Shots Golf and Mario Golf developer Camelot might remark that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. You've played this game before—select a club, line up the shot, start your slider with a press of the button and stop it just right for power and accuracy, with maybe a well-timed directional press for spin—but strict imitation this ain't: gone are the days when you're particularly sure exactly where your ball will land even if you hit a perfect shot. Wind is a heavy factor this time, with harder courses having "wind tunnels" that you need to watch for. Slope of the current resting surface for your dimpled orb comes into play in the amount of hook or slice that will natively be put on the ball after the shot. And the more "PangYa" (or perfectly executed) shots you pull off, the more times you can use special shots that extend your swing power or cause crazy effects like making your ball rocket out of the air and land to the ground with an explosion, stopping spin in its tracks. The basic gameplay makes for one of the most addictive, frustrating, and rewarding games in recent memory.

And you'll golf, just like that, through a variety of game-modes. But the most "central" to the game is PangYa Festa, a character-centric story mode that takes each character through a series of Match Play rounds of escalating length against other characters of increasing skill. Beat them using your most perfectly lined-up shots, your longest drives, and your furthest putts, and you accumulate "Pang," the game's form of upgrade currency. This Pang can then be spent to outfit your characters in a manner unseen in games other than Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball—pants, skirts, shirts, swimsuits, dresses, shoes, hats, accessories, even hair dye can all be purchased for your stable of characters. But these augments aren't just superficial: each item also contains a particular stat increase when worn, with the more expensive items allowing you to permanently upgrade your base statistics for when you decide to move on to that new v-neck and jeans combo that's oh-so-fetching this season.

And that's just only divoted the surface. You can buy new sets of golf balls that give you more Pang for good shots, new clubs with ridiculously fantastic designs (like the "Household Tools" set which allows you to golf with a right-angled yardstick), and consumable items for use during play which will temporarily increase your chances for hitting a perfect shot or maximize your spin skills. You can even buy new caddies to enhance your attributes (and even new outfits for your caddies).

The beauty part of all of this is that you start the game with but a single character and a lone caddie. To get more characters you must best PangYa Festa storylines, unlocking new clothing, courses, and items, and enabling you to "purchase" the final player you faced in that round, who will then open up their very own PangYa Festa storyline. And the characters run the bizarre gamut from portly Uncle Bob, with an emphasis of force over accuracy, to the teenaged Pirate Queen Kooh, to the incredibly stacked Arin, who takes after the Dead or Alive girls in a way Tecmo most assuredly approves of. (You can even unlock an outfit and hair dye to make her the spitting image of that series' Kasumi.) All this unlocking might seem like a chore if there were no real enjoyment to be had in it, but it's always entertaining to play dress-up on your character and trick them out with all the fancy crap you could ever want.

It's no exaggeration to say that I'd estimate the time you'd need to finish all the game modes (stroke play and match play offer up dozens of tournaments and scenarios to use your tricked-out PangYa Festa characters on) at well over 300 hours, which isn't a typo, and that's not even considering the time it would take to get enough money to buy all the items and outfits (some of which even allow you into "bonus" PangYa Festa scenarios when worn). There are even those bits of icing on the cake, like a ridiculously comprehensive stat-tracking screen, a ticket-based vending machine you can play to unlock pictures in the game's 350-image gallery, the ability to save your characters on the Wii Remote for play on another system, and the enjoyable versus mode with "Balloon Pop" games and ridiculous party items.

In a technical sense we unveil the game's only real flaws: the graphics, though bright and smooth, stutter and churn from time to time, especially if you're wearing all manners of fancy clothing on a course littered with scenery. In addition, the game doesn't support 480p or widescreen, kind of a downer for those rocking new displays. The actual controls are also a little unwieldly at first, as the 1 button is frequently required during play and menus for alternate course views, and is a little out of the way on the Wii Remote. The loading times for courses, and even between your own "locker room" and shop menus are a little long as well. Despite those shortcomings, though, the sound and music is clear and catchy and the presentation is inspired and enjoyable.

It's almost sad that most people won't give Super Swing Golf a chance based solely on what they hear about the way "swinging" works. Put aside the fixation on motion-control and enable button-mode, though, and Super Swing Golf easily becomes a deep and long-lasting game—and is propelled into the upper echelon of titles available for the fledgling Wii.