|System: PS Vita|
|Dev: Clap Hanz|
|Release: February 15, 2012|
|Players: 1-30 (Online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p||Mild suggestive themes|
by Scott Nichols
At this point, it just wouldn't feel right for Sony to release a new system without the next entry in its Hot Shots Golf series. The wacky golf game has been a staple of Sony's systems since the original PlayStation, but where the series has found its true home is on handhelds. That tradition will continue with the release of Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational alongside the Vita next February. And with the game already becoming the top-selling Vita title in Japan, there is good reason to sit up and take notice, even for those who are bored to tears by the real-world sport.
Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational—or Everybody's Golf, as the series is called everywhere in the world except for the U.S.—doesn't stray too far from the winning formula that has made it such a success in the past. The tried and true timing bar for swings returns, along with the advanced swing option introduced in Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds on PlayStation 3. The classic gameplay compliments all-new courses and an ever-expanding cast of colorful characters. If you've played any of the Hot Shots Golf games before, or one of its Mario Golf cousins, then you should be right at home diving straight into World Invitational.
However, seeing as this is a launch title for a new system, the developers have decided to take the opportunity to add new mechanics based around the Vita's defining features. Touch control is the biggest addition, allowing players to easily aim their shots using either the touchscreen or rear touch panel. You can also pick up and move around your golfer by pinching the system with both the front and back touch panels. It's unashamedly a gimmicky addition, but there is an undeniable charm to watching your golfer flail around in midair.
Other new features seem a bit like gimmicks as well. Motion control comes into play for the game's camera, allowing you to twist and tilt the system to see your golfer swing from a different angle. The Vita's own camera can also be used for augmented reality play, essentially meaning it replaces the highly detailed in-game backgrounds with blurry depictions of your real-world surroundings. It sort of comes across as merely checking off boxes for Vita's features so new owners have something to show off to friends before quickly turning the functionality off entirely.
As you play through the game's courses and tournaments you will earn coins. These can be spent for unlocking new characters, clubs, and outfits. Since you still earn coins even if you lose a match, the pace for unlocking new content should be a bit quicker than past games, making things friendlier toward beginners.
As the game's name implies, online play will be a big part of Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational. 30-player real-time tournaments are its primary online mode, allowing you to compete with virtual golfers from all over the world. Daily downloadable national tournaments will also be available, ensuring that there is always a stream of new challenges. National tournaments are a little different, though, in that they are played offline with your scores uploaded to leaderboards after you have completed the course.
For more direct competition, there will also be the more standard battle mode. In battle mode, players will square off against a single online opponent, picking the course, character, and clubs of their choosing. You can also send a challenge to friends with your best score on a course for some friendly competition or bragging rights.
Visually, World Invitational looks fantastic on Vita. The characters and scenery pop on the small screen, with particular effects like shadows and water standing out. It's strange to say, but World Invitational on Vita looks every bit as good—and, dare I say, even better—than the series' PS3 offering.
In Japan, Everybody's Golf has already overtaken Uncharted as the top-selling Vita game. And with such a hugely popular series, it's hard to expect much different when the Vita releases in the U.S. next February. Though some of the new additions are simply gimmicks to showcase the Vita's various features, there's still a solid golf game at its core with robust online features to take with you on the go.
Date: January 16, 2012