Golf and Way Beyond!
Golf games have been done before on the PSP, but rarely do they venture very far beyond the traditional bounds of the sport like what we’ve seen in Nintendo’s take on the pastime. For gamers who could normally care less about sports titles, it can take a lot for one to elicit their attention.
Dressing up one of the least exciting and visually stimulating sports to make it enticing for players who are used to a constant IV drip of flashy action and explosions is no simple task. It seems South Korean developer NTREEV Soft is well aware of this conundrum and has laid the groundwork to draw players into the fold with a few clever tricks.
Cartoonish presentations and wacky power ups have been great tools for spicing up the game for new crowds of players in the past. However, PANGYA: Fantasy Golf – a portable, anime-style fantasy golf game based-on the popular Korean casual golfing MMO – takes the idea even further by weaving a fantasy storyline, RPG elements, and a robust collectible system into the sport. Anime lovers with collection obsessions will find a lot to drool about in the colorful world of fantasy golf NTREEV has cooked up.
Fantasy Golf’s back-story setup is an unusual one. Long ago, dark sorcerers began draining the life energy from Pangya Island through holes created throughout the land. To stop the destruction, the island’s sage came up with a plan to plug the evil energy leaks by hitting magical balls called Aztecs into the holes with clubs called Air Lances. Sounds familiar, right? A hero from Earth was summoned to accomplish this task and saved Pangya. Ever since, the mystical island’s inhabitants send time fairies to Earth every year to gather people to participate in the Pangya Festival – a game created to recreate the brave efforts of the hero who once save the land from certain doom. Though it takes a while to get under way, a continuation of this plot does arise as you progress through the main game. Despite all the fancy storytelling, this basically boils down to some pretty straightforward golfing. That’s not a bad thing.
The actual gameplay and flow of each match differs little from other golf games, and the controls are quite manageable. Aiming your shots and adjusting the view of the course is mainly handled with the D-pad. You can also zoom in and out, look from a higher or lower vantage point, and check out your location on the map. Like most golf games, you’ll fire your shots by pressing a single button to engage a power meter, tapping it a second time when the indicator reaches the desired shot strength, and hitting it a third time when it returns within a small zone to launch the ball and determine accuracy. Shot distances can be modified by switching out clubs, applying front and backspin, and adding curve. You’ll also unlock special moves that dish out cool effects and require extra button press combinations in mid-swing, and you can buy consumable items like potions, pills, and special balls that can be used to boost your golfing prowess. While the controls are good, the camera angles – both before you swing and when the ball is in mid-flight – aren’t always ideal and can be disorienting.
Fantasy Golf’s main story mode lets you play a series of Pangya matches as different characters, offering some funny and unusual dialogue between rival golfers. Playing through each set of matches as various characters gradually progresses the story, unlocks new items, and opens up characters to play in other modes. The characters themselves are highly unusual and have distinct personalities and appearances – you’ll find an assortment of busty beauties, a giant talking polar bear, and a strange mustached cop with an obsession for fried chicken, among other odd folks. As you play through the matches with each character, you’ll gain experience points and level-up your golfing rank. A separate tour mode lets you play in larger tournaments, enjoy free rounds in courses of your choosing, and complete challenges to obtain tournament licenses. There’s also a solid ad hoc multiplayer mode for up to eight players that increases the amount of money you’ll earn for winning based on how many individuals are playing. Fantasy Golf’s story mode offers a ton of play, and these extra features are worth the extra time to explore, particularly because they can help you earn funds to upgrade and purchase items and accessories for your characters.
Every match you play earns you a certain amount of Pang, the game’s currency, based-on how well you perform. The extreme level of customization and item unlocking included in the game is one of the biggest incentives to stick with it for an extended period of time.
The golfing itself is pretty and the story gets more interesting as it develops, but the drive to earn cash for shopping is insidiously addictive. Each character has tons of outfits and items to unlock. You can mix and match their costumes in four categories: tops, bottoms, shoes, and accessories. More functional accessories like clubs, special balls, rings, potions, and Papels (adorable bag-like companions that accompany you throughout the game and hold your items) can be purchased and equipped separately. All told, there are more than 1,300 goodies for you to uncover and use.
While you’ll frequent a handful of more common golf courses, Fantasy Golf also has you playing in wintery landscapes and a few other different locations. The game’s anime-heavy visuals are pleasantly varied and vibrantly designed. Character interactions in-between matches play out in static portraits and text, which is fine. However, their animations during the gameplay itself aren’t quite as crisp.
An obsession-inducing item collecting and character customization element mixed with a moderately entertaining fantasy story gives Fantasy Golf some solid legs to stand on. At its heart, the game offers some decent, no-nonsense golfing that’s not particularly better or worse than similar titles. It’s the extra effort that went into producing sound fantasy trappings and ample features that make this portable golfing excursion worth your time.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
Nice style but execution lacks a little polish. 3.7 Control
Straightforward golf mechanics translate well to the PSP’s controls, though camera angles could use some work. 3.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Good, solid tunes and sound effects. 4.2 Play Value
The golfing is strong, but a ton of unlockable goodies and extra modes make you want to come back for more. 3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.