Early in his classic Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons, the legendary golfer uses capital letters as if to scream at you like a football coach. The grail in golf, he says, is “A CORRECT, POWERFUL, REPEATING SWING. This can be stated categorically: it is utterly impossible for any golfer to play good golf without a swing that will repeat.” These days, it may be impossible for a player to play good golf without using the Nintendo Wii.
It’s the January lull, and perhaps that’s what leads me to quote golfers that have passed away. Since so many game companies placed hundreds of games on the market during the past holiday season, there are few offerings of note in these first weeks of the new year. I have a pile of middling games that I haven’t yet cracked open, and in the pile was SUPER SWING GOLF, which turned out to be a better than average game for Nintendo’s Wii.
Why get excited about this game when the Wii system comes with a golf game as part of the popular “Wii Sports”? Wii Golf is fun and fairly accurate, but it’s a minigame made to show off the gyroscopic nature of the Wii controller. Super Swing Golf, on the other hand, is a full golf experience, even though it doesn’t look that way when you look at the art on the game cover. There, you’ll see cartoon-like characters drawn carefully, clearly inspired by Japanese anime.
These big, round-eyed characters have personality and an in-depth back story to boot. Plus, they have their own abilities when it comes to golf. While one may have a terrific swing, she’ll have a penchant to curve the ball if you don’t compensate for it. You’ll swing with the Wiimote as you would with your iron or wood, swing hard with your full body (and throw out your shoulder if you’re not careful). You’ll learn to putt with accuracy. And you’ll get better as you continue to play the various, luridly colored fantasy courses. This isn’t a simulation like the Tiger Woods game from Electronic Arts. But, arguably, it’s a lot more fun.
As you play, you’ll discover you’re part of the Pangya Festival, a golfing celebration that mimics the powers of an ancient mystical warrior who saved the land from obliteration by playing with a club called the Air Lance and using something called the Mystical Phoenix Ball. But don’t worry, you’ll start as a golfer with normal clubs. When you make a nearly perfect swing, the screen shows it off with fireworks and you’ll accumulate Pangya money in this strange but alluring adventure land. You’ll use that cash in a store to buy the craziest golf accoutrements in the world, everything from clubs with a medieval theme like a hammer and mace to clubs that have booster jets to make the ball rocket to the hole. Play a lot and you’ll increase your experience and become a far better golfer. In the Balloon Pop minigame, you’ll also find items along the way that help you defeat your opponent like a Hurricane Bridge which causes a brief but violent wind to send a ball far off course and perhaps into the raging ocean.
Beyond the gameplay, you’ll enjoy the wild characters. There’s Dolphini, a caddy who wishes she could fly, a punky girl called Kooh who has amazing strength when she hits the ball, and the ego-filled Uncle Bob, a former cop who can really put the spin on the ball. All of these and more gather together in the strange Pangya Island courses in a dozen odd locales, in forests, deserts and ice worlds.
While the graphics are colorful, they aren’t as detailed as you might like. And while the story mode is nicely plotted, the dialog that comes onscreen in text not audio can be downright silly, or worse, boring. Yet Super Swing Golf offers gamers who love golf the ability to escape into a fantasy world full of fairies and other creatures who like golf as much as Ben Hogan did.