Being a huge Hot Shots Golf fan, I often wonder why so many have opted to dismiss the franchise as a kiddie, arcade-y experience. These titles have depicted the sport of golf – which I really don’t play in real life – with plenty of realism and authenticity; despite its cartoony look, you have to consider everything a golfer would consider. And with the new mechanics of the Vita…well, color me intrigued.
First off, you have to appreciate the visual quality in Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational. Sony’s new portable is awfully capable and believe it or not, this title is one of the best-looking handheld games I’ve ever seen (perhaps second only to Uncharted: Golden Abyss). There’s tremendous detail in the characters and environments, the effects are crisp and colorful and overall, this is one refined and surprisingly stylish presentation. Kudos on that, Clap Hanz.
As was the case in previous franchise installments, you will select your club, check the wind and the lie of the ball, and execute your swing with the traditional three-tap meter mechanic. Evidently, this can be done with either the touch pad or the available buttons. The game also utilizes motion sensing and both the front and rear touch pads for various aspects of gameplay, and there will be multiple options for the hit gauge. Returning fans will be satisfied, and newbies get choices…cool.
As for online play, bear in mind that you need Sony’s online pass (that has been in the news recently). Once involved, you can create and customize an avatar, and then you can explore the Visual Lobby and chat with other players. Fans of the series will remember this online form of interaction from past entries; it has worked out very well and allows you to feel like part of the community. I just wonder if Advanced Shots will be back, and if they’ll give people an unfair advantage as they did in Out of Bounds…
The more you play, the more you’ll earn points, and these can be spent on all sorts of things, including new characters, new outfits and new equipment. I assume you’ll be able to earn points in both offline and online action, but you might only get them by participating in single-player tournaments. At any rate, provided the mechanics – both touch and standard – work out fine, this is guaranteed to be one of my favorite early Vita titles. I’m betting it’ll be recommended to other long-time fans of HSG, too.
1/9/2012 Ben Dutka