Developer: Ntreev Soft
Release Date: December 13, 2006
Nintendo's Wiimote was designed for a good game of golf, and the sport was represented in two distinct launch titles – though not in a very convincing fashion. The golf mini-game in Wii Sports showcased the potential for a realistic swinging motion, but the limited gameplay was further impacted by an inability for gamers to determine accurate drive distances. Though the "Monkey Golf" mini-game in Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz was among the better of the pack, it still failed to deliver an expansive or particularly worthwhile experience.
But those were just mini-games – examples of what could be, should someone opt to fully develop a golf simulation with the Wiimote. Thankfully, the wait has not been long, as Super Swing Golf hit stores less than four weeks after the launch of the Wii console. Take away the (well-executed) swing controls, and Super Swing Golf is little more than an uninspired clone of Hot Shots Golf (much like 2002's Swingerz Golf for GameCube). But the swing controls are here, and they are rather effective, so Super Swing Golf gets a pass for its derivative nature, but other issues keep it from scoring significantly under par (that's a golf term, kids).
Super Swing Golf builds upon the basic swing scheme established in Wii Sports, but it delivers a system that feels entirely natural and surprisingly realistic. Executing a swing is as simple as getting into position, pulling back your arms back to set the power, holding down the A button, and then swinging through the nonexistent ball. Be sure to follow through – Super Swing notes the straightness of your wrists and the quality of your follow-through, making adjustments based on how you perform. A perfect swing will get you a "Pangya!" bonus, and the ball will go exactly where you want it to. Any other swing could send the ball in all sorts of directions.
Learning how to make a perfect swing can be a tricky endeavor. While I wholly recommend doing the training lessons, I had to figure out the swing on my own. The training level kept telling me to hit the ball straight, but it was not giving me any useful tips with which to correct my swing. I have never actually gone golfing in real life, so I had my father help me improve my digital approach. It worked, but it was only after a dozen or so hours of play that I was able to hit "Pangya!" shots on a regular basis.
The swing scheme is a little quirky, but you will get better with time. One other odd thing that I noticed was that the swing style seemed a bit different depending on your in-game golfer. When I first switched from Scout to Uncle Bob, I had trouble hitting anything correctly, and it took me some time to relearn my swing. This may have something to do with the difference in each character's respective accuracy, but it was a bizarre situation, regardless.
I have seen a number of complaints about the putting in Super Swing Golf, and though it seems a bit wonky at first, it really did not seem terribly different than the putting in Hot Shots Golf. Each of the arcade-style golf sims has his/her own sets of quirks when it comes to putting, and Super Swing is no different. Long putts are rough, but that's to be expected. Reading the green requires you to take a couple of things into consideration, including distance and slope, and then deciding how much power you may need to make the shot. An optimal viewpoint is not provided for the putting segments of the game, and moving the camera around can be a bit of an adventure. Sinking a putt from a distance of 10 yards or more can usually be chalked up to luck, not skill.
As I noted earlier, the swinging feels natural and works well, though I wonder if it would have been better to have a more fluid swinging motion that included pulling back and swinging forward without any stops. Perhaps Mario Golf or Tiger Woods will integrate such a concept in future Wii iterations. If swinging is not your thing – or if you've thrown out your back from playing too much – Super Swing Golf also features button-only controls that are somewhat reminiscent of the controls in Hot Shots Golf. Once you get used to the standard swinging scheme, chances are that you will actually prefer it to the button controls.
Regardless of your preferred control scheme, the button placement never feels truly comfortable. Setting up a shot means you have to press the 1 button to adjust the view, use the d-pad to change your aim, hit the minus button, and then click the B trigger – and that's before you even take a swing. The controller is held in the standard vertical position, so the buttons are all over the place. You will spend a lot of time just getting to the point where you can take a shot and move on, but it will become second nature in time. Sadly, this is just one of the ways in which Super Swing Golf fails to establish a sense of fluidity.
Even worse is the fact that you have to watch everything in the game, from the terribly scripted story sequences to your opponents' every shot. In Hot Shots (and other similar games), you could typically watch your opponent's swing and then press a button to skip to the part where the ball stopped rolling. Such is not the case in Super Swing – you will watch their setup, swing, and everything that follows. It adds up quickly, and an 18-hole match requires a considerable time investment. A mid-game save option to allow gamers to break up lengthy battles would have been a smart addition.
In the single-player mode, gamers can engage in stroke or match play tournaments, though the cornerstone of the experience is the Pangya Festa mode. In Pangya Festa, you learn more about the characters via painful dialogue exchanges (example: "Stop flirting so much! Or else, I'll have to arrest you!") followed by matches of varying lengths. Winning matches earns you Pang (money) and additional items to buy in the in-game store, while winning five matches with a single character unlocks the next character. Essentially, doing well in this mode opens up the game in a variety of ways.
Good luck – you will absolutely need it. Though the first couple matches are rather easy, the difficulty ramps up significantly after that, and it never seems to let up. You will have to be perfect to win some of these matches; better than perfect, actually, since merely making par will not be enough to secure a victory. It's a shame that a more lenient difficulty curve was not established for this mode, as getting stuck essentially freezes your progress. Even when I was at a point where I was doing well in the match and stroke play tournaments, I still had to play some of the Pangya Festa matches five or more times to secure a victory.
Often, finding victory in that mode depended on having the computer commit a boneheaded play. And boy, when the computer players mess up, they really mess up. On multiple occasions, I have watched my A.I. opponent attempt the same terrible shot four times in a row (and end up out of bounds each time), at which point he or she is typically forced to give up. But for the most part, the A.I. characters play an excellent game and will nail long putts and absurd chip-ins that you could only dream of hitting.
For whatever reason, finishing a match with a tie does not result in a playoff. Instead, the player who accumulated the most Pang for stylish play will take the match. Way to completely remove the competition from the competition, guys. Maybe next year's Madden game will eliminate overtime, instead allowing the digital crowd to pick the winner in the case of a tie. It's a foolproof plan!
Silly storylines, generic characters, and shady rules aside, Super Swing Golf does a solid job of creating an enjoyable golf simulation for all ages. Making your way through the single-player modes can be a tedious venture, but the multiplayer is fun and the swing controls seal the deal. With some significant upgrades, Super Swing Golf could establish itself as a strong competitor to Mario Golf, which seems guaranteed to hit the Wii sometime in the near future.