Of all the sports to be represented on the Nintendo Wii, golf is one of the more prevalent ones. The nature of the game itself can be translated very well to the controller and Nintendo demonstrated how it could work with Wii Sports. After both EA and Tecmo released a few golf games for the system, Capcom decided to enlist the services of Camelot (the development team responsible for the first two Hot Shots Golf games as well as the Mario Golf series) and throw their hat into the golf game. The result is We Love Golf, which aims to be the definitive arcade-style golf game for the console. The question is, can a veteran developer produce the first really amazing golf game for the Wii, or will the gaming public have to wait for someone to get it right? The answer can be a bit surprising.
We Love Golf is a feature-packed game that gives you plenty to do every time you pop in the disc. Once you get to the main menu, you have the choice between checking out the single-player mode, the multiplayer mode for up to four people, your personal stats and online gameplay. In the single- and multiplayer modes, you choose your character and outfit, the game mode, course and number of holes. While the number of courses is sizeable when you unlock them and the number of characters reflect that as well, the lack of customization kind of hurts. Unlike other golf games on the system where character customization is strong, here you are limited to six original pre-made outfits and the Capcom-themed ones. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but if you're looking to style your golfer yourself, it won't happen here.
In the single-player Tournament mode, you play against several computer games in a full 18 holes for each course. Winning a tournament in a course allows you to unlock another course. It starts out very easy, and while the difficulty ramps up, it doesn't do so until the very last course is available for gameplay. This makes We Love Golf one of the easier golf games on the market, which is great for people wanting to unlock things but bad for those that love a challenge.
In the single-player Character Match, you play against any computer opponent, and whoever wins nine holes first wins the match. You can use any unlocked course and play any set of holes in that course. This mode is used to unlock the other characters in the game and, much like Tournament mode, the difficulty doesn't ramp up until you are playing the last character in the game.
The single-player Ring Shot is a minigame where the user has to sink it in the hole in par or less. The twist here is that the player also has to make sure the ball passes through the rings as well as make it in the hole. Unlike Tournament and Character Match, the difficulty here ramps up at a more even pace, ensuring that you don't keep breezing through the game before everything is unlocked.
Target Golf is a challenging single-player mode where you try to score points by making the ball land in the designated target area. A certain number of points must be scored in each hole before you can move on. Like Ring Shot, the difficulty here is paced rather nicely.
As for the multiplayer modes, Strokes mode is available for up to four players, and it's much like Tournament mode, except that no other computer players are involved. Match Play is for two players and plays out much like Character Match in that the first person to nine holes wins. The only difference here is that nothing gets unlocked in the process. In Skins Match mode, up to four players engage in a combination of Strokes and Match Play, and the person with the best score for the hole gets the points for that hole. Finally, in Near Pin Contest, up to four players must use only one stroke apiece to try to get the ball as close to the pin as possible. All 18 holes in the course are played through, and the person with the shortest total distance wins.
Training mode is more like a practice mode, and this is where you get to play any hole without worrying about tournaments or other opponents. While there isn't much to complain about here, it is worth noting that a tutorial mode is actually present. It just so happens to be hidden within most gameplay modes. To get there, you have to point at and click on Chip, the tutor that looks like a Wiimote. It's a cool Easter egg, but it feels strange to have something as basic as a tutorial hidden away like this, especially when people will need it to get used to the control scheme.
The control scheme for We Love Golf is much like other golf games for the Wii, but with a little twist. Pointing at the screen handles menu navigation. During gameplay, the plus and minus buttons change golf clubs, left and right on the d-pad shifts your direction while up and down moves the camera toward and away from the character, respectively. Holding the 1 button gives the ball topspin, while holding the 2 button gives it backspin. Pointing at the screen while on the tee gives you a closer view of where the ball is estimated to land. Pointing the remote up gives you the bird's-eye view instead. Holding B while taking the swing gives you a practice swing, and holding A gives you the real swing. Twisting your Wiimote changes the direction of the swing. While all of these things will sound familiar to you if you've played golf games on the system before, the actual swing mechanics is where We Love Golf differs from everyone else.
Most golf games try to mimic your Wiimote movements as accurately as possible, giving you the feeling that you are swinging a real golf club. In this title, once you swing the Wiimote backward, a meter starts to fill and determines how much power you want for your swing. Once the meter meets the spot you designate, it goes back down. Instead of swinging immediately, you wait until the meter hits the starting position before you swing. If you swing early, the shot goes to the right, but if you swing late, it goes to the left. Swing at the right time, though, and you go straight. The swinging system is less natural and more mechanical. This presents the player with a dilemma, since the natural reaction is to swing the Wiimote whenever you feel like it, not when the game tells you to do so. The system here is more like Hot Shots Golf or Mario Golf and less like real golf. For golf video game fans, this is an easy system to which to adapt. For casual players, this will take some practice before it finally clicks. Once it does, though, you'll feel like this was the right choice since the Wiimote hasn't been very good at reading accurate golf swings in previous offerings. With this swing system, you'll be hitting golf balls like a pro in no time.
The graphics for We Love Golf are a mixed bag of good and bad elements. The art style for the characters is a very simplified anime style that is reminiscent of the Hot Shots Golf series. It also complements the Miis you will be able to use in the game once you unlock all of the characters (Miis are immediately available in multiplayer mode) and the Capcom-themed costumes you open along the way. Unfortunately, it looks more like a PS2 game than a Wii game, especially with the lack of anti-aliasing present on the character models. The same thing can be said for the environments; they all look really good and the particle effects are good, but it doesn't look like it takes full advantage of what the hardware can do. For those with HDTVs, the game isn't quite widescreen (it's less than 16:9 but more than 4:3), but it is 480p. It'll look fine on your new TV set, but it's not something you want to show off to graphics snobs.
One thing that stands out first and foremost is the music for We Love Golf. The music sounds a bit too simple and happy when you start the game, but it's passable. However, when you get on the green and putt for the first time, the music becomes tense and more focused. You suddenly get the feeling that this first putt is the most important one of the game. When you make a bogey, the music helps you feel more dejected than before. When you make par or better, the harmony becomes triumphant and makes you feel good about yourself. From this point on, the music becomes your main motivating factor whether you start the climb back into first place or you have the lead and try your best to hold onto it for as long as possible. It's a clever musical arrangement that transforms it from being the same cartoony tunes you heard in the past to something more meaningful and memorable.
The sound effects are clear and crisp as well. Hitting the ball never sounded so good, and the ping of the tin cup is a sound you don't mind hearing over and over again. The low point in the audio department would be coming from the voice work, which is average at best. None of the voices will make you want to plug your ears, but they don't end up sounding that great either. The phrases that the characters say when they either win or lose the hole are generic, and you'll get tired of the phrases fairly quickly.
Online gameplay is a very limited but very fun affair. Once We Love Golf connects to the online service after a short delay, you have the choice between playing against total strangers or against friends. Yes, this means dealing with Friend Codes, but having the option to play against strangers is a good consolation prize that should be adopted by other Wii titles. Once you select this, you can choose between playing a Beginner Rules game or a Master Rules game, with the only difference being whether or not you want to have the guide helping you. Then you get an opponent, choose the course and the holes, and play the game. The match is limited to versus play, and whoever gets to five holes wins the match; the decrease from 18 to five holes ensures that the multiplayer matches remain quick and fun.
There is no lag online, so gameplay is smooth, and while there is no way to do voice chat, the canned phrases do well enough. The only knocks against the online portion deal with gameplay modes and availability. While you play the versus mode online, that's all you get. There's no way to play a full 18 holes online with a group of people. All of the other minigames are also unavailable, so if you don't like the versus mode, you won't like online mode either. The other problem with the online aspect is game availability. Within the time span of one week, this reviewer has only been able to get into one game. You're guaranteed to get into a game with friends, but a public mode that has few players on it isn't all that appealing. Keep that in mind if you plan on playing online against people other than your friends.
We Love Golf is a very good arcade-style golf game, but it isn't perfect. Other arcade golf games are better in aspects such as graphical clarity and, to some degree, controls, but this title is tons of fun in single- and multiplayer modes, and it has an online portion, which other sports games generally don't offer on the Wii. If you've been itching to get your hands on a golf game that doesn't take itself as seriously as Tiger Woods, this is it. We Love Golf is a worthy pick-up from the studio that knows how to make golf fun for the masses.
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