Developer: Ntreev Soft
Release Date: June 23, 2009
I'm not much of a real-life golfer. I tried to learn the sport as a teenager and took a few lessons, but my subsequent outings with friends were all miserable affairs, and if I actually managed to hit the ball, it was a pretty random event. Likewise, watching golf was something I tried to get into around the same time, and while I can appreciate the game, it wasn't something that I had the necessary attention span to get into. However, I love video game golf, especially when it's more arcade-like, and for that reason alone, I was bound to enjoy Pangya: Fantasy Golf.
Admittedly, Pangya: Fantasy Golf has a pretty odd name, and it's based on an obscure Korean MMO, but hear me out. If you enjoy the Hot Shots franchise at all, you'll most likely find something to enjoy in Pangya. It hasn't seen the same type of refinement as Sony's long-running golf series, but at the same time, this fresh-out-of-the-gate golf game is a solid first entry, and it's certainly worth playing if you enjoy arcade golf. There's a robust Story mode, with multiple characters and tons of unlockables to check out, an ad-hoc multiplayer mode that supports up to eight players, a tournament mode that pits you against a huge number of players, and finally a standard exhibition match with a few customizable options. A lot of this is standard flair for golf games, in particular Nintendo's Mario titles, but the Story mode is the real standout here, offering up a series of events for a number of characters, all with their own stories that manage to intertwine with one another, making it worthwhile to check out each and every one. Additionally, you actually need to play as each character to advance the story, which is split into two chapters, along with a catchall prologue and epilogue.
The story isn't particularly exciting, but it does have a certain sense of charm. The idea is that the game starts off with a couple of human kids getting transported to a mysterious world to partake in a Pangya tournament, with "Pangya" being the name of golf in this universe. According to this realm's history, a legendary hero defeated a Dark Lord using the game of golf, which is pretty much as ridiculous as it sounds, and every year, they celebrate this victory by hosting a tournament that anyone can join. Apparently they also kidnap a few participants along the way, even though nobody seems to mind that much.
From the outset, there are only two characters available for the Story mode, but as you finish their sections, which are broken down into five to seven parts — or actual games of golf — you'll unlock additional people. The majority of the gameplay involves you playing against one other character, with three, five or seven rounds of golf, attempting to win the most holes before moving on to the next section. It starts off easy enough, but the AI ramps up in the second story section, and you'll need to make use of the trick shots you learn, along with the items that can enhance your power and control, to make the best of your situation. Certain characters hit harder than others, but aside from power, I didn't see a huge difference between the playable characters, unless you want to count design and basic aesthetics.
As I mentioned earlier, there are a bunch of unlockables to be seen, and not just from the characters you'll get to use. There are lots of costumes and other gear, most of which will provide different bonuses to your outfitted player, along with clubs you can earn and buy with the in-game currency, Pang. There are items, like a power-up potion, that you can use prior to a swing, and you'll have a cute little bag creature that follows you around the course as you play, which will also track your ball after a hit. There's a surprising amount of stuff to uncover, and an equally large number of items to buy, so there's a lot of replay value involved. Pang doesn't come easily, either, and while you'll net some from winning a match, you can also earn it based on various shots or overdriving an initial hit, among other things (like chip-ins).
The controls are very basic, and if you've played an arcade golf title before, you'll feel right at home with Pangya: Fantasy Golf. You can cycle between clubs with the shoulder buttons, and at the bottom of the screen, you have a hit meter. Hit the X button once to get it started, and once you hit the desired point on the meter, hit X again to get the bar going down. There's a sweet spot to hit at the left side of the meter, and if you manage to hit X one last time in that spot, you'll get a Pangya shot, which is a guaranteed accuracy shot so you'll hit it right where you intended after the wind factor takes its toll. There's also a sign that indicates the distance to the hole, so you'll understand how far you need to hit, or how much power to apply, and as you hit successful Pangya shots, you'll build up a meter that allows you to pull off power shots too. Finally, you can cycle between camera views with the d-pad or get a handy overhead view by pressing the Triangle button.
Most of the course design is elementary, and there's nothing too difficult aside from the typical water hazards, sand traps and other obstacles. Most Par 5s will offer up some slightly alternative paths, but Par 3s and 4s are generally pretty basic affairs. Putting is handled well enough but isn't particularly noteworthy with its functions. Instead of moving lines on the green, you'll see it divided up into a grid, with dots on each square to let you know whether your shot will bank left or right, or whether you're putting uphill or down. Pangya features some basic visual changes here, but otherwise, it's a system that's been in place with golf titles for quite a while, and it works well enough.
Visually, Pangya's design is absolutely anime-inspired, but I actually like the cutesy designs used here, and they fit the gameplay's simple, addictive nature. The voice-over work is hit or miss, like a lot of anime voice-overs tend to be, but I didn't come across a particular performance that I found to be grating. The courses might feel a little plain, but there's plenty of color on-screen, and it's really not a bad-looking PSP title, but it's certainly overshadowed by other titles that have hit the system recently. Pangya: Fantasy Golf is a decent golf title on the system, and it's nice to have something else to play other than Hot Shots. I hope to see more of the series in the near future. A little competition is never a bad thing, and Pangya provides a fun experience that'll be easy for just about anyone to pick up and play.Score: 7.5/10
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