Golf and RPG’s are not common bedfellows, but RPGolf merges the two in a fun and interesting way.
Golf Story on the Nintendo Switch was absolutely fantastic, while it was fairly light on the RPG elements it was a fantastic, if simple, golf game. Upon hearing about RPGolf (easy to type, hard to say) I was looking forward to more of the same. However, upon starting the game, I discovered that would simply not be the case. This is not necessarily a bad thing. There are a few little niggles, most of them coming from the fact that the game was previously exclusive to mobile.
Upon starting RPGolf, you (a female golfer called Leigh) are introduced to your ‘sensei’ who will walk you through the tutorial, both fighting, and playing golf. The golf part is fairly simplistic. When in close proximity to the ball, pressing A, will bring up a guiding line for you to line up your shot. Upon pressing A again you can then apply spin on the ball, and the third and forth presses starts and sets your power. It’s that simple and easy to get hold of.
Fighting is as simple as pressing the A button to swing you club (yes, you fight with your golf club) or hold for 2 seconds to charge a spinning attack, ala Link to the past — Sensei even uses the “It’s dangerous to go alone” line. You also get shown magic attacks, that you need special gloves for, but he takes this off you at the tutorial end. You will have to find your own. This is also when I first noticed that it was a mobile game port, when I was instructed to touch the map button.
So, you discover early on that the world used to be full of golfers, but as all they did was play golf they had nothing to defend themselves when the monsters invaded. As a result they have all fled the course. A dragon now rules over the land, and will not relinquish control until he is bested. You can do this by hitting par or under on each of the 9 holes in order, then taking him on in battle 1 on 1.
As you play through RPGolf‘s holes, you will find they are inundated with monsters, and being an ARPG, you gain experience, and cash, as you kill them. You have 4 stats which you can increase as you level up. These stats are strength, that make you hit harder (on monsters) and further (when golfing), intelligence, which increases magic damage and the spin you can put on the ball. Perception increases your dodge chance, and slows down the golf meter, and finally, Defence, which reduces damage taken, and the how much the wind affects the ball. You get two points per level to boost these stats as you see fit.
So, that is the main chunk of the game. Clean out some monsters, attempt par on the current hole, fail, kill more monsters, level up so you can hit further, get par, move onto the next hole. Although getting to the next hole, you may find yourself working through dungeons, full of monsters, and usually ending in a boss, which are varied and fun to fight, although the hitboxes do seem a bit weird at times.
Once defeated, you are usually presented with a glove of a certain element. For example, the first one you find is the fire gloves, that allow you to melt ice blocks which block certain paths in the world. There are a number of these, for getting past different obstacles in the world, and in this respect RPGolf shows its Zelda inspiration again. You will also find a variety of golf challenges in the dungeons, from putting a ball from the start to the end of the dungeon, to shooting over lava, trying to land the ball on designated targets. They are fun little distractions from the main game.
While playing through the holes, you are free to explore the open world, which is fairly vast, considering there are only 9 holes. The world is full of monsters, however there is not a great deal of variation, and they tend to just be recolours of the same 6-7 monsters. These monsters will also respawn in each segment of the world when revisited, which can come to be a bit of a pain, but works out well enough if you need to grind a few levels to get your distance up.
You will also find chests scattered all over the world, containing Potions, Ethers, Antidotes, and other such objects to heal yourself with, or remove certain status effects that the monsters can affect you with, like poison. You will also find a save point on each hole’s tee, and sometimes in dungeons and towns. I suggest you save at every one of these as you come to it, as if you die, you can only load a game or go to the title screen. So if, like me, you blast through the first 3 holes and do not save, then get killed by the surprisingly strong (I had not really leveled up enough) second boss, you will end up starting over.
I mentioned towns, and there are a few in the world of RPGolf. The writing is heavily concentrated here, and while it is mostly minimal, it is fairly well done and full of humour. I even had a small chuckle over a golf-centric Skyrim reference (a guard had taken a golf ball to the knee) The towns will usually contain a few houses, complete with NPCs. Some of these are fully aware that they are in a game.
The graphics are reminiscent of the SNES/GBA style, with colourful sprites, high contrast, and a tile-based map format, as all 16 bits RPGs used. The animations are fun and fluid, and seeing Leigh swinging away with her club at the monsters is rather satisfying. Some tiles, like the mountains, seem to be a bit off, and look like two opposing perspectives, but this is only a small niggle, and does not take away from the game. You will also discover that when looking around on the map screen, the devs have hidden a number of visual secrets and easter eggs, like the studio’s name written in water on one part of the map, or clues to hidden areas.
Once you have achieved par on the 9 holes, and bested the dragon, he tells you that he will stop his evil ways, but there is more to find in the world. This is where the game opens up more to exploration. The dragon drops a final item that allows you to break certain rocks that have been scattered about the world, thus opens up a lot more of the map. Your sensei will also give you an item that turns all 9 holes into harder versions of themselves. You can now also take on some more optional bosses to claim the elemental clubs, which, when you have them all, can be forged into the greatest golf club in the world.
While it is far apart from GOTY candidate Golf Story, RPGolf is a very fun game to play through. It can get a bit samey, but the core game loop is fun enough that you will not mind the bit of grinding you will have to do here and there — and if you are a fan of old school JRPG’s you will be used to this anyway.
At time of writing the game is available for less than four pounds via Steam. At such a low price it is well worth picking up. There is easily more than enough content for the game, and I can see it being one which I, and other players, will return to for replays.
RPGolf is currently available on mobile devices, as well as PC & Mac.