Review: We Love Golf (Nintendo Wii)

We Love Golf
Genre: Sports
Developer: Camelot
Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: 07/15/08


Camelot, once known for their neato RPG’s as a sub-development house for Sega, has more or less become one of the better cartoon sports game developers on the market thanks in large part to the Mario Golf/Tennis lineup. Going from Shining Force 3 and Golden Sun to a bunch of golfing and tennis titles doesn’t exactly seem like a smooth transition, but hey, they’ve made a bunch of great games along the way. Multiple versions of Mario Golf and Tennis are on their resume, as is the very first Hot Shots Golf from way back in the day. Obviously they know their stuff when it comes to the simulated greens, so it seems like We Love Golf should be a winner without question. Add to that the Capcom name and a bunch of little Capcom novelties thrown in here and there and the game sure does seem like a sure thing.

Then again, Camelot DID make Beyond the Beyond, so one can never discount the possibility of a game failing.

As there is no story to We Love Golf, let’s take a look at the play modes. From the start, you’re offered a good amount of options, as up to four players (on one or more Wii-Motes) can play on one console, and you’re also offered online play against random players or against friends on your Wii. Single Player modes include Tournament Stroke play (to unlock new courses), Character Matches (to unlock new characters and costumes), Stroke Matches, Ring Shot (shoot your ball through rings), Target Golf (aim at targets and try to land in the center), Near Pin Contest (try to land as close to the flag as possible), and Training Mode (to allow you to practice as much as you need to). You’re also allowed the option in many of these modes to take on Wii-Mote Challenges (IE hitting a perfect shot, a perfect power shot, and so on). Multiplayer modes include Strokes Play, Match Play, Skins Matches (the winner of the hole gets the points for the hole), and Near Pin Contests, though with three or more players Match Play is unavailable. In other words, there’s a whole lot to see, do and unlock, which should give you plenty to play around with if you’re interested.

Visually, We Love Golf has that flair of other cutesy golf games (Hot Shots, Mario Golf), with vibrant, colorful courses and adorable, lively characters, though it’s not quite as wacky as other titles. It looks nice, and everyone animates well, but it’s lacking the personality of similar titles, and just basically doesn’t do as much with the personality of the concept as other games do. Aurally, the music is generally bubbly and upbeat, what sound effects are in the game sound as you’d expect, and the odd voice clips are generally of good quality, though if I hear the Wii-Mote cheerfully chime in with “POINT ME DOWN!” one more time I’m going to run it over with my car. In other words, yeah, that gets REALLY annoying, REALLY fast, and whoever thought it was a good idea apparently didn’t spend any time actually playing the game while this was enabled. Just saying.

WLG uses fairly interesting motion-sensitive mechanics for its golf play, as instead of drawing back and swinging (as some games do) or pressing a button with correct timing (as with Hot Shots/Mario), here you instead use a combination of the two. Holding the Wii-Mote horizontally allows you to look around the course and plot out where your ball will go, while holding it vertically downwards sets you into shot mode. In shot mode, a timing line similar to that of other button-press based games pops up; by holding down either A (to take a shot) or B (to practice), you start a shot, with the intention being that you draw backwards enough to get to the end of the shot (IE where the ball is expected to land), then swing forwards at the right time to “hit” the ball. Draw back too far or not far enough, the ball goes short or long. Swing too early or late and the ball… doesn’t really seem to do anything, actually. I believe it’s supposed to hook or slice depending on how badly you mess the timing up, but it never really seems to have any significant impact, which is probably to the game’s advantage. In any case, you can also use Power Shots (which allow you additional range at the expense of greater precision timing), top and bottom spin (to make the ball roll further forward or roll backward and avoid passing a target), and fade and draw shots (shots that tilt to the left or right to avoid obstacles) by either drawing back further, holding down the 1 or 2 buttons, or turning the Wii-Mote left or right, respectively, giving you a decent amount of control over your game. In general, the swings require more timing and precision the further back you have to draw, making short-range putting reasonably easy to work with while drives and chips are a little more complex, though in general, the game seems to work well enough overall… mostly.

Playing the game alone is where you’ll spend most of your time, as that’s where the majority of the unlockables come from. Tournament Stroke play essentially amounts to standard golf tournament play, IE, courses are rated by their Par (amount of strokes to complete), and by using less than that amount, you get a better score, while using more than that amount nets you a worse one. The amount you go over or under Par dictates both the rank the score for the hole receives and what your score overall is, so scoring one under for three holes puts you at negative three (a good score), while scoring one over for three holes puts you at positive three (a bad score, or if you play like I do in real life, a freakin’ miracle). Scores under Par are ranked with bird names, IE scoring one under Par nets you a “Birdie”, two under an “Eagle”, and three under an “Albatross”, with four under being impossible within the confines of the game (and, presumably, in real life). Scores over net you the ranking of “Bogey”, “Double Bogey”, and then just plus whatever amount of strokes you missed, presumably because missing the amount of strokes in the first place is embarrassing enough without a nickname associated to it. Moving on, Character Matches work under Match Play rules, meaning that whoever uses the least amount of strokes to complete the hole wins the match (with a tie removing a required win from both players the first time, then meaning nothing thereafter), and the first person to ten wins (or the person with the most holes won after all eighteen holes have been played) being declared the winner. Stroke Matches are simply multiple-player Tournament matches, and are generally just used for you to play against an opponent. Ring Shot, as noted, asks you to shoot your ball through rings for points, Target Golf is basically like darts except you’re trying to have your ball land in the target area, and Near Pin Contests see you playing against opponents to try to get the ball as close to the flag as possible. Training Mode just lets you practice a hole as you see fit to work on your game, and doesn’t really accomplish anything. You can also take on Wii-Mote Challenges, as noted, during most normal game modes (Character Matches, Tournament Play, etc) by pressing A while highlighting the Wii-Mote assistant on-screen and selecting a challenge; the assistant will then instruct you on how to do the challenge and grade you based on how accurate your backswing and follow-through are.

Most of the above things will unlock things in the game, be they new courses to play on, new characters to play with, or new costumes to wear. Aside from the usual compliment of costumes, there are also costumes in the game themed after popular Capcom characters, such as Apollo Justice (but not Phoenix Wright, BOO), Ken and Ryu, Morrigan, and Sir Arthur, among many others. The various characters and courses you can unlock are also generally different from one another and add nice variety to the game. Unlocking characters and courses isn’t too hard, as the game doesn’t kick you around with the difficulty of this, but unlocking the costumes often requires going through higher difficulty matchups that are significantly more challenging, which gives you a reason to keep playing. Online play also works reasonably well and without any sort of significant lag to it, and should amuse you for a bit, though same console multiplayer is really a far superior experience pound for pound, partly because of the fact that you can play with up to four players offline, and partly because offline play has more variety to it, while online play is a wee bit more problematic.

In fact, We Love Golf has a few notable problems, and a few of them come from its play mechanics. While normal golfing is easy to do, and can be done with a simple twist of the wrist if you’re lazy, anything else is a pain to work with; putting top or bottom spin on the ball requires two hands and, more often than not, a standing position, and having to turn the Wii-Mote for draw and fade shits makes holding the buttons a wee bit of a pain to work around. These, along with Power Shots, become a problem while doing the Wii-Mote Challenges, as you’ll have to do several of them multiple times to get them double-perfect (as they are ranked for both their backswing and follow-through), which is especially annoying with Power Shots, as you will almost have to throw your shoulder out trying to get maximum velocity on one of those. Thanks for the Wii-related injury, Camelot, I’m grateful, really. In other words: the control mechanic doesn’t work as well as it sounds like it does, and while, hey, the Wii is a motion-sensitive system and should have motion-sensitive controls, gimmick control schemes are generally considered “cute” when there are alternatives; when there aren’t, they stop being “cute” and quickly become “annoying”. It’s also worth noting that learning the timing of the controls isn’t a five second, pick up and play affair; even someone with steady hands and good posture will have to fiddle around to find the right sweet spot, and if you have shaky hands, well, have fun. As noted, perhaps as a way to compensate, if your follow-through doesn’t connect properly, nothing seems to happen, which seems to be a way of saying “hey, it’s okay, don’t worry about it”, which is great for new players or people who can’t play golf games worth a damn, but frankly, if you’ve been playing Mario Golf or Hot Shots Golf for years, you will be astonished at the general lack of effort you have to put in to win matches (as fade and draw shots, power shots and top or bottom spin aren’t even really necessary until the top difficulty levels of tournaments and such).

Also, the unlockable Capcom costumes are basically the major draw of the experience, so it’s baffling to realize that the methods of unlocking them are borderline asinine in most respects. Now, it’s understandable that unlocking the higher powered versions of characters might take a significant time and energy investment, as they are generally more powerful than regular characters and as such can be considered “a nice prize” for the work involved in unlocking them, but to unlock the Guile costume, for instance, you’re going to have to go through three separate sets of tournaments, each of which contains multiple tournament matches, and achieve a gold rank in all of them. FOR A COSTUME. This is then further compounded by having two costumes require you to play online, one against a stranger, one against a friend, and you’re required to win a match to unlock the costumes, meaning that, at best, you’ll have to con a stranger and a friend into trading up wins and losses, and at worst, you’ll have to befriend someone you don’t know and hope you can beat whoever you get matched up with online. And if you can’t get online for some reason, forget it, you’re beat out of two of the cooler costumes in the game. This is further compounded by the fact that online play is restricted ONLY TO MATCH PLAY, which is going to wear out its welcome in about four matches; I mean, when you can get your friends together to play the game in a few different modes, why would you want to play against strangers in one mode only?

The biggest problem for We Love Golf, though, is really the fact that, underneath its Capcom costumes and fancy motion controls, it’s a pretty simple golf game, which is a problem because 1.) there are already other golf games on the Wii that generally offer more content to them than We Love Golf offers, and 2.) the much-touted online mode, which would presumably be the deal-maker in this case, is limited to the point of essentially being a non-factor. You can’t customize your characters, you can’t choose your golfing gear, you can’t choose a caddy (caddies don’t even seem to exist here), all you’re given is golfers and courses, nothing else. A game like Mario Golf can generally get away with this because of the strong personality of the Mario universe (complete with ridiculous courses and characters), but when your game universe is brand new and has no established history to it whatsoever, and the game world itself is fairly plain, the resulting game feels bland in comparison to other, more outlandish or in-depth titles. If there were more personality or variety to the experience it wouldn’t be so bad, but as a full-priced release, it feels lacking in comparison to other, presently less expensive options.

In the end, We Love Golf will appeal to those looking for another golf experience, but it’s generally not the best golf game on the system. The cute visuals and audio, motion controls, variety of action and generally simple nature of the game is certainly appealing, as even those with little to no understanding of golf can figure it out reasonably well and play around with it without incident. The general dearth of personality and actual depth hurt it in the long run, as does the fact that the motion controls are the only option available when a simple three button press timing mechanic would have probably worked and felt a lot better. There’s certainly some challenge to be had in the game, and there’s certainly some fun to be had as well, but considering the fact that similar titles are on the system, for less money, and the only interesting additional feature (online play) is so limited as to not even be a factor in the experience, We Love Golf is a less than exciting full-priced experience.

The Scores:
Game Modes: CLASSIC
Graphics: ABOVE AVERAGE
Sound: GOOD
Control/Gameplay: ABOVE AVERAGE
Replayability: ABOVE AVERAGE
Balance: ABOVE AVERAGE
Originality: POOR
Addictiveness: MEDIOCRE
Appeal: ABOVE AVERAGE
Miscellaneous: DREADFUL

Final Score: DECENT.

Short Attention Span Summary:
On its own, We Love Golf is a fun, entertaining game, but taken on comparison to not only other cute, fuzzy golf games, but Camelot’s OWN cute, fuzzy golf games, it falls flat. The presentation is cute, single player offers a lot to fool around with, there are a few multiplayer modes and online play to keep you coming back, and it’s generally simple enough to play. However, the controls don’t work as well as they should, the game lacks depth and personality, and the few things that add personality to the experience are buried so deep in the experience that by the time one gets to them, they are no longer interested in playing anymore. As a budget priced offering it might be worth the investment, but as a full-priced release We Love Golf doesn’t do enough to merit a purchase by any but the most die-hard golf enthusiast.

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