While many people might not realize it, Korean developers treat the Sony PSP right. It wasn’t until this year that U.S. gamers could share on some of the gems on the system with the release of DJ Max FEVER and now, TOMY has bestowed domestic gamers with a version of NTREEV Soft’s long-running Pangya series. The series has been seen on other formats in the States, with two seasons of Super Swing Golf for the Nintendo Wii and multiple seasons of the online PC MMO version entitled Albatross 18. Recently, though, the series has struck again with a portable version that, for the first time, uses the original Korean Pangya name to give players some arcade-style golfing on the go and the results are very satisfying.
Most players will probably approach the title under the presumption that the game is a mish-mash of anime-styled characters just getting together to golf, but, believe it or not, there is actually a storyline behind why these characters play the sport, hence the Fantasy tagline in the title. The sport of Pangya exists in a parallel fantasy world where in ancient times, the world was threatened by a dark magic. Dark voids on the ground were sucking away the world’s energy until a legendary hero stepped up and plugged the voids by hitting spheres known as Aztecs to close them up.
In honor of the deed, this alternate world holds an annual festival where people from any dimension are invited to participate in a Pangya tournament, which imitates the legendary heroic act. Since the sport is basically known as golf in our reality, magical beings are able to visit the Earth we all know and love and transport people to this alternate dimension where they can compete in the Pangya tournaments. The basis of the game’s continuing storyline revolves around a boy named Scout, who has a bloodline relation to the legendary hero, but a wide cast of characters eventually make their way into the game’s story and by unlocking other story scenarios, players can play out storylines from other characters’ points of view. While the story might seem a bit cheesy or insignificant for characters playing golf, it does a lot to the charm of the title and gives it a bit more identity and personality to make it more noticeable at face value from other golf titles.
While the story mode will certainly keep players wrapped up for a lengthy period of time, Pangya does provide a number of other offerings. Certainly players have access to a free mode which lets them loose on any of the game’s courses with chosen perimeters, but they can also participate in skill-based challenges that award them licenses. There is also a tournament mode, which players can enter and if they best the competition, items and rewards are unlocked for players to use in the game. Some tournaments are only open to veterans and players with more skill, thus, the aforementioned licenses come into play – to enter harder tournaments with better prizes, players will have to have the appropriate license. Outside of the actual gameplay, Pangya does feature a shop to purchase items, a menu to customize characters and a menu to view game records.
There is certainly a lot to see in Pangya and the modes will keep players into the game for quite some time, but the game also offers and ad-hoc mode. With the wireless connectivity, up to eight players can jump into one room for Pangya competition. That being said, however, it is sad to see there is no online connectivity with the game, whatsoever. Obviously, online gameplay would have been the ideal implementation of the feature, but even then, online leaderboards or the ability to upload and download replays of masterful shots would have been a welcome feature. Regardless, you still get a ton of content for your money with Pangya, unfortunately, you’ll be tackling most of it on your own.
Most of the appeal from a Korean-based title stems from its artistic styling and Pangya doesn’t disappoint on this front. The story panels and menus are ripe with character stills that feature amazing artwork and right when players boot up the game, they are treated to an extremely well-done opening movie that sets of the tone of the game’s presentation. The game’s menus look great as well, offering a vivid and clean interface. During gameplay, however, the visuals are bit of a mixed bag. Some of the models can look a bit blocky and the camera sometimes offers an awkward angle after a shot, giving players nothing to look at but a plain, blue sky. The environments each fit a theme appropriated by the name of the course and while nothing is overly detailed, everything in the graphics department does its job.
Audibly, Pangya sounds great in both its music and sound effects. The music is appropriate for each scenario, giving players acoustic riffs and nature-inspired tracks as they set up their shot and the music while putting is soft, but dramatic. The game emits all of the sound effects you would expect to hear in a golf title, from the smacks of the driver connecting to the ball to the ever-satisfying drop of the ball into the cup. While a few more voice effects would have made the audio pot a little a sweeter, Pangya features plenty of memorable tunes and the infectious call out of “Pangya!”Â from a perfect shot might ring out in your head every once in a while (or perhaps haunt you in your sleep depending on how you handle repeated exposure to a phrase).
On the gameplay front, anyone who has ever touched a Hot Shots Golf game, or golf outings in a similar setup, will be able to dive straight into the title without any problems. Pangya’s shots operate on the simplistic slider mechanic, which players use timing in order to set the power and accuracy of a shot. Of course, once players mess the extras a little bit, they can put spin on the ball to curve it or control how it rolls and the use of earned power shots gives a players a few more tools at their disposal to do a few crazy trick shots. Shooting only requires the press of the X button, making the control easy to grasp, while the remainder of the controls are suitable for adding spin to the ball, changing clubs and inspecting the course.
Players of any golf game should be familiar with the scoring, wind compensation and ground pitch and types, all of which is also represented in Pangya. The title, however, inserts a few interesting mechanics such as item usage during gameplay. While it doesn’t dramatically affect the gameplay, players can use items to kill off the wind, give them a power boost or steady their nerves to improve their accuracy (sound like a golf drug testing policy is on the horizon). Along with the fantasy element, players are awarded Pang – the world’s currency – and experience points to bolster the player’s in-game options. At its core, while the title tries to take a new spin on Hot Shots Golf, the simplistic concept is what makes Pangya fun and the way the title is laid out, Pangya is perfect for picking up for hours at time or even just a quick fifteen minutes. Hopefully, I don’t have to explain the concept of golf, but with Pangya, golf is what you get and anyone interested in a golf title that isn’t Hot Shots or Tiger will find some satisfying gameplay in this title.
Part of what makes Pangya an extensive game is in its unlockables. With all of the licenses, tournaments, story lines, items and galleries, players will be tackling the game’s modes for quite some time. It also helps that Pangya is just plain, simple fun, further fueling players to come back for more, even if it is just for that fifteen minute fix of arcade-style golfing. With the records, players can go back and shoot for lower scores (remember, in golf, a low score is a good thing) and if players can grab a few friends with the title, the multiplayer aspect is there for anyone looking to expand their competition. In some areas, the disc access and loading is a bit more than what most players will probably want from a game, but in the end, the game is worth the wait. Even though it isn’t wholly original in the genre, Pangya is a welcome addition to the PSP library.
Originality: ABOVE AVERAGE
Appeal Factor: VERY GOOD
FINAL SCORE: VERY GOOD GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
Pangya: Fantasy Golf has a lot more under its hood than merely being a Hot Shots Golf copycat. There is an expansive story, wonderful art and music and a ton of things to do thanks to its lineup of modes and unlockables. If it did copy one thing from Hot Shots Golf, though, it would be its fun factor. Pangya is about as simple as golf gets, but the results will hook golf fans and are appealing to those that normally wouldn’t be into the genre