At some point near the middle of Golf Story, I used my golf skills to defeat an evil wizard.
Not by outplaying him at golf, oh no, nothing like that. I was literally smashing him in the head with golf balls while he fired his own fiery ones back at me. In the end, it didn't matter what magic he had, what skills he brought – I outplayed him. I hit him in the head with a golf ball a bunch of times and he and his skeleton army admitted defeat.
My golf prowess had saved the world, and yet they STILL wouldn't let me join the pro tour and compete. Let me into your golf club, you cowards!!!
Golf Story is a game about a guy who wakes up one day and decides that he wants to leave his life behind and finally work to achieve his lifelong dream: becoming a professional golfer. He just.... gets a little sidetracked along the way is all. Thankfully, everything from bird conservation to saving a small child who's ventured out too far into the water can be tied back to golf, giving him ample practice along the way.
I loved this game because it feels like at every turn, it throws a new curve at me – yes, a lot of the time you're technically golfing, but it's very rarely just a simple 9 holes. There's always some kind of odd twist or unusual setup that makes it more of a fun challenge instead of a straightforward sim.
The actual mechanics are simple, a 3-tap system to determine strength and accuracy akin to something like Mario Golf. Along the way you level up some skills and gain extra shot types and more clubs, each of which has different uses, e.g., a putter that can curve its shots or drivers that allow your ball to bounce off the surface of the water.
It's not that the golf is BAD, it's just that the 9-hole golf rounds that sort of act as quasi boss fights are probably the least inventive parts of the game. Each course introduces some unique gimmick – even the first course has a bunch of moles who will steal and hide your ball if you get too close to them. The real meat of the game comes from the side quests, some of which I've mentioned above, even those examples barely cover a portion of what happens in the game. I spent over 20 hours with Golf Story, and I could easily spend 20 more if they continued to up the ante and find new ideas to roll with.
A lot of the side quests are also small challenges to test your skill against things like high winds, bunkers, or one of my favorite people, who comes in and "remixes" each course, presenting you with alternate and far more difficult holes for each tee spot.
The side quests and writing are what really shine here, and this game constantly delighted me with clever dialogue and interesting use of the word-bubbles characters speak from, resizing them, shaking them, playing with font sizes, to create weird, fun characters that kept making me laugh throughout. Also the game is MAD AUSTRALIAN, so all you non-Aussies out there, prep for some slang you're gonna be scratching your head over.
For all the effusive praise I have for this game, it does come complete with some technical problems and glitches, including an unfortunate moment where the frame rate and controller responsiveness just took a nosedive. I wondered if it was because of all of the NPCs on the screen, but it turned out I'd accidentally made a golf ball continue bouncing in a way that the game didn't expect. Exiting the area fixed the issue, but there were little things here and there that stuck out and felt unpolished.
Golf Story is a game full of surprises, which is why I'm hesitant to talk about more than what I've mentioned. I was already hooked by the idea of a golfing game with an overworld, side quests, stats, and leveling, but it wound up being so much more than that. The fact it's not trying to be a sim makes it so approachable, and I have no problem suggesting this to people who don't even like golf. Technical issues notwithstanding, Golf Story is an unexpected and excellent addition to the Switch's eShop lineup.