I am not what one would call a golf junkie. If you were to peek at the list of things I enjoy doing most, you would find "golf" just a couple spots above "pay bills". But the Wii works a mysterious kind of magic and I now find myself unable to resist playing a few holes in Wii Sports every day. Yet at the same time, the golf experience offered in Wii Sports doesn't pack much in the way of depth or replay value and I find myself looking for a more complete golfing game. Enter Tecmo with its super stylized Super Swing Golf for Wii, and while it may be a bit too quirky for some, it is a breath of fresh air for people wanting more than a glorified tech-demo.
Before you even pick up the controller, one thing you are going to notice is that, in the land of Super Swing Golf, things can be a bit odd. Courses sport unnatural plant life, heads and hands are ridiculously gigantic, your caddy looks like the result of a cat mating with a shopping bag, and other such things. And this is something you should be aware of before getting the game. Some players will hate it and others will love it. I personally enjoy the shift from uber-realism to over-the-top stylization. That being said, the visuals aren't nearly as crisp as one would expect from a next-gen (now current gen) console. The courses as a whole, while interesting and colorful, are also blurry and flat. Added to that, the game will run into occasional framerate problems if there is a lot happening on the screen at once. Obviously, the Wii is more about gameplay than graphics, but please don't make me feel like I'm playing on a five-year-old console. Audio work is solid, if a little transparent. Voice-over work is practically nonexistent, and calm (though oddly catchy) elevator music plays in the background.
Of course the real meat of Super Swing is in the gameplay and how well the Wiimote simulates a golf club. Getting your shots lined out is easy enough; check your map, use the d-pad or pointer to aim where you want, then raise the Wiimote like a real golf club until the power bar on your screen is where you want it and let her rip. Simple, yes? Not quite. The actual swing is where things get tricky. Depending on how much twist the Wiimote has when your club makes contact with the ball you can get a nasty hook or slice if things aren't right on. This is another one of those love/hate features of Super Swing. Teaching yourself to keep your wrists from twisting as you make the swinging motion can take a good deal of practice, and subsequently makes the game lose a bit of its appeal to traditional non-gamers.
Unfortunately, this means that the difficulty will probably chase off casual golfers, and the stylized graphics will probably be a turn-off for those that are serious about golf.
Once on the green, things are a little less complex, but can still be easily as frustrating. Using a somewhat odd system, Super Swing places a grid on the green with a dot in the middle of each square. This dot then moves off of the center of the grid square to tell you about how much the green breaks. If the dot sits just off to the left, for example, the green breaks slightly to the left in that specific square. While a more informative visual system would have been welcome, this one is a passable alternative, and far exceeds anything seen in Wii Sports. Once you have your shot lined up, like before, just raise the Wiimote like a club until the power bar is full enough and swing away. Fortunately, now you don't have to worry about hooking or slicing and your only concern is hitting the ball hard enough to get it in the cup.
To navigate menus, as well as your course map, Super Swing makes heavy use of the Wiimote's pointer functionality. Generally intuitive, things only get a little funky when menu navigation requires you to press the unnaturally placed '1' and '2' buttons. But this isn't a big deal and after a little practice you will hardly notice. I found using the map especially handy because the player can point and click exactly where they want to shoot and the appropriate club will be automatically selected.
As far as replay value and unlockables are concerned, Super Swing has both in spades. With around a dozen 18-hole courses - as well as practice modes - you will always have the option for a change of scenery and difficulty. You can also unlock new characters and items, and upgrade your characters or clubs, by spending Pang points earned during play. And it isn't just the look of your characters that can be changed; you can also upgrade their skills and their clubs to get more power, spin, etc.
But what should really drive your decision of whether or not to pick up Super Swing Golf will be how much you plan to use the multiplayer modes. Match Play allows two players to go head to head, and Stroke Play lets up to four players enjoy the fun. The best thing here is that both modes require only one Wiimote to share among everyone, eliminating the problem of not having an extra controller. There is also a Balloon Pop mode for up to four players who each have their own Wiimote. The single player modes are largely the same with the notable exception of Balloon Pop being replaced with PangYa Festa, which acts as a story mode. The problem with single player is that the computer can get a little cheap and start busting out Eagle shots (that's golfer slang for "kicking your ass") if you start to open up a lead.
This ability of the computer to juice itself up and so easily take away your hard-earned lead just doesn't feel right even though it keeps it competitive, and can really cut into the experience. Couple this with the possible scenario that you don't have many friends who want to play multiplayer golf inside and Super Swing will most likely start collecting dust. Using a little 20/20 hindsight it is easy to say that Tecmo should have delayed the game until Nintendo got their act together with the Wii's online system, but such is life. Ultimately, if you and some friends are dying to play a more fleshed out version of golf on the Wii than what's offered in Wii Sports, Super Swing Golf may suit your needs. But even then I suggest a rental to make sure you can handle the quirkiness.