Throughout the holiday season, Wii Sports acted as an ambassador for gaming. Jaded old gamers were introduced to something truly innovative for the first time in years, and in many cases friends and family who would normally never pick up a controller found themselves fighting for one instead. That little collection of bowling and golf minigames brought people into our hobby and sold consoles for Nintendo. Wii Sports’ take on golf was a great appetizer, but what will gamers find for the main course? Many will pick up the first thing on the menu, Tecmo’s Super Swing Golf. Those who do will find a game that is frustrating, but still shows enough moments of brilliance to keep everyone around for the next course.
At first glance, our imaginary gamer upgrading from Wii Sports will find plenty of reason to doubt if Super Swing is right for them. With obvious anime heritage (it is actually based on a popular Asian game), the cartoon-inspired character style will raise immediate red flags with the Tiger Woods crowd. The focus on the pseudo-RPG Story Mode, which centers around characters being whisked to a fantasy land to reenact the heroics of ancients who somehow saved the world by plugging holes with little magic balls, doesn’t help a bit.
At this point most of our imaginary gamers who aren’t fans of Japanese cartoons are probably putting down the box and wandering off to look for the latest of EA’s Tiger Woods titles on other machines, or are going back to play the 9 holes of Wii Sports a few more times. If they do, they will be missing out on one of the most unique and natural feeling control mechanisms to ever grace a golf game. The swing system is Super Swing feels amazingly like swinging a real club. Players take a stance as if they are stepping up to the ball, then swing the Wii remote backward as they would a real club. This moves a marker on an on-screen power bar; the larger the backswing, the farther across the bar the marker moves. Once the desired power level is reached, the golfer (for he or she is feeling less like a simple ‘player’ all the time) holds down the A button to set the marker. That mark determines how far the ball will go if the swing is perfect. From there the golfer swings back down toward the imaginary ball and follows through the rest of the swing.
To a spectator the action looks much like a real golf swing, and when it all goes right it feels like it too. Swinging too slowly will keep the full potential of the power bar from being used, and a slight curve of the swing or twist of the wrist will send the ball hooking or slicing far off center. To anyone who has swung a real club before the effect can be uncanny, bringing the game home in a way that has never been achieved before. Listening to friends controlling chibi schoolgirls with pink pigtails give each other advice concerning the right way to swing their arms and move their wrists, with the same seriousness they would discuss their real swing at a driving range, is almost worth the price of the game by itself.
Not everything about the swing mechanic is perfect, however. The most critical point of the process is also the hardest to control; setting the mark on the power bar at the top of the backswing. The way Super Swing’s physics work, it is nearly impossible to beat the computer players without hitting the correct distance every time. Hitting the mark at the precise moment you want with the Wii remote nearly upside-down and behind your head, at the end of a long swing, isn’t an easy task. As with many Wii games, ingenious players will find many ways to make the process easier by taking other actions that register as the same motions. Those who don’t want to deviate too much from the A