Review: True Swing Golf

True Swing GolfPlatform: Nintendo DS
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: T&E Soft
Release Date: 1/23/06
Genre: Sports – Golf
Players: 1-4

T&E Soft has an extensive history in this business developing golfing videogames, and that history is only continuing to grow with the release of True Swing Golf for the Nintendo DS. Golf games have been around for ages now, and up until EA Sports’ Tiger Woods franchise began to introduce revolutionary new ideas to the genre there hadn’t been much of any changes to the golf gaming formula. With its stylus-based touch-screen controls, the Nintendo DS seemed like the perfect platform to reinvent videogame golf right from the onset of its conception, and although True Swing Golf doesn’t revolutionize the genre in any significant ways, it certainly brings the sport to gamers in a unique form that is as refreshing as it is fun to play.

As is to be expected, True Swing Golf features many of the same game modes and options as any other golf game on the market, with Quick Start matches, Free Round practice play, Stroke Play and Match Play, and honestly there isn’t anything new, formulaically, to these modes that you haven’t seen elsewhere. Before heading out onto the course, though, you first must register a player avatar. Since this isn’t a licensed golf title, there are no big named golfing superstars to speak of. Instead, you are given eight fairly generic 3D character models to choose from, four male and four female, and “cool” or “wild” personality settings for your player to impart (although neither seem to have any noticeable effect on how they play), and that’s it, sadly enough. More definitely could’ve and should’ve been done in the character creation department.

Also included and serving as the game’s main gameplay attraction is the Championship mode, which consists of a lengthy progression of tournaments through classes of advancing difficulty: Rookie, Pro and Master. As tournaments are won, new courses become unlocked, of which there are over 15 in total, and cash is earned to put towards outfitting your player with the latest golfing equipment and apparel. Considering character creation is virtually non-existent, it certainly comes appreciated that you at least get to customize your character a little as you advance. At the Golf Shop you can put money earnings towards aesthetical articles like new shirts, pants and hairstyles, or better yet new gear to enhance the play of your golfer. New and increasingly expensive club sets, balls, gloves and shoes are available, each with its own stat modifiers that improve player attributes such as Power, Control, Technique, Recovery and Point. It would’ve been cool had there been a deeper customization system in place to maybe build these stats up based on performance sort of like an RPG, but that’s an idea hopefully for a sequel or follow-up. The only real issue I have with the Championship mode is its lack of a career mode-type progression. Yes, you compete in a long series of tournaments, but there’s never any sense that you’re doing anything more than playing glorified stroke play matches for cash and the occasional course unlockable. I’m not saying it’s bad, it just isn’t quite as fleshed out as it could be.

One area of True Swing Golf that doesn’t need any fleshing out is its multiplayer component. Although online play via Nintendo’s Wi-Fi Connection service would’ve been the ultimate, the local wireless play provided is perfectly up to snuff. The game supports up to four players in both single-cartridge download play and multi-card LAN play, in addition to the ability for others to download a demo of the game. Single-card play, as expected, is limited in features, allowing for stroke and match play matches on a meager selection of three courses. Multi-card play, on the other hand, has the full package of multiplayer options, including stroke and match play along with two modes not even available in single-player, those being Bet Stroke and Skins Match. Being able to wager your cash earnings from the single-player Championship mode against another player’s money always makes the match more interesting.

Of course, gameplay modes and multiplayer don’t mean a thing without fun and engaging gameplay to hold it all together, and fortunately the gameplay is where True Swing Golf is at its best. On the top screen, an in-game 3D view of the golf action is displayed, however all of the real action takes place on the bottom touch-screen. Displaying a 2D hole layout and course map, the touch-screen is where you get to align your shots, check yardage and wind conditions, adjust the shot impact point and ball spin, change clubs and zoom in and out on the course and shot target. More importantly, the touch-screen is where you actually control the golf swing. Once your target is acquired and everything is good to go, you enter the swing mode, which displays a 2D view of the golf ball and club with shot strength guidelines. To swing the club and hit the ball you simply use the stylus to draw a line towards the ball and watch it sail through the air or roll across the green.

Obviously, though, there is much more to it than that. Depending on the speed, direction, angle and length of the swing line you draw, the shot trajectory and distance are directly affected. This makes every swing matter just like it does in real golf — the second you get into a comfortable groove and relax thinking you have the swing down, you’ll end up drawing a crooked line and watch as the ball dinks a few yards down the fairway or you whiff the ball completely. With the ability to control the shape of the swing line, that also means you can play draw and fade shots depending on how you draw the line towards the ball. Fortunately, the ball physics and weather factors, such as wind and rain, realistically alter the ball’s flight pattern, so you do need to use every shot in the bag if you want to play consistently well.

True Swing Golf is definitely more of a golf simulation than an arcade-type experience, however the quick pacing of the game and the inclusion of Special Shots to build up for do keep the game from being too straightforward and hyper-realistic. The game is also very accessible, with swing and aiming guidelines in place to ease you into the touch-screen swinging controls. On the down side just a bit, however, once you become proficient with the game, the guidelines eventually can make certain aspects of the game too easy, especially the putting. A target line for aligning putts takes all of the guesswork out of the process. You still have to know and learn how to judge distances properly, but once you get that down it can be far too simple to drain putts on the courses without a lot of sloping topography.

Changing topics to the game’s visual showings, True Swing Golf is graphically a hit and miss proposition. In game, the 3D course environments look great and come in a wide variety of landscapes and designs — from beachside country clubs and forested courses to night courses and desert locales. Player models are a bit chunky when seen up close during post-shot celebrations and whatnot, but from the game’s standard viewing distance they look solid and animate quite nicely. The graphics don’t light the DS’s CPU on fire, but by handheld standards there’s nothing to complain about. And the same can be said for the audio. After turning off the cheesy and repetitive background music, you’ll find that there’s actually some quality course ambiance to be heard. Birds chirping, wind blowing, galleries clapping – it’s all here and brings the important aural golf effects to the portable experience in fine form. Where True Swing Golf suffers some is in its overall bland presentation. While the in-game action looks and sounds fine and dandy, T&E Soft could’ve done more to interject more personality into the game.

No, True Swing Golf does not reinvent the golfing simulation, however the intuitive touch-screen swing controls aren’t just a simple gimmick to attract attention and do actually make the game feel more like the sport than most any other golf title, and that’s really all you can ask for if you’re a virtual golfing enthusiast. Some work needed to be done in fleshing out certain game modes and features for it to really stand out as an elite DS title, but what’s here is great fun nonetheless. It may not smack the ball 350 yards off the tee with flash and pizzazz, but when it counts True Swing Golf sinks all the clutch putts.

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!