Forward Tee Gaming

I love golf.  In the gaming world that kind of makes me a weirdo, but I’ll happily be the vocal minority swinging away on pristine fairways and beautiful locales.  Growing up with Mario Golf, Neo Turf Masters, and most importantly Hot Shots Golf, the “arcade” style of golf brought me much more enjoyment than the more realistic fares of Tiger Woods and 2K’s PGA Tour series.  The triple-tapping golf series has met a years-long lull, with Everybody’s Golf coming out in 2017 (a 6 year wait between titles) and now the 2021 Apple Arcade port of Clap Hanz Golf, now titled Easy Come Easy Golf releasing in 2022 (another 4-5 year wait between titles), so fans have been starving for any scrap of the Japanese-made golfing franchise.  I played a few hours on the Apple Arcade and felt it wasn’t for me, so I slapped $20 into my Nintendo Switch and gave this newly ported title another go to see if it’s worth running the links once again.

Plot was never a real factor in Hot Shots Golf, so don’t be surprised to see little if any in Easy Come Easy Golf.  The title gives a good indicator of what to expect: a nice constitutional stroll through numerous 18 hole golf courses taking in the sights and working to achieve the best score you can.  Certain tournaments will unlock extra characters that you can play as throughout your golfing timeline.  Do your best to take the least amount of shots and have a nice, easy, fun time on course!

All the normal bells and whistles that you would expect are available off the rip in Easy Come Easy Golf.  A smattering of characters are available to ease you into the game’s Tour mode, the game’s “Career” mode to unlock various things for various characters.  Each character comes with multiple colors and a few unlockable costumes, all unlocked through Tour mode (via Best Drive and Closest Pin contests or a good ol’ Match Play) or playing through Score Attack Mode, which grades your 9-hole attempts with Ranking Points. Grab enough and you’ll unlock the costume.  EZ PZ.  Each character can be tinkered with by adjusting their height and head size, because it wouldn’t be a Hot Shots game without being a smidge goofy.  With a robust cast of 30 characters you will have a lion’s share of picks to choose from, but characters not having voices deflates the personality of each one where the characters are more stat changes than personally picking a favorite (though we are Team Noel and Don Papas in this house).

Being a port from Apple Arcade, ECEG comes with two styles of gameplay: the tried-and-true triple tap method or a flicking method using the Switch’s Joycon/Analog Stick ala The Golf Club.  The stick method works well, but the triple tap just feels more in tune with the game as a whole so I used it primarily.  When playing, the triple tap felt much easier than in previous installments.  You have to really go out of your way to duff a shot, with the only real issue of missing a “perfect” impact being a few degrees deviation from your intended shot.  I put “perfect” impact in quotations as a perfect impact has been omitted from the game.  No Super Sidespin, Backspin, or Topspin shots are available.  Applying side and backspin is set up using the right Joycon to map where you want to hit accordingly and your character determines how well those spins work out.

Which highlights another omission from ECEG: Clubs and Balls.  Each character comes with a favorite club and a speciality, like better in roughs or bunkers or increased backspin.  These character-specific items are melded within and from what I saw cannot be changed.  So if you have a character you really like and, like myself, enjoy a wicked backspin on your PW shots, you’re out of luck if that character isn’t good at it.  You’ll have to pick your poison on which character is catered to your favorite ability and stick with it whether you like it or not.  Which brings together Tour mode’s biggest addition to the franchise: multiple characters for one course.

Tour mode will play like Career modes of old, where specific layouts of courses are played to collect stars to advance to the next rank, usually with a character blocking your path to be defeated via Match Play.  But instead of picking ol’ faithful to run through your career, ECEG requires 9 golfers play one hole a piece.  This is where a new level of strategy comes into play, by picking and choosing which specific character would do best on each specific hole, letting each character shine if only for 2-5 strokes per round.  ECEG doesn’t wipe the grime of Mobile Game off of it through this port. Each character gains EXP per round played, and since there’s a roster of 30 characters needing to rank up to a max level of 40 leveling 9 at a time certainly shortens the amount of grind to scale the ranks.  But with this tradeoff, ECEG has removed vital points of the HSG franchise to cater to trying everyone all the time.  Sure there are other modes that allow you to play as one character for the whole 9-18 hole course, but Tour mode is where you’ll be spending the majority of your time, and having stat boxes dressed up as characters really sours the enjoyment that previous titles provided.

But this is still a Hot Shots Golf game, and with that tried and true gameplay ECEG still stole days of my life from me (I’ll be playing more after this review, believe that) because the formula still is as enjoyable and rewarding as it’s been since 1997.  The nostalgic gameplay still holds strong to this day, and even with removing all the wrinkles to a polished plateau in favor of reaching the widest margin of gamers, it’s hard not to love the foundations of the franchise.  The 11 courses all provide a healthy difference in style and function and hours just melt away with playing through Tour, Score Attack, Survival (a mode where you have to complete challenges to progress as far as you can), or local multiplayer (no online is available outside of score posting for the World Tournament weekly challenges).

I’m letting my crippling bias of this franchise show loud and proud right now, because there’s a lot wrong with Easy Come Easy Golf.  Mainstay pieces of the franchise have been ripped out in exchange of a gacha-like play-em-all Tour mode with each character having the personality roughly equivalent to a PNG.  Much of the difficulty has been smoothed out to the point of boredom rummaging through to unlock more characters and costumes.  But through all the negatives, Easy Come Easy Golf shows that Clap Hanz are still the true kings of the Triple Tap format, and somehow, somehow provide chicken salad from a chicken covered in bunker-sand to grab dozens of hours from their faithful golfers.

Now make Hots Shots Golf 7.