The mashup of golf and 2D action RPG sounds like an odd one. Sports RPGs certainly aren’t unusual, and Golf Story (to which RPGolf Legends will inevitably be compared) is a great example of that. But we’re talking about a mash-up in the more literal sense: a Zelda-esque action RPG that sees you fighting monsters and exploring dungeons as you try to save the world, only… with regular breaks to tee off. Like I said, an odd concept—but one that has potential, as RPGolf Legends proves.
If you ignore the golf side of things for a moment, RPGolf Legend is a vibrant throwback to the action RPGs of the Super Nintendo days. There’s a big, intriguing world to explore with lots of treasures to find, towns full of NPCs wanting help to kill monsters that are causing them grief or to locate certain items, and lots of critters out in the woods trying to kill you. Hidden heart containers, equipment upgrades, and unlockable classes give you paths to strengthening your character without a typical levelling system. Classic action RPG stuff, really.
Only, it’s all laced with a golf theme. The world you’re trying to save is one where everyone loves golf, but evil forces have sealed all the courses. Your weapon of choice is a golf club, you’re accompanied by the spirit of a golf club, a lot (though not all) of the quests you pick up from villagers are tied to golf in some way or another, and playing golf is, ultimately, the way to save the day: break the seals on all 54 holes and play them.
Which brings us to the other side of RPGolf Legends: the golfing itself. The tried and true 3-button method that’s been working well since the days of NES Golf—aim the shot, then one press to lock in the direction, and second to set the power, and a third to set the accuracy—drives the golf action here. While it isn’t necessarily as deep as even its arcade-style brethren, it’s designed around quick, snappy games that fit well into the context of the rest of the game: there’s a smooth transition from action game to playing a quick hole, before getting back into thwacking imps and slimes and what have you. As you unlock more holes and people start reigniting their love of golf, tournaments and the like add new ways of playing (and rewards), too.
For the most part, golf and action RPG are complementary but separate activities—you fight when you fight and you golf when you golf. Fights against the ancient guardians that protect the courses are the exception, though, and the real highlight of RPGolf Legends. Playing a round of golf while fending off attacks from some strange monster or another is delightfully chaotic, especially with the boss attacks’ tendencies to disrupt the play field and create unique hazards to shoot around. My only complaint is that this true mash-up isn’t a bigger part of the game—I’d love to see regular monsters interfere with golf more organically, instead of keeping their distance from the courses, or more quests that deliberately pull both sides of the game together.
RPGolf Legends does also suffer from its share of annoyances that, though mild individually, add up enough to detract from the whole experience. Checkpoints are sparse enough to add a layer of tedium to death—even if you don’t lose progress, as such, it often involves a long trek back to where you were before. Worse, you respawn with almost no health, all but necessitating a trip to the nearest teleporter so you can return home to recover before continuing your adventure. It’s a nuisance that doesn’t add any meaningful challenge to the game, but does introduce a lot of pointless faffing about—it’s often better to just save frequently and reload when you die, even if you lose a bit of progress as a result.
With a handful of memorable exceptions, the plentiful side quests are typically generic and uninteresting. The NPCs who dish them out lack personality, too, and despite the comical premise and colourful atmosphere and gorgeous, 16-bit-style pixel art, there’s a certain degree of lifelessness to RPGolf Legends’ world—the cheerful main character, Aerin, being the notable exception.
Likewise, the combat is simplistic and a little dull, with few tools available beyond a basic swing of your weapon and enemy attacks that largely revolve around side-stepping heavily telegraphed linear attacks (again, those golf course encounters being the rare exception). Dungeons lack the intricacy that make a good dungeon, too, with basic puzzles and none of the mazelike quality that entices exploration. They’re functional enough foundations, but aside from those wonderful but too-rare guardian boss fights, lack the spark to create anything more than mild enjoyment.
Still, if RPGolf Legends’ greatest sins are being a little bland, it could be a lot worse. Its mashup of golf and action RPG is a fun idea, and those disparate pieces come together well to create an adventure that’s full of playful charm. It’s an enjoyable enough romp in its own right, but it also shows there’s potential in this sort of genre clash, and I sincerely hope that’s something ArticNet continues to explore.
Genre: Action RPG, sports, golf
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
Release date: 20 January 2022
A review copy was provided to Shindig by the publisher.