Review – RPGolf Legends
Golf. The slow game. The businessman’s pastime. The only sport that is somehow both incredibly relaxing and insufferably stressful at the exact same time. I’ve played golf once in my life, generally enjoying it, but noticing that my lack of left handed clubs gave me a handicap that my fellow players were only too happy to ignore and exploit. Yet we all remember the roaring 90s, when Tiger Woods made us feel like the sport was cool, and Lee Carvello only reinforced this idea. So why shouldn’t we take it to the next level in epic golfing excitement? There’s hardly a Switch player out there who hasn’t enjoyed Golf Story (and also won’t shut up about it). The recent Mario Golf: Super Rush was a brand new entry point to help remind people that golfing is, inexplicably, a solid digital pastime, alone or with friends. Yet we’re hitting a golf dry spell, and the good folks of KEMCO saw a gap and decided to fill it. Partnering up with indie dev team ArcticNet, Switch players (and indeed players on all platforms) can embark on the journey of RPGolf Legends.
The first thing that players will notice is RPGolf Legends is here to take the piss from the word go. There’s a self-awareness about the entire ordeal that sometimes borders on eye-rolling, but never crosses into the world of being too hammy. There’s a very dry, terse tone to start the game, letting everyone know that every RPG involves a big evil that’s making things bad for everyone and a hero having to stop it. Surprise, you’re that hero, and if you didn’t sign up for this level of borderline sarcasm you should probably disembark now. Only, the “evil” has sealed away golf courses across the land, and people can’t play golf anymore.
Okay, I suppose that’s inconvenient but not really a big deal. Except everyone is OBSESSED with golf, so this is a crippling punishment that’s been going on for generations (or maybe like six days, I can’t tell). You discover the magic talking golf club, Clubby, while fishing (a sport second only to golf!) and Clubby reveals he and he alone can dispel the barriers around each golf hole. Find the holes, unleash them and then play to completion in order to undo the dark magic that sealed away golf! Also, get ready to fight massive monsters, run errant quests for everyone and also play more golf when you want to. The usual affair, as it were.
It should be noted that RPGolf is a game from 2018 (same developers) and is substantially different from the Legends title that just became available. For one, it’s much bigger, encompassing a storyline that folds in a ton of additional holes, equipment and monsters. Additionally, the original RPGolf was a bit too grindy RPG based, focusing on leveling up, getting additional HP and MP as you golf around the world and battle in Zelda-inspired dungeons with some paltry golf courses on the overworld. Legends successfully balances the focus on golf and the RPG factor, giving you a good amount of both without leaning too far in one direction or another. In fact, the use of golf as a complimentary feature within the RPG action/adventure idea works incredibly well, and made the game almost inspiring in execution.
For example: RPGolf Legends has exactly one inn, and it’s in your hometown, and you don’t sleep in it because that’s where your house is. Sleep in your own bed, don’t be gross. But obviously you need to travel around the world and do all these golf-related missions, right? So you can take an exceptionally long time trekking back to your home island (which can take upwards of sixteen real time minutes), or you can play a round of golf. Score a par or better and start a roulette wheel where one of the prizes is full health recovery. Didn’t win it this time? No problem, give it another go! You can usually clear a hole in less than a minute, and the added bonus is the potential to unlock even better stuff through the lottery. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.
RPGolf Legends takes some clear inspiration from the 16-bit era of gaming, but it doesn’t feel like it’s relaxing on the same asset flip approach that some developers have taken in the past. Instead, there’s a bubbly lightness to it all, from the tufts of grass you can slash through to the poisonous frogs that plague your later journey. In spite of traveling to places that are grim and foggy, there’s an inescapable joy throughout, as though you’re embarking on a child’s idea of what a golf adventure would be like. Remember playing mini-golf as a kid and feeling like those sprawling courses were actually pirate lands or ancient cities or something like that? It’s the same feeling that RPGolf Legends generates: enjoyment and excitement in spite of difficulty and danger.
Also, you have EVERYTHING you need to win the game within the first five minutes of play. Yes, there’s equipment you can get through purchase, discovery and lottery winnings, like stronger clubs, more health, additional mana slots (of course there’s magic, more on that in a moment), but most of it isn’t necessary. You learn how to hit and block in the first tutorial, and that is the fundamentals of what gets you to the end game. Clubby gave me the opportunity to learn both offensive and defensive spells as I progressed, and I usually only remembered them in the middle of a boss battle, when I could use them anyways.
The accessories were stupidly expensive at first (about fifteen thousand gold pieces when enemies usually dropped one or ten), so I didn’t even think about buying more upgrade stuff until after the nineteenth hole or so, when I remembered that I’d been winning tons of cash from the hole lotteries. It was a pleasant surprise, but I feel like I could have even gone further without needing to invest in these things, since I spent most of my cash on insufferably slow health potions anyways.
This is a bit of a rub for RPGolf Legends, in that I feel like this was designed from a mobile aspect first and then scaled for console. Every single potion, from antidote to health, has a cooldown timer. Whether you swig to cure confusion or to fully heal your hearts, you then need to be careful for the next thirty seconds or so before you can quaff again. Given that snakes, slimes, and the aforementioned frogs can just poison you round after round, this was….frustrating, to say the least.
Also the fact that the map is positively gargantuan, and there’s no easy way to traverse the landscape. Okay, there sort of is. You’re allowed to fast travel once a day (when you finally unlock waypoints) and you can rent a golf cart…for a price. While the cart itself wasn’t too expensive, the fact that you only get it for fifteen minutes at a time was suspect. Also, you can still be attacked on the cart, making some of the speed of it not worthwhile if you then need to constantly dismount to deal with bears or imps that are charging at you. There’s clearly a factor here where a F2P version exists, and you need to keep dropping in some kind of currency to dismiss the timers or refill things faster. It was like a small nodule at the back of your throat: doesn’t interfere with your eating, but still gives you discomfort every time you swallow.
Yet there’s some fantastic charm at work here, and it keeps me coming back again and again. The writing is, in my opinion, superb, especially for what could have been an incredibly hackneyed idea. The meta commentary of RPGolf Legends keeps it fresh, being self-aware and self-deprecating without being too on the nose. Clubby acknowledges the limited length of the first RPGolf, NPCs who recognize you as the chosen one still want to battle you for golf supremacy, and no one has any problems in sending you on fetch quests in spite of the greater, more serious issues at hand. You’re tasked with showing someone how to golf, shaking down someone for borrowed money, helping distract someone about a canceled TV show, and that’s all just within the first two towns. By balancing earnest attempts at forwarding the plot with the wink and nod of how ridiculous it all is, ArcticNet never fails to engage in dialogue (even if some of it is wonky).
Lastly, you’re always kept on your toes in terms of what’s coming next. You can fish everywhere, but fishing never becomes important until you suddenly need to catch a poisonous fish to fashion a gas mask. You can golf anywhere in the world, but it’s just sort of a fun activity right up until it’s how you solve a massive puzzle. Playing the different golf holes starts to get stale right up until it’s suddenly a boss battle where you need to actively fight and golf at the same time. RPGolf Legends has a sense of timing about it that I never could have fathomed if I didn’t give it a try. The innate skill of bringing in something new right when the players need it is just meticulously inspiring: to get down, almost to the second, when something new needs to happen.
There are flaws, of course there are flaws, but they aren’t enough to unbalance this surprising delight that’s come our way. If you were concerned that it’s the same old song and dance, don’t be. KEMCO has partnered to create something special, and I have walked away from this with a brand new lens through which to view their creations. It’s fun, it’s challenging, and it’s engaging. Although, if they want to patch in a toggle for timer elements (they have toggles for both combat and golf difficulty), I think it’d make everything just that much cleaner. RPGolf Legends is, hands down, my favorite title that KEMCO has ever published, and this is a clean drive into a beautiful birdie for players everywhere.
Rounded and colorful, you’ll get that SNES vibe without the old hardware, which is a plus and minus unto itself.
An actual balance of golf and action combat, each is carefully crafted to keep any/all players engaged.
Jarring changes in background music between areas can be offputting, but the general soundscape is pleasant, if forgettable.
My desire to play copious amounts of golf for the greater good has never been more appeased.
Final Verdict: 8.0
RPGolf Legends is available now on PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of RPGolf Legends was provided by the publisher.