Golf Story was one of the biggest surprises in the Switch’s extremely strong first year in the market. Thanks to Golf Story’s charming, nostalgic presentation and novel sports/RPG fusion, Sports Story has long been one of my most anticipated sequels. Unfortunately, its unfocused nature and frustrating gameplay are only overshadowed by a pervasive lack of polish that keeps Sports Story from being worth your time.
As the name suggests, Sports Story expands the world to include other sports, creating a more comprehensive and ambitious story. As a sport, golf remains the most prominent; Everything in the story is told through the lens of a golf-mad world, and this often plays to the title’s strength. Getting back on the links, selecting the right club and ball for the job, and teeing off across the eight courses on offer (as well as the dozens of minigames) is still as much fun as it was in the previous title. The approachable three-click meter generally plays well, and it never ceases to be satisfying while looking at distance, surface and wind direction to deliver an accurate shot. In these fleeting moments, I remember why Golf Story was such a success. Sadly, despite being the best game in the stable of golf games, the less-than-enjoyable play and tedious story all too often detract from this shining strength.
Sports Story combines activities based around BMX, tennis, cricket, volleyball, fishing, running and baseball to be but a few diversions. Tennis probably takes the most time, but it doesn’t quite live up to golf’s excellent template. In addition to requiring highly precise character placement and swing timing, I also encountered moments where the game would only give points to my opponent, even though I had clearly scored. Other games are mostly relegated to minigames, with BMX offering a mix of enjoyable races against the clock and frustratingly difficult obstacle courses. Every time a different sporting event came up, I was glad when Sidebar Games returned to the world of golf.
Sadly, the story side of the equation isn’t much better than the game side. On top of that, I took a disproportionate amount of the over 20 hours I spent in the game. Where Golf Story used this part of its game to base it on charm and humor, Sports Story’s dialogue is mostly tedious and uninteresting. Save for a few enjoyable bits, the jokes fell flat most of the time, and I never felt invested in the arc of the narrative. Not only that, but a constant reliance on search meant I spent a lot of time trying to find an abstract solution to who I wanted to talk to or who I wanted to talk to. There are some simple-but-pleasing golf-centric puzzles in the more focused dungeon, but they only account for a small percentage of the total time spent exploring.
An inadvertent lack of polish compounds all these problems. I rarely went more than a few hours without the game going back to the Switch home screen, and on a few occasions, I lost significant progress. Perhaps more significantly, the game doesn’t play well; Frame rate drops and gameplay stutters are annoying when I’m exploring the overworld, but they result when I’m in the middle of a timing-based backswing in golf or the precise gameplay of tennis. miss a shot or lose a point. , These occasional problems combined with less frequent issues such as not completing properly, not triggering dialogue, and my character clipping through the environment, really hammered home just how buggy Sports Story is. Is. At one point, when I went to cast my fishing rod, my character began flying across the map, allowing me to bypass obstructions and essentially breaking the mission progress chain.
Even if Sports Story were polished and bug-free, it would still fall far short of the first title in the series. The new games don’t play well, the fetch quest is tedious, and the story is tedious and less engaging than Golf Story. What remains of the retro golf experience is fun, but the whole game feels like a textbook example incapable of living up to lofty ambitions.