Libra: RPGolf Legends
Libra is our “first impressions” series. These are generally spoiler free, but may reveal some base plot points and mechanic details.
RPGolf Legends, developed by ArticNet and published by KEMCO, is the latest Golf RPG to hit the Nintendo Switch, a console rife with indie games of all stripes. Like Golf Story before it, RPGolf Legends strives to combine various RPG elements with core, golf-oriented gameplay. Unlike Golf Story, however, RPGolf Legends leans heavily into its RPG inspirations, specifically 16-bit era action and adventure RPGs like the Secret of Mana and the Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. The game integrates the world of golf and the world of adventure smoothly, though gamers coming into it will be left to wonder how well the game may or may not achieve the same depth and quality that games solely dedicated to one of these two halves may achieve.
To answer the above question bluntly, RPGolf Legends so far falls short of the same golf-oriented highs of Golf Story, as well as the more RPG-oriented successes of its 16-bit inspirations. That’s not to say the game isn’t fun – it is, undoubtedly. It’s just that the experience leaves me wishing for more.
For the core golf mechanics, RPGolf Legends implements a time button press system that should feel familiar to fans of Mario Golf, Golf Story, or a myriad of other golf games to hit consoles over the last two decades. The first timed button press determines the power of your shot, while a second determines the accuracy. By hitting the accuracy press slightly off center, you can intentionally hook or slice your ball in one direction or the other. While this system can be employed to hit some tricky shots and maneuver around bunkers, it does not offer the same level of precision that the systems in other golf games employ. Similarly, while other elements like wind and differences in terrain are present, the depth of these mechanics is not as high. Wind does not seem to have as intuitive an effect as you might expect from more popular golf titles, and there is no elevation to worry about when putting. It’s also – somewhat annoyingly – very hard to chip a ball into the hole, which leaves you feeling a bit less empowered than you might in other titles.
As for the RPG side of the fence, the combat mechanics are as simple as they could be. At the start of the game, players can run up to enemies and whack them with their golf club. And that’s it. Aside from a little charge attack that can hit multiple enemies at once, you’re mostly just whacking away, one hit at a time. So far, this simplicity has not changed much after unlocking multiple classes in the game’s job system. The warrior, for example, is able to execute a three hit combo – but only one of those hits is likely to connect, as most enemies are knocked away after being hit by a single attack.
The class system itself is novel – and one of the most appealing parts of the trailer – but as with most of the systems in the game, lacks the amount of depth desired. Each class also comes with a unique charge attack, which slightly alters how you interact with enemies – and some, like the warrior mentioned above, bring secondary effects like breaking maps on the overworld. The mage, meanwhile, brings the ability to walk on water, which is useful for traversing the overworld. This particular ability stings a bit – not because it isn’t useful, it is – because the game hands you this power right before sending you to a series of desert courses, where there’s no opportunity to use it.
RPGolf Legends has a myriad of other strengths and weaknesses. The overall story and tone is lighthearted and comical, as the protagonist of the game sets out to unlock magical barriers that have appeared over golf courses all over the world. She is heralded as a hero fighting some ultimate evil, but mostly just wants to enjoy a game of golf. The graphics are clean, the music appropriate, and the controls mostly tight and responsive. On the negative side, the game’s world maps can be difficult to read, making navigating the overworld and finding landmarks you remember a bit of a hassle. The overall gameplay loop can be a bit tiring as well, as each new town comes with a big batch of quests, some courses to unlock, and a final boss to beat. Rinse, repeat, move on.
- Charming story
- Solid controls
- Good audio/visual design
- Shallow gameplay
- World map hard to read
- Repetitive gameplay loop
While I still have a bit more of the game to play before making my final judgment, I anticipate that RPGolf Legends will go down as an inspired, if somewhat shallow, experience. Worth your time, but overshadowed by greater golf games (and even greater golf RPGs) on the Switch.