Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee
While never taking a key role in PlayStation sales and always following the massive trail of Mario Golf sales, the Hot Shots Golf (or Minna no Golf, depending on your region) series has always been an entertaining if not slightly uninspired series. The original game was clearly Sony's answer to the previously mentioned Mario Golf, and thus it always seemed as if it was merely a copycat game with different characters and more quirkiness. However, this unique, Japanese quirkiness eventually took center stage and made the series a cult classic on the PlayStation platforms. It has finally made its way to the PSP, and this makes for some great mobile satisfaction.
As the name might imply, Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee is basically the standard, over-the-top golfing gameplay and cartoony visuals we've come to expect from the series, ported to the PSP's small yet glorious screen. All of the gameplay elements from its PlayStation counterparts are here, but this time there is an added focus to unlockable clubs and outfit pieces for character customization. As is expected, Wi-Fi play is included for up to eight players, and it's more fun than one might expect, especially with larger groups.
Content-wise, there are six eighteen-hole courses, which can be lengthened and mirrored, making for an actual total of twelve courses, adding great replay value. For the characters, there are 250 customizations available to be unlocked through participation in tournaments and one on one matches, adding great replay value and an incentive to continue playing.
This also, however, inevitably leads to a fault in the game. Most of the time is spent unlocking gear for the characters on the same course, and it takes far too much time to unlock another. This leads to playing the same course repeatedly to unlock the next, making the game feel extremely repetitive. It doesn't help that weather has such a small effect on the characters' golfing ability that the course can essentially be played the same way each and every time.
However, this is a pretty small flaw when looking at the big picture. Open Tee is in a class of its own when it comes to hand-held golf. Sure, there's the overwhelmingly dull Tiger Woods game, but who wants that when they could have the extremely Asian experience that is Hot Shots Golf? Good luck finding a golfing game this unique and fun on any other handhelds.
In previous entries of the series, the game's modification from the original Japanese import version have been a source of controversy, with many upset that the humor and character designs had been somewhat modified. This is not the case with Open Tee, as everything has been left untouched except for the voices. I really wish they would've included the option for the Japanese voice track as well, but I guess there's only so much that can be fit onto one small UMD.
Graphically, Open Tee is between the PS2 and PSone versions of the series and it looks fantastic, besides a few texture and jaggy issues. However, it's not really noticeable or that big of an issue in terms of gameplay. The music is typical and uninspired, but one really can't expect too much from a golf game, let alone a handheld one. There are no truly bothersome loading times, making gameplay quickly accessible.
As I said before, multiplayer is a blast, and you'll spend hours upon hours playing this game with them. The single player mode is addictive and appropriate to a handheld game, and the player's progress can be saved at any point during gameplay, making it quite suitable for on the go gaming. It's definitely worth the $39.99 price of admission.
Clap Hanz has done a great job of maintaining the experience that is Hot Shots Golf on a handheld platform, making this the next must-have PSP game that should be on everyone's list after Lumines and Ridge Racer. Next time, Japanese voices too, please!