In 2017, indie game developers Sidebar Games dropped an absolute gem of a game called Golf Story. It took a sport that I (and perhaps many of you) never really liked, and made it fun. Through quirky characters, off-the-wall dialogue, and oftentimes unhinged quest line, there’s a lot to love about Golf Story.
If you’re unfamiliar with Golf Story, you play as an unnamed male character who gives up everything he loves for his last shot at accomplishing his dreams of becoming a professional golfer. Golf is central to the game, but not the only thing players get to experience. Players fight skeletons, steal snow from a group of bandits, and complete other silly quests. There’s so many odd antics to keep players involved and entertained.
Then there’s Sports Story, the long-awaited sequel.
Sports Story Brings Back the Staples
This highly ambitious sequel picks back up with Golf Story’s protagonist, who is tasked with investigating the suspicious activities of golf giant Purestrike, as well as the Iron Dragons yakuza. Sports Story brings back the quirky dialogue and oddball NPCs that made its predecessor such a delight. Players get to meet the feisty Iron Dragons, haughty sports royalty, and even pirates!
Of course the golf element is back. Players get to compete in and complete a variety of full courses, mini golf courses, putting greens, and other challenges. You’ll encounter any number of difficulty levels, too. Track down or buy new golf clubs, as well as find golf balls with different abilities to help complete courses. Level up your golf skills, aim well, and don’t forget to take the wind into account while you plan your shots.
The Other Sports
Sports Story branches out beyond just golf, obviously. In fact, it includes volleyball, cricket, soccer, BMX riding, fishing, and tennis, which has its own whole side story. I was incredibly excited about the prospect of other sports. Sidebar Games really did a great job on the golf aspect, so I thought surely the other sports would be just as good. I was wrong
Luckily, many of the sports are side items, though you do need to complete several in order to level up your license to move on to other quests and areas. I think I dislike BMX biking the most. You press A to pedal and B to jump. Which means, I’m holding the controller awkwardly, and having to struggle to hit those two buttons as needed. You also need to tilt the bike with the left joystick as you come down from a jump. Landing flat allows you to continue pedaling with minimal stopping, while landing poorly causes you to bounce and lose precious time.
All of the other sports in Sports Story were troublesome, too. The activities you need to complete with them were fairly dependent on direction, but there was no way to direct the ball. The soccer minigames were few and far between, but weren’t too bad. The tennis, however, was the worst. At some point you enter the tennis academy to complete that long, tedious side story. You learn four different shots that use varying strengths and speeds, but there’s no aiming involved. So, completing minigames where you have to hit paper balls into a trash can, or aim the ball at targets is all up to which direction the ball machine happens to shoot the ball.
Some of the Quests Were Disappointing…
As much as I love the return to goofy that made Golf Story so charming, it’s simply not enough to carry a game. It helped ease the blow of all the other sports being so mundane. However, Sports Story used a lot of fetch quests to move the story forward. I’m all for some fetch quests as they can be useful, but this was more like Fetch Story than Sports Story.
Between the numerous quests and the humdrum sports mechanics, I found the game tedious to play and complete. It felt like Sidebar Games packed Sports Story full to make it feel like a longer play, but failed to make it great to play. And don’t get me started on the ending! I won’t outright spoil it for anyone hoping to play, but the ending was unsatisfying. It made the point of going through the story unfulfilling as nothing happens. The powers that be just decide they’re ok with the status quo for now, and that’s it, roll credits.
Even having finished Sports Story, I still desperately want to love it. Sidebar Games really knows how to bring golf to life in a fun way. They’re also great at delivering punchy, quirky lines that make characters charming in a weird way. If the developers had managed to make the other sports better to play, and nixed so many of the fetch quests, Sports Story would be great. As it is, it’s merely ok in my book.
Perhaps there was more going on behind the scenes than just the game becoming more and more ambitious than originally planned, and that contributed to Sports Story being alright. Players found a secret dev room hidden within the game that pointed at troubles within the team or company. Sidebar Games has since released some patches to remove that information from the game.
Ultimately, I give it:
You can find Sports Story (and Golf Story) on the Nintendo Switch shop.