IGN Review of Pangya: Fantasy Golf
Originally, the Pangya franchise was very far removed from the PSP. What started out as an obscure, Korean golf MMO slowly became more recognized as a cult classic in arcade golfing. Now Pangya is coming to Sony's portable in the form of Pangya: Fantasy Golf, developed exclusively for the PSP with plenty of cute characters and crazy costumes to enjoy. Although Pangya: Fantasy Golf might not have quite the same amount of polish as its peer, the Hot Shots Golf franchise, Fantasy Golf is still very fun and has a tremendous amount of content to uncover.
And you can have a talking polar bear serve as your caddy. What's not to love?
Fantasy Golf is a fairly straight-forward arcade golf game with easy-to-grasp mechanics and plenty of replayability. Although there are advanced techniques to learn, your interaction with the game is as follows: when on the course, you can rotate your character with the D-pad, change clubs with the L/R trigger and study an overhead view of the level with Triangle. When you've lined up your shot, press X to start up a cursor that moves down your power gauge, hit X again to select the power level and then hit it one more time to confirm the curve of the shot. Hitting X that last time when the cursor passes directly over the small, highlighted segment of the gauge will reward you with a Pangya shot, which maximizes your accuracy.
Once you master the basics, there are also trick shots to learn and items to manage. That's right; you can use magic potions and pop pills during your friendly game of golf. All everyday occurrences in Pangya.
When you first boot up the game and create a profile, you'll be able to participate in the game's Story mode, the Pangya Tour mode, the Network mode or mess around in the Pangya Collection. Many of these modes are interconnected in some way and most of them will earn you Pang (the game's currency), which you can use to purchase new items for use in all the modes.
All these new items can be perused in the Pangya Collection, which is a hub for the game's shop, Your Room (where you can dress up and equip your character), an artwork/music gallery and an extensive collection of in-game records. As I mentioned before, the amount of content you can unlock is impressive and I really appreciate a game that gives the player something to work towards.
And fortunately, working towards all that nifty gear is quite fun. I sunk most of my time into the Story mode, which allows you to pick a character and play through a series of matches with dialogue sequences punctuating each section. Fantasy Golf begins with Scout and Hana, two teenagers from Earth that are brought to the world of Pangya to join in on the Pangya festivals. These festivals are essentially golf games that pay tribute to the hero of Pangya that vanquished the Dark Lord in the past. The story proper is fairly trivial and doesn't have much of a point until you unlock Kaz's section. That's when things really get interesting. Although this only happens at the end of the first story arc, it made me want to keep playing. Honestly, I need to find out what happens to all these adorable characters or I won't be able to sleep at night...
And for me, that's one of the highlights of the Pangya experience: the game's personality. I'm a sucker for anime-style artwork and the character designs are definitely charming. Combine those cute original designs with tons of purchasable costumes and you have a cosplayer's fantasy.
If you're not keen on playing through the game's story, you can spend ample time in the Pangya Tour mode that lets you play challenge missions to acquire licenses for tournament play, which in turn nets you more Pang to spend. Or if you'd prefer to play with a friend, the game supports up to eight players via ad-hoc, though be warned that even two-player multiplayer starts to get a little framey. Then again, I doubt you'll be getting seven PSP-owning friends in one room to play Pangya, so I suppose that won't usually be a problem.
Besides the occasional slowdown, Fantasy Golf has a few other issues that keep it from being truly great. The load times leave something to be desired, though they're tolerable as they happen most prominently when first loading up a full match (they aren't noticeable between holes). The visuals are also a little rough when compared to recent PSP games. I thought the environments were on the bland side and character models could have used some more detail, but it wasn't bad enough to ruin the experience for me.
Lastly, I would have liked to see slightly smarter camera angles when you're watching your shots sail through the air. Sometimes, I couldn't tell where the ball was going during the replay.
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