Golf Story was one of the biggest surprises in the Switch’s extremely strong first year on 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 prevents Sports Story from being worth your time.
As the name suggests, Sports Story expands the world to include other games while creating a richer and more ambitious story. As for the sport, golf remains the most prominent; Everything in the story is told through the lens of a golf-mad world, and that often plays to the title’s strengths. Stepping back onto the links, choosing the right club and ball for the job, and teeing off across the eight courses on offer (as well as dozens of mini-games) is still just as fun as the previous title. The accessible three-click meter usually plays well, and when you factor in the distance, surface and wind direction to deliver a perfect shot, it never stops satisfying. In those fleeting moments, I’m reminded why Golf Story was such a success. Unfortunately, while golf is the best sport in the game’s stable, the less enjoyable sports and lengthy story all too often detract from this blatant strength.
Sports Story adds activities centered around BMX, tennis, cricket, volleyball, fishing, running, and baseball, but few are more than diversions. Tennis may take up the most time, but it doesn’t fit golf’s excellent blueprint. Aside from requiring way too precise character placement and swing timing, I also experienced moments where the game would just give my opponent the point even when I hit clearly. The other sports are mostly minigames, with BMX offering a mix of fun races against the clock and frustratingly hard obstacle courses. Every time a different sporting event came up, I was happy when Sidebar Games returned to the world of golf.
Unfortunately, the story side of the equation isn’t much better than the sports side. Additionally, it takes up a disproportionate chunk of the 20+ hours I spent in the game. Where Golf Story used this part of its gameplay to add charm and humor, Sports Story’s dialogue is mostly dull and unfunny. Aside from a few entertaining bits, the jokes stayed flat most of the time, and I never felt invested in the story arcs. Not only that, but the constant reliance on fetch quests meant I was spending too much time trying to figure out the abstract solution of who to talk to or what to interact with. The more focused dungeons have some simple but fun golf-focused puzzles, but they only make up a small percentage of the total time spent exploring.
A conspicuous lack of polish compounds all of these problems. I’ve rarely gone more than a few hours without the game taking me back to the Switch home screen, and on a few occasions I’ve lost a significant amount of progress. Perhaps more importantly, the game isn’t going well; The frame-rate drops and game stutters are annoying when I’m exploring the overworld, but when they happen mid-timed backswing in golf or precision tennis, they cause me to miss a crucial shot or lose a point. These pervasive issues combine with less common issues like improperly completing quests, untriggered dialogue, and my character clipping through the environment, which really emphatically shows how flawed Sports Story is. At one point, my character would start hovering over the map when I was about to cast my fishing pole, allowing me to bypass deadlocks and essentially break the mission progression chain.
Even if Sports Story were polished and bug-free, it would still fall well short of the first title in the series. The new sports don’t play well, the quests are tedious, and the story is lengthy and less charming than Golf Story. What remains of the retro golfing experience is fun, but the whole game feels like a textbook example of failing to live up to high ambitions.
https://www.gameinformer.com/review/sports-story/a-series-of-unforced-errors Sports Story Review – A series of unforced errors