Friday, January 14, 2011

Winning Shot

Data East

The realization that I would be having fun with this game occurred the instant my little avatar took a swing and SMASHED the ball across the course. Players absolutely DRILL their drives in Winning Shot; the ball goes way up high and gets really big in a manner reminiscent of the World Class Baseball "pop-fly effect." For video-game golf shots, this is pretty exhilarating stuff.


I know you're thinking to yourself that I'm getting all pumped up over something really stupid, but you need to understand where I'm coming from. You'd be surprised by the number of PCE golf games I've seen mishandle this simple play element. Power Golf 2's shots sputter their way towards the hole, while Ganbare's barely seem to get off the ground. Even the masterful Fine Shot Golf kinda misstepped by having its ball simply launch itself into the sky rather than showing a dude actually hitting the damn thing. But here we've got a game that executes first shots in a cool way.

Thanks to a slow-rising power bar, it's quite easy to pull off those impressive drives. Winning Shot's entire pre-green play system seems easygoing initially; the game even hands you what it believes is the ideal club for each shot (and it's usually right on with its choices). But don't go thinking this thing will be a cakewalk. You'd better familiarize yourself with the hole layouts and the variations in shot arcs that the myriad club types produce. Most importantly, you'll need to figure out just how far your shot will go at each meter increment (and for every club at that), as there's a huge difference between, say, a full-power shot and a "90%" one.

Putting can also be a challenge. The game doesn't help you out much except to give you a general idea of the resistance your shot will be facing, but that's somehow enough once you get used to the system. In fact, to my eyes at least, putts play out here in more realistic ways than they do in many titles that try much harder to be credible simulations.

If you're not satisfied with how your shots are turning out with the character you're using, you can always give one of the other selectable golfers a try. You can even adjust each player's "ability points" as you see fit.

So, what are the negatives here? Well, the music is bad. Turn the game on and you'll immediately be hit with loud, abrasive cacophony. Things get a little quieter but not much better during play. Also, there's only one course to tour. But some of the hole designs are very interesting and feature smart, creative placement of islands and hazards. Sometimes you can even stumble upon sneaky shortcuts to the flagstick. And tournament mode attempts to spice things up by offering bonus dough to players who pull off particular feats (such as a hole in one or the longest drive) on certain holes.

Winning Shot is a real oldie, but I honestly wouldn't have guessed that from its mechanics and presentation elements. I recommend it to folks seeking a fun golf title.

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