Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2ESRB:
Developer: Clap Hanz
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Memory Stick – 1600 KB
Ad-Hoc Compatible (2-8 Players)
Infrastructure Compatible (2-16 Players)
Known as Minna no Golf (translation: Everybody’s Golf) in Japan, Hot Shots Golf was brought to N. America in 1998 and released on the original Playstation. The first version was developed by Camelot Software, however subsequent versions have been developed by Clap Hanz. I remember my first experience with the series as being quite enjoyable and since then I have ended up playing various sequels on the original Playstation, PS2, PSP and most recently the PS3. Out of all honesty I bought my copy of the first Hot Shots Open Tee for my PSP not too long after the PSP’s launch and it was played for countless hours, be it at home or on the run, and it is easily my most played game in the series. Well fast forward to 2008 and Sony has once again released the next PSP version of Hot Shots Golf, aptly titled Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2. So will I be playing this game as much as the first portable version? I would have to say yes.
Hot Shots has always had a very different style when it comes to their visuals for a golf game, and Open Tee 2 maintains this approach. The visual style of the Hot Shots franchise can best be stated as a combination of real looking courses with cute Japanese anime inspired characters playing on them. The 24 characters included in Open Tee 2 are nicely rendered and actually blend in well with each course you play on. They animate quite smoothly, from each of their swings to all the celebrations or temper tantrums they perform based on the results of their play.
There are a total of 12 courses in Open Tee 2 and all of them look pretty darn good. Each course has a nice variety of scenery including different trees, flowers and types of grass (e.g. nicely manicured greens to wild weeds in the rough). Of course there are also your traditional walking paths and clubhouses that are to be expected on golf courses too. The eye pleasing visuals don’t stop there as each course includes nice looking water effects, wind effects and varying backgrounds from cityscapes, mountains and lush forests. All of the aforementioned allows for each course to have its own feel and look to it.
If anything, the main difference between the original Open Tee and Open Tee 2 is that the latter looks just a little better in terms of the overall quality and detail. At the end of the day there is nothing displeasing with the visuals in Open Tee 2 and I am very interested to see where they go with the series graphics on the PSP from here.
The audio in Open Tee 2 is a pretty good compliment to the already great visuals and gameplay but there is a bit of room for improvement. Most of the music you will hear is good at first but in a matter of no time it becomes quite repetitive. This is a little disappointing given that I enjoyed each track at first, but with repeated play the same music got somewhat annoying. They should have implemented something like MLB 08: The Show which allows you to play your own songs. Being able to play a round of golf to my choice of music on my memory card would have been great.
As for the rest of the sound effects, including the voices attached to each anime inspired character; everything is well implemented and fits the look and feel of the game. From the sound of the club striking the ball to the effect of said ball flying through the air, all have a definite cartoon feel to it, but yet it just seems to fit into the scheme of the golf game you are playing.
On a side note, as with most games on a portable system, I suggest using headphones given that they just provide so much more depth of sound then the traditional sound speakers on the system. Don't get me wrong, the speakers sound ok, but headphones sound so much better.
For those of you living under a rock for the past 10 years or so, the Hot Shots franchise is not your typical golf game. It has been putting non-traditional characters and courses, along with some traditional ones, into games since its inception. As evidenced from the visuals and sound of this game, Hot Shots really doesn’t look like your typical video golf game. Many people have passed this title up thinking that this game is just for kids, or that the golf itself is not realistic. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Part of the allure of the Hot Shots series has been the ability for anyone to pick the game up and play. However, for those wanting to master it, extended playtime is warranted as there is a lot of stuff you can do to improve your best score(s).
Hot Shots has always utilized a three button approach to swinging a club instead of using the analog stick. Press x to start your swing, press x again to choose the power level, and finally press x a third time to hit (impact) the ball. This has been the way the game has been played since Hot Shots hit N. American shores in 1998 and nothing has changed, especially for the PSP version. If you read my review of the recently released Hot Shots: Out of Bounds for the PS3, you know there have control changes to that version by adding an “advanced mode” which added a new way to hit the ball while remaining somewhat true to the Hot Shots formula. However this change is not evident in Open Tee 2 and I am left wondering why these changes were not added. I think the game could have benefited by this. You do still have the ability to hook or slice and apply top or back spin using the d-pad as done in previous installments of the series. Bottomline, Hot Shots still excels in the playability department and the tried and true three button approach still works as well as it did 10 years ago, but a change would have been nice.
As with other versions of the franchise, the golf physics in Open Tee 2 is also part of the whole aura of the game. Although the game looks, and in someway plays arcadish, the physics are quite real. You will find that the flight of the ball is affected by such things as wind, elevation (e.g. above or below the hole) and the ground that your ball lands on (e.g. the slope, type of grass, sand traps, etc.). You will have to compensate not only for the weather or the surface that you are hitting from, but you will also have to take into consideration where your ball is going to arrive after. As with my time with the PS3 version of Hot Shots, I started to plan out my shots far more often as I got deeper into the game. I took the time to see where my ball would land prior to my shot, where my next shot would have to go, and what my various options were to get the ball to the green. I also implemented backspins, forward spins and the occasional hook and slice if needed (and if I thought I could do it successfully). Overall the physics involved in playing a round of Hot Shots definitely play an integral part of your overall game experience but in a good way.
Open Tee 2 has both single player and multiplayer modes to keep you busy. In the single player mode the majority of your time will be played in the Challenge Mode. Basically this offers you a variety of tournaments and matches that are divided into 15-cards by what category of clothing parts you are rewarded with upon completion. The categories are Head Card (control), Body Card (Power), or Accessory Card (spin). When you win a tournament or match you are rewarded with the wardrobe part or card in question. Now where it gets interesting is that the more cards you get in a specific category, the higher your level in that type of part, and the greater your ability bonus is when you equip it.
Of course as you progress through the various tournaments and matches in the game you are rewarded with not only new clothes, body parts or accessories, but with new characters, courses, equipment and of course attributes. And, as you choose a character to play with you will be awarded loyalty points each time you finish a round with them. Your loyalty awards are such things as added shot power-ups or the other features that affect how your shot pans out. I liked this little feature as it allowed me to power-up my favorite character(s) as I played through the game.
Clap Hanz has implemented a new method of acquiring characters or items during your game. Along with the items and whatnot you earn playing in tournaments and matches there are also secret characters, accessories and items hidden all over the various courses you play on. As you play you will see a sparkle. These sparkles are a reward of sorts. When you do see a sparkle on the course you will have to zoom in on that sparkle with the course camera in order to receive that hidden item or character. Trust me, there are some really interesting places that characters and items can be found, and I highly recommend that you keep a look out in even the most remote of places on each course or fairway.
Along with the Challenge Mode, there are few other ways to enjoy your single player experience. There is a Training Mode where you can choose a course which you have opened, a hole and a character to just practice at your own pace with no fear of a bad shot. Stroke Play lets you play a typical round on any of the courses you have opened to see if you can better your score. Finally there is a Minigame Mode too. Here you will play across nine exclusive courses in a “Hole-in-One” contest. There is more then one cup on the green and each one has an assigned point value. Your objective is to drain the ball into the highest scoring cup and should you score well enough in your round another cup is added for your next time through. All in all there is a lot to keep you busy in the various single player modes.
Multiplayer makes a big splash in Open Tee 2. There is support for both Ad-hoc and Infrastructure Modes. In Ad-hoc you can play a game with up to seven other players. You can either host a tournament or play one vs. one with a fellow Hot Shots nut. Of course as a host you have the ability to pick the course, the number of holes and all the other rules and regulations that you may want associated with a round of golf. This offers nothing new from the original Open Tee on the PSP, and that is fine by me. And for those Hot Shot veterans who are wondering, you can use the face buttons to either cheer or harass your opponent while playing in Ad-hoc mode too.
What Open Tee 2 brings new to the multiplayer table this year is the ability to go online via the infrastructure mode (Wi-Fi online). This enables you to either choose to go head-to-head with an opponent in Match Play or join a tournament for up to 16 players (yes I said 16) over the World Wide Web. Interestingly enough, should you choose to play in a tournament, all 16 players can play at the same time and all your opponents’ ball locations are shown in real time too. Of course should you desire some casual golf with your own rules you can also create and host your own room dictating what the rules shall be when hitting the links online. I had no issues connecting to the network when looking for games, but when I actually went online there were very few people online with me. The few games that I did get to play were relatively lag free and managed to bring the Hot Shots experience online using the PSP. Overall I would say that Sony is onto something here and I can’t wait to see how many more people grasp onto the online features so I can play a few more times with people from all around the world.
What would a sports game be, even if it is golf, without a way to track stats? And ohhhhhhhh boy, does Open Tee 2 track stats indeed. The memory card is put to good use here as there are a plethora of stats for one to peruse. You will be able to see your best scores on each course, your longest drives, your longest chip-ins or putts, your putt percentages, your fairway shots percentage and so much more. It really does boggle the mind somewhat. Oh yeah, it also keeps track of your milestones too such as when you hit a specific level play a specific number of time. Trust me; if you want to find a specific statistic in Open Tee 2 I am pretty sure that it will be there for you.
Although Open Tee 2 does a great job in the gameplay department I do have a concern that I wish to voice. An editorial comment so to speak. Even though I speak positively about how the game keeps to a tried and true formula which keeps veterans of the series in a zone of comfort, I can’t help but wonder if this is not somewhat a bad thing. Traditionally, sports games need to advance in order to keep fresh. Well the Open Tee 2 has not wholly done so. The recently released PS3 version of Hot Shots made some control and gameplay changes and it was good for the game. However the PSP version has not made any significant changes and my biggest fear is that it needs to take some forward steps in order to keep the franchise from becoming stale. Sure, the addition of online multiplayer is good, but as I played the game I couldn’t help but think that I have “been there, done that” all before. Heck, I remember sitting on the couch at home one night playing it and I looked at my wife and reiterated how this game felt so much like the first. At the end of the day though, the original game Open Tee was a great hit, and there is no doubt that this one will be too as the solid gameplay and visuals has been successfully carried over. However, I hope that the next version released doesn’t stay tried and true to the first two as it just maybe too much of the same in the long run.
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