Some franchises continue to be popular despite relatively little changes to the tried-and-true formula. In some cases, this is fine, in others, it's a drawback. Sony's Hot Shots Golf series is not one of the latter; the foundation of this hugely popular franchise is rock solid. All they need to do is add some more players, courses, and throw in a few new crowd-pleasing gadgets, and you've got another winner.
However, beneath that cartoony exterier is easily one of the more realistic golf games available (believe it or not). The player must consider absolutely everything a real golfer would, and the three-tap swing mechanic is an ingenious idea and beautifully implemented. Everything translates amazingly well on the screen, and after two successful Hot Shots installments on the PS2, another is on the way for the PS3.
Hot Shots Golf 5 , initially scheduled for the PS3 launch but now delayed a bit until early 2007, is guaranteed to deliver the same vibrant environments and zany characters. It was announced at E3 and show-goers at TGS and the very recent Gamer's Day got a chance to see it, so the game isn't hiding. It may not have the same hype as something like Final Fantasy XIII and Devil May Cry 4 , but then again, everybody knows Hot Shots . And everybody knows it's, above all else, fun .
Considering the demos shown at TGS and Gamer's Day, the characters remain those cute, loveable, big-headed caricature-esque duffers we're all familiar with. The graphics in the series has never been groundbreaking, but they've also been very pretty, generally sporting brilliant greens and fairways, gorgeous blue skies, and colorfully detailed characters. The fifth Hot Shots apparently looked even crisper and more refined due to the benefits of the PS3 hardware, and that's certainly a good thing.
And for those of you wondering if the same three-tap swing system is back: Yup. Fans of the series invariably favor that mechanic over other golf titles that utilize the analog for the swing, and besides, any significant change like that would alienate your loyal followers. Sony has understood that since the second installment, so they weren't about to alter one of the game's mainstays. We expect the same intricacies (pressure sensitivity, using the d-pad for fades and draws, etc.) to return as well.
A few things that haven't quite come to light yet – but have been announced for the game – are tilt functionality and a much larger gallery on the courses. These are a couple new aspects that seem like logical enhancements to the series, but there hasn't been any confirmation from those who got a chance to tinker with the demo.
All in all, though, Hot Shots Golf 5 is shaping up to be exactly what the fans want. It'll maintain that light-hearted, yet surprisingly deep, gameplay style that we all fell in love with back in the early days of the PS1. Sometimes, you just don't need the next-generation glitz in order to have the same panache, and if there's one title that will prove this beyond a shadow of a doubt, it's the new Hot Shots .
Get ready to tee off in the first quarter of 2007.