After two excellent turns on the PSP, it’s only natural that the Vita also gets a turn with a Hot Shots Golf in the form of a launch title. People will mostly be picking up World Invitational from one of two camps: those that simply want something to play for 10-20 minute spurts, and those looking to play for hours at a time as they unlock every little thing within. In either case, World Invitational is a worthwhile purchase.
For the uninitiated, Hot Shots Golf is a silly arcade take on the stuffy sport that bankers play after scamming you of your savings. But instead of Tiger Woods and other one-percenters, you’re introduced to an array of colorful characters that ranges from teen girls to hulking strongmen. Balls are launched in flames when you hit a perfect shot at full power, and backspin can literally burn up the green. For as crazy as it is, though, the action is still true to the game of golf, and you’ll get the most out of World Invitational when you correctly read the ball’s lie and gauge the wind and elevation.
It’s a formula that’s been around since the birth of the franchise, and very little has changed. That’s mostly because it doesn’t really need to, mind you. Just like past games, there are plenty of unlockables to earn by playing through the game’s single-player Challenge mode. Here you’ll participate in tournaments while climbing the ranks, earning a star for each victory. Earn enough stars through each tier and you’ll be given the chance to play against a new character, yours to buy in the shop if you can best them in a round.
You can also earn crowns in each tourney, although these are far more ambiguous. Winning is always a requisite, but there’s always other criteria to meet and you’re never, ever told what it is until you’ve managed to meet it. It’s wouldn’t be frustrating if not for the fact that you need to earn all of the crowns if you hope to unlock everything in the shop. Thankfully, that’s the only real complaint I have.
There’s plenty to do beyond the challenge mode, of course. Stroke play allows you to play on a course without the pressure of other golfers in a tournament, which is fine. However, the real draw is the addition of daily tournaments to the online mode. Every day, three new tournaments are offered to you by the developers, and many times there are stipulations attached. The cups might be larger or smaller, the wind may be kicked up to hurricane levels, there might be a penalty for landing in a sand trap, and so forth. Whatever the case, you get just one shot at each tournament, and your score is uploaded for you to be ranked against other participants around the globe. It’s a great addition, and it’s sure to extend the replayability to Hot Shots junkies everywhere.
The Vita hardware makes for a couple of interesting additions as well. By far the best and most useful is the implementation of the rear touchpad. You simply touch a spot on the course and you’ll be given useful information such as the elevation difference between the ball’s current location and that spot, as well as the remaining distance between the spot and the pin. It’s easily the most worthwhile function afforded by the Vita tech to any launch game. That might not be saying a lot, but it’s definitely noteworthy. Less impressively, you can also wave the system around to take a look at your surroundings, but using the traditional buttons is far easier and less clunky. They can’t all be winners, I suppose.
Hot Shots Golf often serves you with some of the most customizable experiences in any sports game, and World Invitational is no different. There are five different shot mechanics to choose from, including the familiar shot gauge and the circle mechanic introduced in Out of Bounds, as well as a new arrow shot mechanic. There are a ton of outfits to unlock for each of the characters, as well as clubs and balls to tailor your favorite character to suit your play style. Whether you prefer brute strength or favor finesse, there’s a ball and club combo with your name on it.
In all these years, no one has bothered to fix Hot Shots Golf. Good thing, though, because the series has never been broken to begin with. World Invitational offers one of the most purely fun experiences in the Vita’s strong lineup of launch titles, and looks as good as its PS3 counterpart to boot. Series fans and newcomers alike will find plenty to love here.
FINAL GRADE: A-