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September 27, 2017

New Minna no Golf Review [Patch 1.07]

Though I should have probably started from Patch 1.04 or even the Closed Test Server [1.03] Review… I think it will be a good idea for me to write down my opinions of this game as it progresses and as someone who has played the series for over a decade. To many of you this game is just a golf game, but for me it has done more than just provide me entertainment when I am looking for something to play.

It has been 5-6 years since we last had a main series Mingol released. [PSVita release 2011 and then was made available on PS3 with Cross Play in 2012] Since then we were teased multiple times of the game coming to PS4. Now that the game has been out for nearly a month and most players who have put all their time into the game are now seeking new things to do while we wait for the next big patch.

To review this version of the game, I will be separating it to sections and then add together the ratings to form a complete score. Each section will explore the game thoroughly and I will do my best to address the topic from a player/developer/designer point of view. This means I will cover a point from how I feel as a player, defend developer choices and what design choices should have been made if I were to change the flow of design. Now with that said, let us begin.

Presentation

The New Mingol logo and title screen menus look great and very suitable for the Mingol series. Other than the in game Menu window the overall game looks great and feels fitting for a Mingol game. I wouldn’t say it is their best presentations… granted they are trying something different with the My Character design, but it could be stretching it a little further than they can reach with the resources they had.

Score: 7/10

User Interface

I have mixed feelings about the interface because as a player I don’t feel too bad about it, everything works fine and there is enough information for me to make an educated shot. The menu that we access to do everything is so generically simple, it is probably why the developers made it the way it is… but personally as a designer, I feel that the menu was poorly made. One thing that made Mingol 5 great was that the menu was responsive and easy to navigate to where you wanted to go, in this version however… I feel the flow of the UI doesn’t work well at the moment and is unresponsive at times.

Typing with the Keyboard puts up a huge software keyboard on screen which disrupts the view for watching other players shots during Game Rooms.

Score: 6/10

Game System

The game currently has a very simple single player and online modes. In a way you could say there wasn’t much effort gone into the single player challenge mode as it is basically the same all the way from the start to end. Two challenges per rank and upon reaching a milestone you will unlock a character to play against and gain their assets to create your own character with.

Most of the time your character hangs within your own Offline World Hub… which while it is pretty cool, it gets old fast once you’ve completed everything. No new Daily Vs. Match appears once you have defeated all revenge characters, a wasted opportunity as I would have thought a cool thing to have done was let us play a randomly generated character, the script doesn’t have to be unique either… just have say Hikari or Suzuki introduce the person as a fan/gallery member who wants to play us. Upon defeating you gain bonuses for club levelling and gain the opponents assets. This would help people complete their character levelling and maybe collect parts without having to grind the challenges.

Score: 6/10

Online System

What Online System?

It’s a little confusing as to what they want the players to do Online at the moment, there is no reason to play game rooms if they are unofficial and other than getting parts for character creation or collecting gems, the Online System doesn’t encourage community play or social connectivity. It is pretty hard to navigate menus to meet up with friends or even meet new friends…

Score: 5/10

Game Engine

Ever since I played the Demo versions available at TGS and during the Closed Test, I could tell this engine was going to be very fun and enjoyable to play the game with… though with that said there are a few bugs and weird things that I feel could have been tuned a little better. This game engine plays very similar to that of Mingol 5, with a few differences such as Cart way Physics aren’t forgiving or frictionless to the point a ball will randomly stop even on a slope…

It appears the game is programmed to stop a ball simulation if it rolls for too long, I’ve had a ball go orbital around a tornado cup for so long that the game gave up simulating it and it stopped inside the tornado even though it was still supposed to be in motion with momentum and that the tornado was close enough to pull it in.

Water skips no longer increase the distance of the ball when skipping and in fact it slows down the ball, which is interesting because physically this is probably closer to reality. Whether a ball skips or not is still subject to the angle of entry more than the type of spin, as hitting an Ultra Top Spin does not increase the number of skips or make it easier to skip a water hazard.

Ultra Spins are back in the game, however there appears to be a bug or is it a feature? Ultra Side Spin does not activate Spiral. If this is not a bug, they should make it the way we can activate Homing Spirals… otherwise it should be patched so Ultra Side Spin does activate spiral.

Back spins itself seems to have been buffed to a ridiculous degree, even missing impact can yield a Homing Shot. So it feels that Spin status is not worth as much as the other two status Power and Control. It would have been better to make Spin itself a more balanced status and so that it would be more interesting to build the Custom Clubs.

Super Just/Perfect Impact appears to be no longer in the game, those who are unfamiliar with this term it is basically a perfect hit where all the stars align and you get dead center control and maximum lie % on the shot. Without this ability in the game, it means Control status is now more valuable than it was in the other games. I guess it just means in this game we go for Control instead of Spin, which was something that we did in the other versions.

Rabbit/Turtle shots are still in this game, don’t rule them out… how they function seems to be different with gains of maybe 10y when doing it right.

3 Click Putting and Kurukuru… Personally I welcome this change, but it does drop my Impact ratio. They did buff Kurukuru a lot in this version, I’m not sure if someone decided it after watching many videos of point matches I uploaded that having Kurukuru activate more often is more fun. It does lower the skill level required to hit them however the result is more people can get more putts in and that feeling of seeing Kurukuru does give a bit of a rush to the brain. While it maybe easier to hit them now, I do kind of wish they made it only activate if you pulled off a Just or Perfect Impact. [For reference: Kurukuru only used to activate only for Super Just/Perfect Impacts, which is sometimes just random variable in other versions of the game.]

The new ball drop system where if you end up in a hazard or need to drop your ball seems to be a bit random, some situations can be really beneficial while others are totally just make the situation worse. More often than not there is too many of the Man Made Obstruction and no penalty situations which while being better than Unplayable or OB, seems a bit too forgiving or over sensitive at times. [In Mingol 6 most of these things would just be unplayable with penalties.]

Points system seems to have been changed… we have yet to determine how balanced this new system is however all special chips have now been balanced in a way that the points rewarded are quite similar and that doing a more impressive version yields better points.

Hopefully patches will iron out some bugs and changes. Overall for this section for now I am going to give it a Score: 8/10

Course Design

As of Patch 1.07 we currently still only have access to Seven Courses with two of which are re-imaginations of Classic Mingol courses. Those will not be used for the evaluation of this review. While the Open Course aspect of the game is a key feature of the Course Design, many of the courses are either on par or just shy of the quality of the Courses in Mingol 5.

Graphics of the courses looks stunning of course, but there is a few areas on some courses where there is massive frame drops and unnecessary objects that ruin the experience of the courses. A few holes also just feel like a blatant rip off of another hole from an old course, example: Hole 14 in Eagle City is just a copy of Hole 14 in Ayamegahara [Highlands] of Mingol 5 with an added Bunker hazard in your way.

Even so, the designs of the courses are very enjoyable as long as you aren’t using Custom Clubs Power Builds to ruin the experience. It is very cool to be able to run and drive around on the open course and play each hole how you see fit, but the Menus and Quality of Life for the Open Courses could be improved.

While Imperial Gardens is no where near the epic feeling of Crown Links from Mingol 5, it is still a difficult course to navigate and can prove to be a challenge. The other intermediate courses were also quite well designed and challenging too, so the balance on the release courses seem quite good so far.

Score: 7/10

Character Creation

I have always said that the future of Mingol was to have us create our own Characters and let us choose the stats for them from an stat allocation pool, though this system may not be what I would have created, they did a really impressive job with the Character Creation side of the game. You can make some really impressive characters or even make characters from other games and media, which it self becomes a small end game for some players. While there is still room for improvement, I would say for their first custom character creation system they surpassed many players expectations.

Score: 9/10

Visuals & Graphics

Visuals for the game is a little mixed. We have courses which are made with attention to detail yet a character creation system that makes characters that don’t fully fit into the environment because their animations aren’t as smooth as their surroundings.

Game Menus could have been done better and not look like a old school RPG game in the 8-bit era.

We could have potentially had better loading times if we had a classic title screen interface to access different modes and then if we were to go online we would start in our Hub area and other people could also be in that Hub area. Think of the interface of Mingol 5 and how colourful it looked navigating through it.

While the game could have been only in development for about 2 years, the gap of time between releases makes us believe otherwise which is what hurts the overall visuals and graphics most. This is because the game is on the PlayStation 4, yet if it wasn’t for the beautiful open courses it would just look like a PS3 game. So much time was given to the production of this game… and it feels like it doesn’t deliver for the amount of time we had waited.

Score: 7/10

Sound & Music

There are a lot of people who tend to turn off the music or sound for this game because they don’t really care about it, but for those that do listen to the music of this series you may notice that the music just doesn’t sound right? Since New Mingol was set to be an international release, it appears they decided not to go with the Mingol Style of music and just try some generic mash up of music… which sounds alright but I think whoever makes the decision about the music needs to go listen to music from other games or just the classic Mingol games.

So much of the classic music from the old games is so iconic even I can remember how they start or sound like, but I have trouble trying to remember the course music in this game. At least their main theme of this version is catchy enough to stick, but I wouldn’t count that as a praise towards the sound department of this game.

Voice Packs [Japanese] for the character creation is quite good, though I hope they plan to release more voice packs or character actions in future patches and downloadable content because it seems like there are people who are willing to fork out money for characters they would like to see, such as Gloria?

While writing this section I have still not been able to recall how any of the music starts on the Open Courses… which kind of sucks right? You can just name any of the old courses from any of the other games and I will be able to mentally play back the tracks in my head, but I don’t even know how the music starts for any of the current game’s courses.

To kind of explain what I mean, the two DLC courses we get to play with right now are designed off the classic game courses… It’s interesting to note that the music from those are some what more distinguishable to me than the original courses we got with this game. Is it because those courses are remixed classic tracks or were they just more iconic?

Score: 6/10

Development of Misc. Content

Rather than having a separate category for each content, I’m just going to bundle it up into one section because these parts of the game don’t really add to the game play at all… Thus it doesn’t deserve any special mentions. The score given is to reflect how much fun it was to be able to do those things instead of playing golf itself in a golf game.

Golf Cart Driving was a pretty special thing that we apparently got in this version of the series… though it wasn’t required was it? I was pretty content with having my character be ridiculously fast if I held the run button. I mean that was the comical part of the series right? When our Caddies would be so ridiculously fast they could run up to our ball in mere seconds.

While the Golf Carts are pretty cool, the way they are handled and the fact that anything you collide with will bring you to a complete or sudden stop makes them quite irritating to drive at times. It would have been nice if their collision detection wasn’t so strict and felt smoother to drive them around. They feel alright when driving around the track in the home area though…

Fishing seems to also be kind of wasted content… there is no real challenge in the fishing mini game, and if it wasn’t for the Triple Just Impact ball… I doubt anyone would bother to fish. Most people who cared will finish their fishing logs and get bored of it and stop.

With the way Fishing was originally advertised, it sounded as if it was going to be something people would want to do while online… again if it wasn’t for the TJI ball, no one would really bother with it because they are just fishing for their trophy and then they are done most of the time.

Turf Wars… I don’t have a positive opinion for this game mode. Most people who have watched or played with me know that I am a speed player, in Turf Wars we are split into red and blue teams and the most hole outs from one team declares the winner. This kind of means a speed player has advantage over any other player

When playing the Closed Test, I was already able to try out Turf Wars, and the only reason to play then was because it was something new to try… at what part of the development process did they think this was going to be a fun online mode to play in? For one thing, we can’t even form our own teams before we start playing it… Which brings me back to the other problem of Online being that it doesn’t encourage communities to grow.

Team Battle [A multiplayer game mode that we came up with back in the days of Everybody’s Golf World Tour] game rooms would have been a much better system, it’s sad when a player community created multiplayer game mode is more fun than one that came with an official release.

Score: 5/10

Final Summary

While it does kind of feels like the game falls short on a lot of things, mainly end game content for those who have already finished the single player aspects of the game… I’m still hopeful that this game’s potential can still break through. The game engine itself holds up well in terms of deep game play mechanics and the character creation does lead to some fun times.

If you are in it for Minna no Golf, this game is going to hold true in the long run… but how long of a wait is a different question. Just hope you weren’t sucked into it for the Golf Cart Driving, Fishing or Turf Wars side of the game. As of the current patch [1.07] this game to me sits at around…

[Patch 1.07] Score: 7.5/10

I may revisit some of these categories or topics later because there may have been information I left out or thought wasn’t a big deal at the time yet actually needs to be addressed. Let me know what other perspectives I may have missed in my review of the game. I will address them in later patch reviews if they are constructive towards making the game better and more fun. Hope you all enjoyed reading through the review!

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