Sports Story – Game Review


Sports Story

(available on Nintendo Switch only)

Sports Story is the latest game from Sidebar Games and is created to be a follow-up to the company’s previous entry, Golf Story, an RPG centred around a golf player. While Sports Story does have golf, it also includes other sports like tennis, BMX, football, cricket, and even some odd choices like fishing!

If you liked Golf Story, you have probably already picked this one up. I recommend playing Golf Story prior to this one since it still holds up remarkably well even if the RPG side is a little confusing in terms of how stat points are assigned.

That being said, Sports Story is still a sequel for the most part. You’re going to be playing golf more than any other sport in the game, and most of the sports play rather similarly. The mechanics of the game haven’t really been changed. It’s a lot of single-button taps to align shots and power. The game does take you through the other sports rather well, most of the areas are kind of assigned to a certain sport. For example, the boarding school area on the island that the company PureStrike has brought you to is designed for tennis, there’s an underground mining area called Britannia that is made for the cricket section, and Pelican Falls is used to introduce fishing. I will say, most of Golf Story’s charm is still intact here. It’s a very wacky and comedic storyline!

Honestly, I think that this game actually improves on the first, though I’m aware that I’m in the minority – most people have declared this game a disappointment. If you expect me to disagree, this review might not be for you. That’s not to say that I’ll be ignoring the negative points, I do have negative comments to say – but my score at the end of this will be based on my enjoyment of the game as a whole rather than from a technical standpoint.

I feel like the negatives people feel about Sports Story come from people ignoring the problems that were in the first one also, which is something I definitely noticed with the reception of the game.

PROS

  • Art Style

I like the art style of Golf Story, but I think that Sports Story is a massive improvement. I should say that I spent the majority of this game playing with my younger cousin over the Christmas period, so we often bounced off each other with opinions of the game and the one conclusion that we came to was that the game looks a lot better than the first one. Sports Story feels like it has really refined the engine that it was working on.

This won’t blow anyone’s mind, but I actually feel that the refinement of the engine allowed for the improvement of the environments and models. If you showed me Golf Story and told me that it was an old Super Nintendo game that had been dug up and rereleased, I would have maybe believed you, but Sports Story feels like there are a few elements to it that only modern games can create.

  • Soundtrack

I don’t know why some people are upset with the soundtrack, I thought that it was excellent! There are no major highlights, but it creates a really nice atmosphere. I personally think that it’s a very good soundtrack – it’s a nice laid-back one that you might expect from a slice-of-life anime. I can see why some people have had an issue with the soundtrack, but I don’t agree with it.

MIXED

  • Gameplay

For the most part, the gameplay is excellent. I know people have been a bit bothered with the number of fetch quests and it definitely got annoying towards the end of the game, but I personally felt that this game did a better job indicating what exactly you were meant to be doing compared to Golf Story. That being said, the game isn’t good at indicating where you’re meant to be going and seriously lacked a map function. It often feels like you only completed a mission because you happened to talk to a random NPC.

I think because the environments are way more interesting this time I didn’t feel too bothered when I had to explore these areas, and there weren’t too many unfair challenges either.

Most of the sports were played very well, golf was really good, cricket plays quite well, and I really liked the fishing once I got the hang out of it. However, it is still a sequel to Golf Story, so you’ll be playing golf most of the time.

Some of them haven’t been as well thought out: I still haven’t got the hang of the BMX and it resulted in the most frustrating side mission in the game. My advice: I don’t care how many side quests you need to do to raise the rank of your sports license (which the game makes it seem to be optional but you do need an S rank to do the final challenge), it’s not worth it for that challenge. The BMX challenge on Pelican Falls was such a nightmare and it took me over an hour and a half to finish it! I am not joking! Despite the fact that it has a time limit on it, you need to do it perfectly in one go or you fail, and this is the second BMX challenge that you will do in the whole game but it plays like it’s an end game challenge. The BMX as a whole feels like it has the wonkiest controls of all. The challenges are either too easy or too hard, there’s no middle.

Some of the sports don’t feel completely thought out. Tennis, for example… If other people have figured out how to aim their ball instead of just flinging it, then I would like to know how because it felt like some of the tennis matches that I won were out of luck instead of skill. It doesn’t help that a big portion of the game and one of the big side quests is entirely centred around tennis.

Tennis is pretty good and for the most part, the sports work out. I found it interesting that most of the sports don’t get given a decent part in the game. Volleyball is so absent from the game that when it shows up in the final challenge they even make a joke about the fact that it’s been missing from a lot of the game. Football isn’t really in this game much either. To such an extent I forgot to buy football shoes from the mall and was locked out from a side quest later on in the game because I didn’t even realise I had to buy some. And baseball is also incredibly absent- it only shows up for one arcade game in the mall and one side mission later which is also an annoyance because you can’t buy a baseball bat from the mall because the company says it doesn’t qualify as a proper sport- I’m not joking, that’s the actual dialogue!

Sports Story does have its annoying moments, but I think that they were a lot less frequent than Golf Story, where I spent a lot of time meandering around trying to figure out what to do. While Sports Story has less moments of frustration, when it frustrates me, it frustrates me a lot! That being said, I really appreciated the dungeon-crawling aspect of the game, and that’s where I had the most fun with it.

It feels like this one has a better balance between the RPG elements and the sport. The RPG elements have been significantly simplified, and I think that that was for the better. You only have three stats this time, Controls, Strike, and Power, and the game usually automatically ups a particular stat with levels. You only have a few occasions where you pick what stats you want to increase. I know some people didn’t like this aspect but I personally preferred this because I felt that simplifying it was a real benefit, considering that this game has to manage several different sports. I also didn’t like that in Golf Story I wasn’t exactly sure how to balance my stats in that game especially considering that any that I increase would cause another to decrease.

Overall, I think that the gameplay in Sports Story is really good but it does have some frustrating moments throughout and includes some ideas that were half-baked. I get a sense that there were more ideas that had to be left on the table because of time and budget issues, despite the fact that the game had quite a delay.

  • Story

For the most part, this game has an improvement in the story compared to the first. There’s a more central part this time and it keeps most of the parts from Golf Story that worked quite well like the quirky characters and humorous storyline. You’ll certainly be seeing a lot more out-there story beats this time, which I think benefits the game. I really appreciate the narrative for the most part.

Where it fails is that it is lacking in some areas. This is another time where I feel like parts had to be left on the table because of time or budget. For example, one of the more significant side quests which has a lot going on with it kind of just ends abruptly. I felt like there was more in mind for what was going to happen there but the team couldn’t get it in.

There are also a couple of areas that just weren’t accessible in my playthrough, but I might have missed some elements in order to unlock them… But that being said, I did most if not all of the side quests in the game!

Then we come to the end. If this game has multiple endings that’s good because the ending I got was very anti-climactic. But I think that they’re maybe setting up for future releases.

CONS

  • Performance

I haven’t experienced some of the worst performance issues, but I have experienced some bad ones. I initially thought that it was a bit of an exaggeration on the issues when I was playing the game for the first half, but when I got to the second half it became apparent that this game has serious issues. I’ve had this game crash on me on multiple occasions and I’ve also been in environments where I’ve soft-locked or had visual glitches which forced me to restart the game, which usually works since the game has a good recovery on it’s autosaves. I was still hitting the save button more than usual for fear of a crash.

There are also some framerate issues but they didn’t affect me too badly and I wouldn’t have noticed them if other people hadn’t pointed them out.

Sidebar Games have promised to patch the game, and after that point, I suspect most of the issues will be solved.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Sports Story is pretty good in my opinion, but I think that it needed more content to flesh it out and it needed to focus on a few extra areas. It does have performance issues but I would be lying if I said I thought that this game was worse than Golf Story, I actually think that this is a better game overall and it looks and plays great. I would maybe advise waiting until another patch is out to play this game, but as of right now, it is a good game it just has some issues that need to be fixed. I would even appreciate this game getting some DLC to act as an epilogue to give more story to the game, though I might have missed something because I didn’t do much of the post-game- but I actually didn’t spot anything that suggested there was much to a post-game.

My final score is more based on my enjoyment versus my frustration.

FINAL SCORE: 8.1/10

Calvin
Director of Axia ASD Ltd.
Self-proclaimed Nerd Consultant
and Head of Axia’s Film Society.

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The Next Axia6th March 2024
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