- It's funny to me the ways I become interested in certain games. Of all the stories, though, this must be the most circuitous. I first found out about Pangya from Piro, the creator of Megatokyo. His little rant about the cuteness of Kooh, along with the associated image, was enough to hook my interest. Pangya turned out to be a microtransaction-funded golfing MMO from Korea. And it was only available in Korea (and a few other Asian countries, I think). Since I don't read Korean, there wasn't much to do other than watch and wait for an English translation.
- Next came Albatross 18, the US version as run by OGPlanet. I finally got to play a little fantasy golf and had a good time. The microtransactions carried over to this version, though, so I did not stick with the game very long. Also, I wasn't very good at it. Earlier in 2009, A18 shut down, taking all of my virtual goods and in-game funds with it.
- And that brings us to this new release, a single player version for the PSP called Pangya: Fantasy Golf. All the best parts of the online versions are here and have been improved upon. I say best parts from a very specific point of view. The golf portions look and feel almost exactly the same. The graphics could have been ripped straight out of the PC version. The cute, anime styled characters are as expressive and colorful as before. The courses feel familiar right down to the grass textures. And the triple click golf swing and special shots play the same. They are more forgiving as well due to the default Beginner's Mode option.
- With all of that the same, the reason this is a better version is due to the enhancements made to convert this to a single-player experience. Instead of restricting the game to free play rounds or tournaments, Pangya adds a story mode and single player tournaments. In Story Mode, we are introduced to the various characters, why they are on Pangya Inland, as well as acting as a tutorial. Completing a character's story unlocks the character for Tournament play. Tournament mode plays almost exactly like the online version, except without the annoying chat scrolling down the side. Tournament courses are unlocked by playing various golf minigames to earn the course license. Each tournament awards a costume for one of your characters, so the true collector will want to win them all.
- Any modern golf game needs a shop to dress up your character and buy better equipment and Pangya follows suit. This is where the PSP shines over the online version. The best gear online can only be purchased through microtransactions. Other gear is available with in-game currency, but it takes a lot of play to earn enough to make a purchase. None of that matters here since the publisher no longer has its hand in your pocket. Pang, the in-game money, is earned freely and in sufficient quantity. And they've done away with pieces of clothing granting statistical bonuses, so costumes can be chosen for aesthetics alone. More shopping options are unlocked as you level up, but that feels like a reward for playing instead of a brick wall.
- Since online golf has little more interaction than a shared leaderboard and chat, I don't feel like I'm losing much. In fact, since the microtransaction bias has been removed from the game, I find I prefer this version. Anyone who enjoys video game golf and would like a game with little fantasy and anime flourishes will find something to like. Pangya: Fantasy Golf is the best implementation of the franchise I have played. It has proven that my choice to try PSP gaming was the right one.
© 2009 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.
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