Review: Spectacular 3D golf hits eShop

There are two ways to approach a review of Let’s Golf 3D:

1) One could say, “Hey, the eShop just got its first third-party 3D game, and it’s a great one! What an awesome addition to the fledgling handheld’s lineup!”

2) Or, one could grumble, “The eShop’s first third-pary 3D game is a port of a year-old iPhone title! Nintendo is doooooooooomed!”

Truth be told, I like quality videogame golf, I like 3DS, and I love having fun. Guess which angle I’m taking. Long story short: If you enjoyed Mario Golf or Hot Shots Golf, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Let’s Golf 3D is, in fact, a character-for-character, course-for-course, mode-for-mode port of Let’s Golf! 2 for iPhone and Android. Fortunately, LG 2 is one of the best titles ever released on those platforms. This 3DS incarnation costs two dollars more, but brings 3D and superior controls to the experience.

Developer GameLoft can easily be criticized for taking everything that made Hot Shots and Mario Golf work so well and simply constructing their own interpretation…but when the result is so solid, content-rich and entertaining, it’s hard to complain. The game looks terrific, has a charming music score and–despite some annoying load times–moves along at a snappy pace through a career mode crammed with unlockables. Its six 18-hole courses provide imaginative, surprise-filled challenges and its eight cast memebers are…well, they’re certainly no worse than what Hot Shots offered.

Using classic swing-meter gameplay and a relaxed, upbeat presentation, Let’s Golf 3D delivers addictive gameplay and a wide selection of modes and and customization. It’s perfect for both quick bus-ride sessions and longer lazy afternoon rounds.

Having played both iPhone and 3DS editions, I can honestly say that both are superb versions of the same game. Both give you more than your money’s worth, but I prefer the 3DS game for two important reasons:

First, it feels great to play this game with real buttons. If you played it on iPhone, you know that switching clubs in that version is ridiculously awkward. On 3DS, it’s as simple as a tap on the Dpad–just as it should be.

Second, the courses look amazing in 3D, and the added depth genuinely helps gameplay, particularly in split-second decisions of whether or not to add spin to a shot during flight. It’s much easier to read the greens, and so putting feels much more intuitive here.

Only one negative factor rears its ugly head: The load times for the individual holes take far longer than they should. Once loaded, each hole plays like a dream, including camera fly-overs and recaps, but you’ll have plenty of time for a nice, leisurely sip of coffee while waiting for things to start. This isn’t a problem on the iPhone version, but–curiously–the 3DS handles its multi-character matches much more quickly and smoothly than iPhone can claim.

Whether paying $6.99 for Let’s Golf 3D or $4.99 for the iOS 2D, buttonless Let’s Golf 2, no one should feel ripped off by this product. It’s a deep, highly enjoyable game that would have been worth purchasing even as a $29 cartridge. This is a great start for third parties in the eShop’s 3D library. I hope future additions have as much to offer.