Hit it long, hit it straight.
Another solid launch title for the PlayStation Vita, Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational rounded out the available catalog at the first PS Vita Social Club, nestled on a street corner in San Francisco. As a public venue, open until the PS Vita's US debut in February, the Social Club had plenty of PS Vita goodness to offer: Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Uncharted 3 showing off Sony's $499 3DTV, multiple stations of WipEout 2048, boxes of free pizza, free Nesquik samples, and even berry-flavored cans of yerba mate tea.
Oddly, World Invitational was nowhere to be found, and feeling that Sony might have been holding out on me, I asked one of the fine event ladies about the title and was quickly handed a PS Vita pre-loaded with the game. And after several playthroughs of the demo, I'm surprised it wasn't on display earlier.
The demo offered a brief look of the beginning of the game, featuring the first three holes of the Maple Leaf Golf Course and some of the changes in the character setup. Similar to Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds for PS3, the roster is limited to only two characters at the start: one girl named Yuna and one boy named Yamato. Both characters serve well as beginner characters, who despite their lack of power and spin ability, have straighter strokes and a larger area of impact. Yuna has slightly less power than Yamato, but her control and sidespin is slightly better.
Perhaps recognizing the wave of golf MMORPGs in Asia like Pangya: Fantasy Golf, World Invitational has added costume customization for the entire roster, more than the simple costume swaps from previous Hot Shots Golf titles. You can change the colors of everything from hair, accessories, shirt, pants, gloves, socks, and shoes—all of which should allow you to distinguish yourself from the rest of the online world for multiplayer. This is already in addition to the selection of different balls and clubs, most of which were unlocked in the demo.
As for the actual golfing... it's Hot Shots Golf. You still whack an unnecessarily small ball into an unnecessarily small hole and then prance around if you get a birdie. You can use the classic gauge or the newer circle gauge to set your power and accuracy (I like the classic gauge myself). The Maple Leaf Course takes place in a gorgeous rustic landscape with green valleys, blue skies, and a soft breeze that makes you want to shout "Ricola!". Everything is bright, round, and bubbly, as it should be in Hot Shot Golf, in stark contrast to how frustrating golf really is.
Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational is set to tee off at the PS Vita's launch on February 22nd, 2012.