Trevor | June 20, 2023
Birdie Wing — the show — is a bombastic, explosive, over the top golf drama with life and death stakes. Birdie Wing: The Game is barely bargain bin Mario Golf.
For the past year and a half, I have had a golf addiction called Birdie Wing. I’m not sure what I expected from an anime golf show, but I never would’ve predicted any of this. Birdie Wing presents a world where golf is split into two leagues — the normal pro scene we all know and love, and then a dark, gritty, underground world where the mob calls the shots. The two main characters, Aoi and Eve, are star-crossed rivals from different golf worlds. While Aoi grew up in a professional circuit, Eve spent her days in illegal golf duels. The stakes in the latter climb to death. Eve is ultimately forced to flee her home when the Golf Mob puts out a hit on her.
Eve clashes with countless people on her journey, because her “Golf” is bombastic and unrefined. On a U-shaped Par five, she drives the ball through the forest in the center so hard it snaps tree branches. On a Mini-Golf course, she bounces the ball off obstacles to get it in the hole, because it's easier than reigning in her power. Aoi finds this endearing because she’s never seen someone play golf this way — but her mother is horrified Aoi's taken a liking to a girl from the wrong side of the Golf Tracks.
It’s outrageous, dumb, and perfect. Peak anime nonsense. No notes.
Now let's jump over to the game.
I’m not sure where to start with what’s wrong here. The spelling on “experiece” sets the tone for the rest of our golf journey. I’ll do my best to address all the problems from most egregious to least.
I think perhaps the best way to begin is to compare the way these respective pieces of media open.
In the first episode of Birdie Wing Eve is challenged to a one hole match on a golf course built around a scrapyard. Said golf course also has a train track running through it, and yes, this track is still in use, because a train rolls through in the middle of this duel. It even runs between the fairway and the green, because of course it does.
This all culminates in a dramatic final shot where Eve blasts a ball through the cars of a train and onto a precarious rake left in the bunker, which then flips the ball into the hole for a Birdie. It is a bombastic, lavishly produced, braindead affair and I love every second. Crunchryoll has clipped the scene in question into a nice, digestible quantity.
The title could not be more accurate.
Meanwhile, here’s what the first stage looks like in the game.
Now, we are on the scrapyard course. They did achieve that much, at least. However, there are no obstacles to speak of, and as you can see, my shot is unbelievably normal. It is the least dramatic shot Eve has ever taken in her life. There’s no rake, no train, and awful music. The whole soundtrack is like a knock off version of Birdie Wing’s actual score, and I question why that was necessary when this game is literally an eponymous, licensed title.
Even more egregious, however, is that I don't actually get to play the game here. For the entire first hole, the game tells you where to aim, what club to use, and even controls your power level. It is perhaps the most antithetical way a golf game based on Birdie Wing could begin. I’m almost offended.
What does offend me is the trailer for this game straight up lies, because this sequence was clearly rendered and animated for the trailer, but appears nowhere in the game. I won’t mince words here — this is false advertising. Straight up.
Almost nothing in this trailer actually made it into the game.
If there’s one thing I would say you absolutely must get right to be a Birdie Wing game, it is to represent Eve’s iconic shots. In classic bullshit anime fashion, Eve has a series of shots called “The Rainbow Bullets.” She has a color for every situation:
- Blue Bullet for drives
- Red for high approach shots
- Green for putts
- Yellow for bunker escapes
- Purple for hook or slice shots
- Indigo to skip the ball over a water hazard
This merely scratches the surface, mind you — over the course of the show, Eve perfects a whole series of new shots, as if they’re Dragonball Z attacks. However, the first three in particular are quintessential. The Blue Bullet happens multiple times an episode, and makes an appearance from episode one.
Let’s see what happens in the game when we approach the green.
Fuckin’ nothing, that’s what. It’s a normal ass shot. There’s no screaming, no absurd visuals, no gunshot sounds as the club connects. In fact, there’s barely any fanfare at all, aside from these face cut ins.
If I wanted a normal golf game, I’d be playing PGA Tour, or I’d hop down to the local bar and go a round on those Golden Tee machines. I’m here for BIRDIE WING, goddammit. People should be hitting the ball so hard their arms snap like twigs. Moses should be parting the Red Sea with a long drive in a flashback sequence. Someone’s family should be held hostage at gunpoint unless they get an Eagle on hole seven.
Instead Aoi and Eve play golf in a sad limbo, devoid of any charm or production. And I do mean Aoi and Eve, because of the six playable characters, they make up four.
Yeah. All their outfits are treated like entirely new characters. One weird trick to pad out the character select screen.
Even For A Budget Title, Why Are You Like This?
Story mode is a fairly straightforward affair — you watch a visual novel version of the show, and then you get to golf out an iconic scene. There are a total of six stages. It takes maybe one hour to finish story mode, and I’m being incredibly generous. Along the way, you encounter many iconic characters, screenshots, and about a thousand spelling errors.
The whole “Story Mode” encompasses the first three episodes of the show. More of a story sampler than an actual story mode, really.
Readers may remember a game called Summer Sports: Paradise Island. If you’re nervous that title is getting invoked here, that’s a good instinct.
Summer Sports: Paradise Island's Mini-Golf barely functioned. Mercifully, Birdie Wing actually works like a proper Golf game. However, much like in Summer Sports, there is no way to speed up or skip an AI shot. You will sit there for however long it takes, watching Aoi smack the ball over and over. If you could skip the AI shots, the story mode would probably take 20 minutes to clear.
But don't worry! There’s a plethora of other modes to select, such as “Free Play” and “Mini-Golf”. From here, we then select a “starting hole”.
It ends up by “starting hole,” what they really mean is “the only hole,” because once both players are done it's right back to the title screen. If you want to play a full 18 holes, you’ll have to do it one at a time and keep score yourself.
I have so many questions about why this is necessary. Surely there is some way, some method one could use to play multiple holes at once. Surely. Even Summer Sports: Paradise Island had the decency to usher me from one hole to the next, whether I wanted it or not.
You might think Mini-Golf treats things differently, but don’t worry — it doesn’t. Mini-Golf is even worse, in fact, because you only get one shot per hole. The fact this doesn’t auto-advance to the next hole is downright insane. The only way this hostile design makes sense is if the people who made this game actively wanted us to suffer. If so, mission accomplished.
To tie things back to the previous header, I must point out a Mini-Golf course does play a strong factor in one episode... But not this course. The Mini-Golf course in this game is evocative of one single scene that lasts for maybe a minute, where Eve exposes a neighborhood swindler as a fraud with a single putt.
But she had only one little putting green, not nine holes. Wait, sorry, five. There are five holes on this Mini-Golf course titled "Special Putting Course Under the Viaduct."
So, let’s say you actually manage to wrangle up someone willing to play this game, willing to sit through 18 resets to the title screen, and willing to watch anime girls get grumpy at golf clubs. Hope you’re ready to hit up the Nafrece U15, because it’s the only one in the game. Even the scrapyard course from stage one isn't on the list for multiplayer. "Select Map" indeed.
Even for a budget title, one course in the whole game is madness.
Where’d All The Work Go?
I’ll tell you where it didn’t first — the gameplay.
The golf is functional, but unbelievably erratic and inconsistent. Sometimes you’ll compensate for the wind only to see the ball travel straight ahead, and other times it carries it to the ends of the Earth. Likewise, putting is even more unpredictable. Sometimes a slight ramp up is like trying to putt up the side of Mt. Everest, and other times the ball sails past the hole like you traded out your golf club for a hockey stick.
The answer to the question “where did the work go?” is victory and loss animations.
They’re dramatic, evocative, and full of sweeping camera angles. They also properly represent the personalities of the character’s in play. It is the only thing even slightly representative of the show.
That, and the fact anyone plays golf here at all.
I award one point.
At Least We Golf, But Still Don’t Buy This
I can’t make it any clearer — don't buy this. While I crucified Birdie Wing on the cross of Summer Sports earlier, it is also its saving grace; because Summer Sports exists, I can’t say Bridie Wing is the worst golf game I’ve ever played. It’s just a close second. If what you want is a golf game, almost any other choice is better.
Even if the golf aspect is passable at times, the thematic assassination on display is irredeemable.
One of my most common complaints about games built around anime properties is often the opposite of what we have here — they care so much about properly representing special moves and iconic scenes, they let the gameplay take a beackseat. At the very least, I can thank Birdie Wing: The Game for reminding me it could be worse. Much worse.
You could have a soulless cash-grab devoid of personality (or proofreading) instead.