For a little perspective, the first iteration I played of Hot Shots Golf was `Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee,' and since then I have gone back and played a few of the PS One Classics and have purchased every version of the game since. I feel this is important for you to know where I am coming from so you know where I am coming from and if my likes are similar to your own.
For my money, up until this version of Hot Shots Golf, I have to say that Open Tee 2 was probably my favorite, because it was the largest and had the greatest level of customization and the largest number of different courses to play. This game is an arcade-realism golf game, and the series has never come too close to taking itself too seriously. A great deal of the fun is found in absurd challenges and often silly visual customization.
Now I have heard a lot of people say that looking at a Vita is like looking at a PS3 in the palm of your hand. While this is not exactly true, this game does look between 80 and 90% as beautiful as the PS3 version (which was stunningly the only PS3 version so far). The characters are beautifully rendered and their outfit/costumes have a good deal of detail to them and beautiful textures. This game has pretty, soft lighting and decent shadows. If would have to really look for something to complain about. The game is pretty and it runs like a dream.
The controls in this game are pretty basic, as they always have been, but however you want to arrange it or look at it, I can say "Remember the control style from that other Hot Shots game that you liked; its in here." The designers do a good job making sure you have everything that you liked from the other games, not that I ever thought it made too much of a difference. I think the navigation, club selection, etc was always done in a pretty intuitive fashion, so there isn't really much to say on this other than the game handles well and predictably.
There are almost a dozen characters in the game and almost half a dozen courses. As far as the scope of content that is given to you in this game, it is actually towards the lower end for most Hot Shots Golf games. I have to believe this is, in part, so they can sell you more stuff through DLC--a subject a lot of gamers have mixed feelings about, myself included. That said, the gameplay that is included is going to give you quite a lot of replayability. The courses all have their typical mirror/long-tee variants, and there are lots of things to do. The challenges will likely take you well over 100 hours to complete, and none of the courses that were included in this version were the type that just annoyed the heck out of me--typically there would be 1 or 2 courses I did not enjoy in previous versions--and there is enough content here that I can't say they are holding back the full product just so they can nickle-and-dime you to death on the PSN. Long and short of it, the size of this game is certainly acceptable, nice even, but I feel like there should have been just a little more.
Whenever a new system comes out and people start making games for it, I personally worry that the new toys are going to get in the way of the fun factor. As a simple example, I like the 6-AXIS controller in theory, but most of the time, I really don't want to tilt my controller this way and that way for things I feel like I should be able to just do by pressing, possibly repeatedly, or holding a button. For instance, turning valves in Killzone 2 did not enhance my enjoyment of that game, although shooting arrows Matrix-style in Heavenly Sword was neat. I would characterize myself as an often 'stoic' gamer. I don't want to wave my hands around if I don't have to. Just let me stare at the screen like a marbles statue, and if I want to do that stuff, I will load up something on the Playstation Move.
What does Hot Shots Golf do with the Vita's gyroscopes, accellerometers, and touch screens? Surprisingly very little or nothing that will annoy anyone. I would say in almost every case, the controls they added for the Vita actually enhance your experience. Dragging your finger across the back will put a pointer out on the course. A line will measure back to your ball placement and give you the yardage to that point, and another line will extend towards the hole and give your yardage to the pin. Very neat. Rubbing your finger along the front face doesn't usually do much other than make your character wave at you or rustle trees. You can pinch the character--using front and back touch pads--lift them and drop them left or right in tee box. This is actually really nice because sometimes that few feet right or left changes the way you would want to play your tee shot and it is a first for the series. As far as the motion sensing, you can use this to give the ball a push when using a power-stroke and it might add a few yards to your drive.
Last but not least, Hot Shots Golf can be played online. They have a lobby system and a few different types of games, including daily online tournaments. Its pretty neat, and a little different than it was before. I can't say this is much of a draw for me, so I won't judge how well I think they did with its implementation, but it does add hours of potential fun for people who want to see how their skills match up to people all over the world. The only thing really worth adding is that if you don't buy this game first hand, you will need to buy an online pass that is $9.99 from the PSN.
I have to say that I can't stop playing this game. For me, Hot Shots Golf is a perfect on-the-go sort of game. It is not overly complicated, and it has good stop-and-go functionality with the Vita system, as well as being the type of game that you really only need about 10 minutes to play something. The game is beautifully rendered and has all the functionality that you would hope for in a Hot Shots Golf game. With the added functionality of the Vita controls, I have to say this is probably my favorite rendition of the game yet and I would encourage anyone who is at least a passing fan of golf to take a look at this game.