Thursday, March 29, 2012

NES Golf Tour: Lee Trevino's Fighting Golf

Our first stop on the tour finds us on the links with none other than golfing pro Lee Trevino.  For those of you not familiar, Trevino, or Supermex as he is affectionately known is a six time tour championship winner and one of only a handful of golfers to survive being struck by lightning!  Trevino never took home the fabled green jacket, but he won every other major championship and was inducted in the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1981.  Trevino was a champion and hero for Mexican-American golfers in a time when the sport was almost exclusively an old white guys club.  Supermex is the real deal.

Being a golfing great doesn't mean that the video game bearing your name is going to be a winner, and quite frankly the name "Fighting Golf" evokes images of Arnold Palmer and Bobby Jones dueling it out with 9-Irons.  Fortunately the game doesn't go that route and instead endeavors to give us an honest round of non-combative golf.  So let's put Lee Trevino's Fighting Golf to the test and see how it all shakes out.

Course DesignLTFG's course design varies from interesting to downright unrealistic.  Some holes provide lots of challenge for the experienced golfer and are still wide open enough for the amateur.  Other holes are nearly impossible for even the seasoned pro.  A couple of holes ask you to drive your maximum possible distance over a sand trap or water hazard before reaching the fairway safely.  Fail to hit at your maximum or have a prevailing wind against you and you are guaranteed to be spending time in the hazard or taking a penalty stroke.  That is just unfair.  There are also a lot of extremely narrow fairways that demand precision the game is incapable of delivering, particularly on the USA course.  Overall, the Course Design in challenging, but not so unrealistic that it isn't fun.

Green Design: The greens in this game are pretty standard in layout and vary nicely to present a good challenge at the end of the hole.  The one drawback is the seemingly random break generation that occurs on the face of the green surface.  Sometimes the green is relatively normal with a dominant break and maybe a few minor breaks here and there.  Other times, the breaks are all over the place going in every conceivable direction with no realistic direction or plan. This can make setting up a putt a logistical nightmare.  This is not a persistent condition, but when you get a busy green it can ratchet up the challenge.
Oh boy!

Shot Set-up Interface:  This is where the game begins to suffer.  A good interface will give you a good look at the hole, either from a third person over the shoulder perspective or a top down, or both.  It will tell you your distance to the hole from where you sit and will also tell you other distances perhaps by moving a cursor across the map.  Hazards will be as visible as realistically possible.  LTFG has little of that.  You do get two looks at the course, third person and top down, and you get the distance to the hole, but that is about it.  There is no way to judge how far out that bunker is and you have no idea if a 3 Wood or 2 Iron would have better range to evade that little stream.  You'll have to guess it the entire way.  Play long enough and you'll figure it out, so I suppose in that way it is more realistic, but there are some allowances that video game golf grants us, this is one of the bigger ones.
Another major problem lies in the fact that what you see in the two windows doesn't always match up.  The third person window is wildly inaccurate and can almost completely be ignored.  The only window worth paying attention to is the top down window as it more accurately represents what is going on in the game. Don't be surprised if the third person window shows you in the water or on the fairway when you are really in the rough.  The loss of the third person view makes lining up certain shots, particularly when trees are in play, a challenging endeavor. What is one of the most integral aspects of the game play ends up creating some serious obstacles to your success.
Is it on the green or in the rough?

Swing Interface:  Fortunately, the game is not further complicated by a troublesome swing interface.  LTFG features a pretty standard swing interface following the classic formula of pressing A to start the swing, A to set the backswing, and then A again to determine accuracy.  Slice and Hook are determined by how far from the accuracy target you stop the meter.  You can add loft or hit the ball low by pressing up or down during your swing.  This is absolutely necessary on some holes as you need the extra distance lofting will give you.  Playing with different characters will change the speed of your swing meter, so practice with slower characters like Pretty Amy before moving on to more advanced characters.  Hooking and slicing can be unforgiving if you are too far from the accuracy target, so swing carefully!

Miss an important putt and Chosuke will punch himself in the neck.
Putting Interface:  Putting is also pretty standard, with the same kind of interface, only this time all you have to worry about is power.  Press A to start your swing and then again to set the power.  Figuring out exactly how much power your swing is going to generate can take some practice, but once you get the hang of it, putting will be easy.  Putting from off the green is not possible so do not try it.

Auto-Caddy: The auto-caddy in this game is pretty reliable and you can trust it about 90% of the time, just be careful in your short game.

Spin Control: The game says you can add backspin to your shot by pressing left or right and A during your shot.  I have seen no evidence that doing this has any impact on the game.

Wind Influence:  Wind is a moderate factor in this game and you will need to account for it when it is particularly strong.

Break Influence: With the greens featuring any number of breaks in any given direction, you will definitely need to consider it when making particularly long putts.  Some breaks can be considerably strong so watch out when the grass is dense in one direction.

Chip in Possible? Yes, but extremely difficult to pull off and rare.

Hole in One Possible? I have never hit one.  I have come close, but never actually sunk one.  I feel like it is possible, given how the game plays, but have no concrete proof.

Learning Curve: 8.  While you don't have to live with this game to get the hang of it, expect to play several rounds before you are entirely comfortable with the game play.  Judging distances and learning not to look at the third person view will require patience and practice.  I played many rounds double digits over par before I got the hang of the course design and shot set-up.

Whistles and Bells LTFG has some nice extras to make your experience all the better.  The game features two courses and four different golfers to choose from.  Each course is different and features unique elements to challenge you.  Each golfer also provides a different game play experience.  Beginners will want to start with Pretty Amy or Chosuke, while the advance player can take advantage of the skills afforded Supermex or Big Jumbo.  That's right, you can play as Trevino himself and he's pretty good!  Each player also has a set of expressions to let you know how they feel about your play.  The game has good graphics and minimal sound effects.
Pretty Amy has a full range of emotions and when she's really upset she flashes her unmentionables!

Overall Score: 6.  Lee Trevino's Fighting Golf is not the worst golf game you can play on the NES, but it has several important shortcomings that can turn a fun round of golf into a frustrating cartridge toss across the room!  I still enjoy playing LTFG from time to time, but it does not get as much play time as some of the other games on our tour.

Unrealistic holes like these are fun-killers for sure.

Tips from the Club Pro:

  • The ball gets a ton of bounce from the fairways so be ready.  Plan your shot just a bit short of where you want to end up as the ball may bounce far past your target.  This applies to greens as well.
  • Likewise the trees are also made of rubber.  I have hit a tree roughly 150 yards out from the tee and had the ball ricochet nearly the entire distance back to the tee.  
  • Having said that, avoid trees at all costs.  Do NOT try to go over them under any circumstance.  Take a low shot or hook or slice around.  Avoid trees as they will almost assuredly add one or two strokes to your score.
  • Speaking of hooks and slices, some holes are going to require you to hook or slice on your tee shot, so if these shots are not part of your game, you may want to put in some practice time getting used to using them.
  • On your tee shot, do not be afraid to use the loft shot as you will find some holes demand it to avoid hazards.
  • Chipping is a crap shoot.  The short game in LTFG is tricky enough, but chipping takes this to a new level.  Intuition is your best friend when approaching the green.

Club Pro's Top Rounds:
Course: USA
Date: 3.19.12       Score: 69 (-3)
Date: 3.18.12       Score: 80 (+8)
Date: 3.16.12       Score: 82 (+10)

Course: Japan
Date: 3.22.12      Score: 80 (+8)
Date: 3.19.12      Score: 87 (+15)
Date: 3.18.12      Score: 88 (+16)

Join us next time on the tour as we visit another golfing powerhouse and the game that bears his name: Greg Norman's Golf Power!


  1. I really enjoy LTFG. Best round is a 70 (usa) and a 74 (Jap). I have hit a hole in one. It's pretty neat. You win a trophy. I never knew you could use loft by pushing up or down and A, so thanks. I really like your little site you have here.


  2. Thanks Daniel! Congratulations on the HiO! Very impressive. Even more so not using the loft shot!