Wednesday, April 11, 2012

NES Golf Tour: Golf

Golf.  There is it. One simple four letter word.  No fancy sponsorships or name branding, no self-aggrandizing superlatives, no magnanimous claims, just the one-word name of the sport: Golf.  Back in 1985 Nintendo realized that simpler was better.  They also realized they were launching a new video game system into the crash era of video games and even then they understood the importance and relevance of video game golf to the point that they included it in their first wave of games for their soon to be legendary system.  Golf, Football, Baseball, and Tennis are the four sports to earn a place in Nintendo's "Sports Series."  The next golf game for the NES would not appear for three more years.  So from 1985 until 1988, Golf was King of the Links.
Not YOU guys!  You won't show up until 1987 and 1988 respectively!
Simpler may have been better for 1985, but how does the original golf game for the NES stack up compared to the powerhouses that would come later?  Not to badly, honestly.  Let's take a look:

Course Design:  Great.  For a game as early as this one to feature a better course design than either of the previous two games we have looked at, especially Greg Norman's Golf Power which came out in the 90's, is a testimony to Golf right out of the gate.  The holes vary nicely, providing plenty of challenge.  Some holes seem impossible and others seem impossibly easy until you play them a few times.  While no single hole on the course is a game breaker, there are more than a couple that can wreck your score.  Hazards are evenly distributed and are used in sensible ways.  The only real weakness in the course design is that there is only one course and therefore you are prone to learning its ins and outs after a handful of rounds and the challenge can diminish quickly once you get good.
Is it just me, or does this hole look like a turtle's head?

Green Design:  Again, solid.  Greens vary in size and shape.  While none of the layouts get too elaborate or tricky, putting is never a sure thing.  Break distribution varies from hole to hole.  Break design is simple, the entire green breaks in one direction, with the strength of the break varying from light break to "take your ball back to the fairway."  Hole placement varies, but remains relatively close to the center of the green.  Overall, the green design is very standard and you'll occasionally encounter a set-up that has you two or three-putting your way to the cup.

How far is it to that next island?
Shot Set-Up Interface: Good, not great, but good.  You have two windows, third person and overhead, and they match up pretty well with the overhead being the more reliable and what the game appears to pay attention to.  You are give the distance to the hole from the tee, but no other distances for the rest of the hole.  This is one of the game's biggest shortcomings.  Distances are not terribly difficult to judge once you familiarize yourself with the course and the clubs, but getting started this contributes heavily to the learning curve.  Apart from that, the displays available give you an honest look at your shot and help you prepare for your swing.  The game's other big shortcoming lies in the direction arrow helps you direct your shot.  The arrow is rigid and only allows you to point your shot in general directions.  There is no finesse in choosing the direction of your shot.  This means that hook and slice are going to be more important to your game than they would be otherwise.  This can make some shots, particularly where water and OB come into play, very tricky to line up.  This can be overcome with experienced game play, but again it makes for an unnecessary challenge.

Swing Interface: Standard with a bit of leniency.  The swing interface follows the standard formula with a few features that make it a bit simpler than some golf games.  Your swing speed is moderate at best and slow compared to other games on this tour.  The target for an accurate shot is tiny, but the margin of error is wide and your shot will not hook or slice wildly if you are not dead on.  Likewise, the hook and slice area target area is pretty much as wide as the swing meter, within reason.  The farther you stop the meter on either side of the accuracy target will determine the amount of hook or slice.  As long as you are relatively near the accuracy target you will not flub the shot.  There is a limit, but it is generous.  Just don't abuse this privilege as the hooks and slices in this game can get nasty.

It's ok, just give it a whack!
Putting Interface: Again, standard.  Putting is pretty intuitive in this game and you'll want to learn your way around the putting meter to get a good sense of the power you possess, but after a few putts you'll almost do it by instinct.  Putting off the green is allowed and encouraged as it is often better than trying to chip from short distances.  Your power is equal to a iron, but your ball does not leave the ground.

Auto-Caddy:  None.  The game tells you the strength of the club.  It is up to you to determine the distance and choose the best stick for the job.

Spin Control: None.  Maybe because it is such an early game, but you get no spin control here.  Would have been nice.

Wind Influence:  Moderate.  Pay attention to the wind information as it can wreck an otherwise perfect shot.  Because of the troubles with the Set-Up Interface, you may need to add a hook or slice to account for the wind.

Break Influence:  Important.  If you fail to account for the break, particularly when it is strong (tight grass arrows) then you will be adding a few strokes to your score.  The break is fair, but can be vicious.  You may need to double or triple your power when putting uphill against a strong break.

Chip-In Possible?  Yes, and with the right skill and strategy you can do it somewhat often.

Hole in One Possible?  YES!  And I have done it!  See below!

Learning Curve: 2.  Everything about this game is pretty standard and the controls are generous.  Once you learn the gauge distances and hook and slice, you are pretty much set.

Whistles and Bells: Almost none.  Unless you count playing with what I assume is Mario, then there isn't too much extra in this game.  I hate using its age as a defense, but I'm not sure what more to expect from a game as early as this one.  The graphics,  however, are really nice and colorful.  You can do without the game's only sound effect, "beep-beep-beep," so just put on some music you like and provide your own whistles and bells.

Overall Score: 7.  Seem high?  Honestly, my only real knocks against this game are also what I consider to be its greatest strengths: simplicity.  There is only one course and once you learn it the challenge is lessened, there are quibbles with the set-up interface, and there aren't many extra features, but all of these can be overcome relatively easily and do not take away from the fact that Golf presents the game of golf in a straightforward and pure manner.  There is plenty of fun to be had here for both new golfers and people like me who are about to join the Seniors Tour.

Tips from the Club Pro:

  •  If the ball lands on a tree graphic it is OB.  Always shoot clear of the trees.  You can shoot over, but do not land near as you run the risk of OB.
  • Always use half your power or more getting out of the sand.  Less and you will almost always flub.  And yes, oddly, you can use a Wood in the bunker.  Results vary.
  • Hole 6, use a 3W to reach the island safely off the tee.
  • Hole 8, use a 3W to reach the clearing in the trees.
  • Hole 11, use a 1Iron to get on safely.
  • Hole 13, use a 3W or 1 Iron to reach the island safely depending on the wind, hook or slice accordingly.
  • Hole 15, use a 4 or 5 Iron to reach the small island.  You can reach the big island above it with a 1W, but you may want some wind help for assurance.
  • Be careful using the PW to chip, it has more power than you think it does.
These are four of the hardest holes to judge the distance on.  My advice on these holes is tried and true.

Club Pro's Best Rounds:

3.29.12         -3
3.29.12         EVEN
3.28.12         +1
6.30.03         +2
3.29.12         +4
6.28.03         Hole-in-One on Hole #3

Join us next time as we make for one of the most beautiful golf course in the United States in Bandai Golf Challenge: Pebble Beach.

1 comment:

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    Nueva Country Club. Double Unforgettable golfing experience.