Golf
  • Genre:
    • Sports
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publishers:
    • Nintendo (NES/ARC/FDS/GB)
    • Hudson (PC88/X1)
  • Released:
    NES
    • JP 05/01/1984
    • US 10/18/1985
    • UK 11/15/1986
    ARC
    • US 1984
    PC88/X1
    • JP 1985
    FDS
    • JP 02/21/1986
    GB
    • JP 11/28/1989
    • US February 1990
    • UK 1990
Score: 60%

This review was published on 09/30/2016.

Golf is a sports video game developed by Nintendo for the Nintendo Entertainment System, NEC PC-8801, Sharp X1, Famicom Disk System, and Game Boy. It was originally released for the NES in Japan on May 1, 1984, North America on October 18, 1985, and Europe on November 15, 1986. The PC-88 and X1 versions were both released in Japan in 1985. Then the Famicom Disk System version came out in Japan on February 21, 1986. There was also an arcade version of the game called Vs. Golf that came out sometime in 1984. Lastly, the Game Boy version was released in Japan on November 28, 1989, North America in February 1990, and Europe in 1990. Nintendo published most versions of the game, but the PC-88 and X1 ports were published by Hudson Soft. Phew, that was a mouthful! This game was pretty good back in the mid 1980s, but it's tough to stomach nowadays. Beyond not looking and sounding that great, the play mechanics are really rough around the edges.

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If you don't know what golf is, then let me explain. It's a sport where you use a medium sized club to hit a small sized ball into a small sized hole that's usually located far away from where you start. All this takes place on a large grassy field called a "course," and there are typically eighteen holes on each one of these. The objective of the game is to get the ball into the hole in as few swings as possible, which are referred to as "strokes." The number of strokes it took you to reach the hole also serves as your score, meaning a smaller number is better. Additionally, every course has a "par," which is the fewest number of strokes required to get a zero on your scorecard. If you get less than the par, then you'll get a score in the negatives. The par differs between courses, but it's usually three or four. That's all you really need to know about golf in order to play this game.

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Playing the game is pretty simple. The right side of the screen shows a bird's eye view of the current hole. To the left side of the screen, you'll see an info box that lists what hole you're on, the total yardage, the direction and speed of the wind, the par, and your score. Beneath that, you'll see your golfer, who looks an awful lot like Mario from the Super Mario Bros. series. It's nice how you can see all of this stuff on the same screen. Anyway, there are only three things you can do: change your club, adjust your aim, and hit the ball. This makes setting up a shot very simple, as it doesn't require many button presses and there's no menu navigation. However, unlike most modern golfing games, this game won't automatically change your club to whatever works best for the current situation. As a result of that, this game is far more difficult, as you have to figure out when to use each club. Some may enjoy this as it adds an additional layer of challenge and strategy to the game, but others will be turned off by it.

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To actually hit the ball, you'll need to pay close attention to the power meter, which is visible beneath the image of your golfer. Beneath the meter is a large arrow pointing up at it. Pressing the primary button will cause the arrow to move left along the meter, and pressing it again will stop the arrow, causing another one to appear and quickly dart right along the meter. At that point, pressing the button one final time will stop the second arrow, which will finally complete the swing and hopefully result in the ball being hit. How far left the first arrow was stopped will determine the power of your swing; it gets more powerful the further left it is. The second arrow decides the straightness of the shot, and it must land on the white point of the meter for a perfectly straight shot. This whole thing happens in a very short period of time, so it's quite difficult to time. Once you master it, though, the game gets a lot more fun.

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When your ball is near the hole, or as they say in real golf, "on the green," you'll enter the putting mode. You can't manually change clubs during this, as this is the only time the game will automatically change clubs for you, giving you the appropriate putter. Putting the ball works a little different from stroking it. You'll get a close up view of the hole, and you'll probably notice some arrows on the ground. Due to the limited power of the hardware at the time, this game was unable to render slopes, so the developers decided put arrows on the ground to signify the direction of the slopes. This is vital to consider, because the ball will gently roll along the slopes, so you have to account for that when making the shot. The power meter is also a lot smaller for the putter. Instead of pressing the button three times to hit the ball, putting requires you to only press it twice. Other than that, everything else is about the same.

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It's possible to play this game with two players. For the two player mode, you can either do Stroke Play or Match Play. Stroke Play is exactly the same as the one player mode, except you take turns with another player, and whoever has the lowest total score after all eighteen holes is the winner. Turn order is determined by whoever's closest to the ball, which could result in a single player getting multiple turns if they really suck. Match Play, on the other hand, has slightly different rules. Instead of having the total strokes carry over from one hole to the next, Match Play has players starting from scratch every time. If you get to the hole in fewer strokes than the other player, you'll "win" that hole and immediately move on to the next one, earning a single point. In stark contrast to Stroke Play, whoever has the most points after all eighteen holes will win. The game itself still plays the same, though.

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All the console versions of the game are nearly identical, but the Game Boy version is pretty different. The biggest thing is that it has two courses instead of one, upping the total holes from eighteen to 36. It also has a bunch of new features and is considerably more polished. The additional features include the ability to save your game and name your character, and a training mode that lets you freely practice on any hole in the game. The added polish comes in the form of cute little cutscenes for when you begin the game and the like. Plus, the Game Boy port actually has background music, which the console versions lack. However, due to the smaller screen, the actual game play is a bit hindered. In order to see the whole map, you have to constantly press the B button to switch views, which is annoying. It's for this reason that the console versions still overall provide the better experience, even if the Game Boy port does have minor improvements in a few other areas.

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At the time of its release, this was one of the best golfing video games around. Now, however, it's not so great. If you want a better golfing game on the NES, then consider checking out NES Open Tournament Golf, which is sort of this game's sequel or spiritual successor. As for the Game Boy, Mario Golf totally blows this one out of the water. Still, it can occasionally be fun to play the original NES Golf game, because it focuses on the basics, and has extra challenge due to needing to manually pick the right club for every situation.

Word Count: 1,341

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