NES Open Tournament Golf
  • Genre:
    • Sports
  • Platform:
    • NES
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 09/20/1991
    • US 09/29/1991
    • UK 06/18/1992
Score: 70%

This review was published on 09/29/2016.

NES Open Tournament Golf, titled Mario Open Golf in Japan, is a sports video game developed and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Famicom. It was originally released in Japan on September 20, 1991, North America on September 29, 1991, and Europe on June 18, 1992. A slightly modified version of Mario Open Golf was also released for the PlayChoice-10, an arcade system Nintendo created that, as its name implied, would allow people to play ten different NES games. This is the second golf game made by Nintendo for the NES, the first of which was simply titled "Golf" and came out in the early-to-mid 1980s. Many consider this to be the first game in the now prolific Mario Golf series. While it's a colossal improvement over the original NES Golf, NES Open Tournament Golf isn't too great by today's standards. It is, however, the best golfing game on the NES by a wide margin.

Image

There are some major differences between the Japanese and other versions of the game. First off, there are more courses in the Japanese version, and also some different music. A lot of courses are also pretty different in their design, with the ones from the Japanese version being harder due to there being more obstacles around. All this might make it seem like the Japanese version is the best one, but it does have some drawbacks. For one, the other versions start off with all the courses unlocked, whereas the Japanese release requires that you unlock them manually. The biggest thing, though, is that the Japanese game lacks Tournament Mode. There are a couple of other differences, but those are the big ones. Since the Japanese version has pros and cons when compared to the other versions, things sort of balance out in the end. However, it would have been nice if everything was compiled into a single release.

Image

Here's a brief rundown of how real golf works: you swing a club to hit a tiny ball into a tiny hole that's located very far away. This occurs on a large grassy field known as a "course," and there are usually eighteen holes per course. The goal is to get the ball into the hole in as few swings, or strokes, as possible. Your score is represented by the number of strokes it took to get the job done, so a lower number is always better. It's possible to get your score into the negatives if you're good enough. Every course has something called a "par," which is the minimum amount of strokes you need to receive a zero as your score, but if you manage to do it in less, then you'll get negative points. The par is usually three, but it differs between courses. Of course, there are considerably more subtleties to golf than that, but those are the basic rules.

Image

When the game play begins, you'll see a bird's eye view of the current hole and a sidebar with some information on it. The helpful sidebar tells you stuff like the name of the course, what hole you're on, the par, the direction and speed of the wind, how many yards away the hole is, and so on. Before you take a swing, you use the sidebar to set the swing speed, pick a club, and choose whether to apply a backspin or topspin to the ball. Pressing up and down on the d-pad allows you to cycle through these settings, and you confirm selections with the A button and cancel them with the B button. At any time during this, you can press left and right on the d-pad to aim the ball in different directions. Beginners can simply tap the A button to skip through all this stuff, as the defaults are usually adequate early on. Setting up a shot is pretty intuitive, though it does require a little too many button presses.

Image

Once you're done with all that, you'll see a close up of your character getting ready to hit the ball, and there'll be a meter at the bottom of the screen with an arrow pointing at it from beneath. At this point, you press the A button to begin the swing, which will cause the arrow to move left along the meter. Hitting the A button a second time will stop the arrow and cause it to split off into another arrow that'll quickly move right along the meter, and pressing A one last time will finally cause you to hit the ball. The location of the first arrow determines the power of the swing, and the second arrow determines how straight the shot will be. To get a perfectly straight shot, the second arrow should be stopped on the white line on the meter. The whole swing sequence happens fast, so it requires excellent timing. Hitting the ball is fun, but again, this action could do with fewer button presses. When combined with setting up the shot, it takes no less than six button presses to hit the ball.

Image

There are a couple of modes to choose from. The two basic modes are Stroke Play and Match Play. Stroke Play is just a standard game of golf, but if you play it enough times, your rank will go up. Rank doesn't do much in the Japanese version, but it does serve more of a function in the other versions, where having a higher rank means you earn more money from Tournament Mode. Money is ultimately pointless, but it does make you feel good. As for Match Play, this mode has you go up against another golfer in a head-to-head competition. Both Stroke Play and Match Play can be played in either one or two player, with the first player taking control of Mario and the second one Luigi. In the case of Match Play, you'll play against a computer if you go it alone.

Image

As previously mentioned, the North American and European versions of the game also have Tournament Mode. This mode is also divided into Stroke Play and Match Play, and you can either do the normal eighteen holes or do a whopping 36. Doing Stroke Play in Tournament Mode allows you to go up against a bunch of other opponents, but unlike Match Play, you don't get to see them do stuff. The only way to check on their progress is to look at the leader board in the menu, which lists their scores. There's also an extra thing you can do in the Match Play within Tournament Mode where you bet cash on a single hole, which is a faster way of earning money. It's a shame the Japanese version doesn't have Tournament Mode, because it adds a lot of value to the game.

Image

The Club House is basically a menu where you change clubs, train, tinker with game options, view your scores, and erase your saved data. The training mode is particularly useful because it lets you train on any of the courses' individual holes, and it even lets you undo mistakes! However, the Japanese version's training mode only lets you play on holes and courses you've already played on the main modes. Further, there are a couple of things exclusive to the North American and European version of the Club House, like how you're allowed to rename anyone on the tournament roster. This can lead to some childish fun if you're just a little naughty. It's also possible to look at your prize money, which results in a cameo from Mario's old nemesis, Donkey Kong. Speaking of cameos, Princess Toadstool and Daisy also make appearances in this game.

Image

It hasn't aged too well, but NES Open Tournament Golf can still be enjoyable if you have the right mindset. The whole thing with going up ranks and winning money helps stand out what otherwise would have been a mundane golfing game. The production values are also pretty good for an NES golfing game, as the graphics and music are both decent, and the menu navigation is surprisingly robust. This game definitely has some polish to it. There are certainly better golfing games nowadays, but this one isn't bad.

Word Count: 1,376

Tweet