Great Golf Review

Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 1987 Also On: None

Golf? Come on, man, who wants to play that? Though it may surprise some of you after reading the other reviews I’ve written on the great series for the Sega Master System, this is one of the better games in the lot, easily capturing second or third. I think I have to jump Great Baseball down a notch because of this one, because in my opinion it deserves a position at third, but doesn’t have enough to make it to second, so let’s take baseball out of there and put it in fourth. Great Golf is definitely not the best of them, but it’s a fun little game overall though nothing too spectacular. The main problem I have is that for some reason Sega decided to release this version outside of Japan when the Japanese version, which is totally different, is much better and even innovative in many regards. Oh well, at least what we got didn’t suck totally. Let’s do it, Great Golf here we come.

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Graphically, this isn’t the worst game I’ve seen for the system and it even shows off a bit of how much more powerful the SMS is than the NES because they both had similar looking golf games around the same time for easy comparison. The game opens with an excellent title screen where a player hits a ball towards you and it becomes the “o” in “golf.” Sure, nothing fancy, but it works well, and most importantly looks good. There’s a broad range of colors at the title screen and plenty of detail. In the game proper, you’re treated to more of the same. Your player is well-animated and they’ve used a fairly wide range of colors. The only problem I have with the graphics is that there are no cinematics other than the opening, and for some reason it takes the game a few moments to load the screen displaying your player on the course. I really don’t know why since I doubt it’s actually loading per se, but they almost did it in this bit-by-bit fashion that feels like it takes longer than it should. Perhaps they wanted you to scan over the current hole in the meantime? I don’t know, but there’s something strange about this. At any rate, it’s not enough to drop the score low or anything, Great Golf has excellent graphics overall, clearly beating out it’s then counterpart “Golf” for the NES. The only other problem someone may have with this is that the game feels somewhat repetitive, but seriously, how much variation can you give to a game that really feels the same for the most part in the first place? Considering this, I feel they did a great job of providing a variety of different obstacles and holes. The island level was particularly interesting.

Now it looks good the whole way through, but the main problem with this game is sadly the sound, which is where I feel it really needed to achieve. The opening track is nicely programmed and fits the atmosphere of the game, so they did do that. In addition, most of the sound effects work well and none of them sound out of place, so great job with that. The only problem is that the voices you hear when you make a good shot are totally incomprehensible. Try as I might, I still have absolutely no clue what they’re trying to say. It’s so poorly done it almost seems like they kept the original Japanese and said screw it. This is tolerable though because you don’t hear it often, the big problem is that, and this was actually common for golfing games back then, there is no music whatsoever during actual play. Sure, golf is a quiet sport, but I think sitting in the quiet of my own home is enough, I’m not sure if I want to sit in absolute silence playing this. I feel they should have added a nice track here and there, possibily providing the player with the option to turn it off during play. As it stands, the only other music you here is when you hit the ball out of bounds, that’s it really. Should have added more.

Great Golf, however, though it may not have the best sound, definitely is put together very well in the gameplay department. I don’t need to get into the actual method for play since I think everyone knows how that runs. Expect the same when you come to this. You can choose either stroke play or match play. In the first, whoever meets par or stays under the most wins, but in the latter whoever completes any given hole in the least number of strokes (not necessarily achieving par) is the winner. Great Golf is great (unintended, I swear) in that you can play with up to four players in the stroke play mode. More than two players is pretty uncommon in the SMS library, so live it up while you can. The only problem with this is that there is no option to choose to play against the computer. If you play alone, their scores are simply shown automatically. It would have been nice if you actually watched them play, because it would have helped you learn how to better make par.

After this you get to select your clubs from a list, which provides you with details on how far each club can carry the ball. In the game proper, you have eighteen holes to play through, and the only problem with this is that it’s the same holes over and over again. I didn’t expect them to really change much with this, but some variety would have been nice, perhaps a set of courses to run through using a password or save feature, which this game lacks. Still, the actual game proper is very intuitive. You can check the wind direction and speed, pick your club, adjust your feet to effect how the ball travels, set your shot angle and select the amount of power you use to swing. You can go back and change any of these as you like, you’re not stuck with whatever you pick the first time around until you finally select your power, so if you want to go all the way back to change clubs while keeping everything else, you can do that. When you reach the green the format changes a bit, and you can check the slope of the hill and adjust putting angles and so forth to get the best put. If you happen to be tied for first there is a sudden death playoff, otherwise the game is exactly as you would expect from real golf.

Where this game really shines in this category in that it’s exceptionally difficult, even for experienced players. What’s great is that you can simply play through without really caring, learning how to adjust your play to do better, so there really isn’t any harm in just saying screw it and learning as you go. But, when you actually want to come back and win, it takes a ton of practice and requires you to really learn how everything functions in this game based on the wind, foot positioning and so forth. I was very impressed with how well Great Golf works in this regard and have come back to it a number of times in the past few years I’ve owned it, simply to try to finally win, which I have yet to do. That doesn’t mean the game itself is overly difficult, it just takes true mastery to complete it. So if you’re looking to just have fun hitting the ball around without really caring about par, go for it, but if you’re looking to sharpen your skills, you can do that as well.

This game is predated by Golf for the NES by three years, and unfortunately the programmers appear to have went with generally the same format. Creativity is definitely not one of Great Golf’s strong points, though it does feature more than its predecessor. I’m not sure why Sega did this, but they released the least impressive of their two early golf titles outside of Japan, and I wish I had a reason why. The Japanese version came out a year prior to this and was a heck of a lot better with a very innovative field of view as well as play features. If they would have released that instead, I’m betting it would have given the great series a somewhat better reputation. Still, it’s not like this game is totally devoid of creativity, this was the general format used for all golf titles even up through the present day. You simply can’t really do too much with it without taking away from the gameplay, so I can’t go too low, but considering the Japanese version was superior and they could have easily released it, I have to bring it down.

Still, I have to say this game has plenty of replay value. It may not be the best title to introduce yourself to the Master System, but if you’re looking for something you’ll come back to in the future, this is definitely one of those titles. Great Golf isn’t the most flashy golfing game I’ve played, nor the most interesting really, it just has a very intuitive and easy to learn interface that provides for plenty of improvement as you continue to play. In addition, since this follows the real thing, you have a nice amount of length here. It takes about an hour to complete. The only problem is it may have been nice to include a password or save feature, because it may seem a bit grueling to some to sit through this the entire way through due to the lack of music. Still, I passed the time just fine with this and really didn’t notice.

In conclusion, I have to say that Great Golf is definitely the third best game in the great series and stands way above the others below it. The three games that are actually good in this series are generally pretty good in most respects, and this places itself nicely in third. Sega tried to market this for Father’s Day when the Master System was still on the market, but I’m not sure how well it did, though it’s nice they tried to get adults interested into the system, because Nintendo never really did that. Some were familiar with the system and a few games, but nothing was really made “for adults” so to speak other than a few unlicensed porno titles later on. Why in the world did I mention this? Who knows, but to get back on track, if you’re looking for a golf title to add to your SMS collection, since there are several, start from one of the first and have some fun.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 4.5
Gameplay: 8.5
Creativity: 3
Replay Value/Game Length: 7
Final: 6
Written by Stan Review Guide

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