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Golf (NES) artwork

Golf (NES) review

"Golf for the NES is one of those games that delivers exactly what it promises in the title."

Golf for the NES is one of those games that delivers exactly what it promises in the title.

For nearly as long as video games have existed, sports titles have been created to lure fans of more athletic endeavors to the less active pursuit of interactive entertainment. Some potential players might be the sort who participate in actual athletic programs and simply can't get enough of them, so they’ll settle for a digital version when they’ve been rained out of a real game. Other players might simply lack the attributes--physical, financial, or otherwise--that would allow them to compete, and thus video games provide them some measure of fantasy fulfillment.

Golf, an early sports title from Nintendo, can be seen as something of a precursor to the Mario Golf series that currently enjoys popularity on the company’s more modern hardware. Those titles were preceded by NES Open Tournament Golf, another golf game for the NES that lacked many of the bells and whistles you’ll find in the later series (aside from the appearances by Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and Princess Daisy). Golf came before any of those other games, though. It stars Mario in his "Mr. Video" days, captured during a time when he played the role of Nintendo everyman in numerous different games from a variety of genres.

Within Golf, you’ll find a full eighteen holes but nothing more. There are no other greens, no additional courses, and no driving range or anything else of the sort. There isn’t any music, either. Several of the NES "Black Box" games from the Sports series at least shared a common jingle on the title screen, but Golf isn't afforded even that particular luxury. In fact, the only sound you're likely to notice is the smack of the ball off the head of the club, and a somewhat cartoon-like sound effect as the ball rises and falls while sailing through the air. Go out of bounds and you’ll hear a bonus sound in the form of a buzzer that notifies you of your error, but that’s the end of it.

If you're familiar with golf video games in general, you pretty much know how this one plays: using the d-pad, you can select the club of your choice and adjust your stance. By pressing the A button, you begin your backswing. Press it again to begin your downward swing, and press it one final time to determine your impact position, which impacts how the ball flies. The putting process works similarly. Depending on the type of hit you are making, you’ll need to pay attention to such factors as the angle of the ground's slope, or the strength and direction of the wind. Your swings must be adjusted accordingly.

When you are playing the game alone, you get a decent golf experience (though it may be slightly unsatisfying by the standards almost immediately set by subsequent video golf titles). Fortunately, Golf offers a couple of multi-player modes if you have a second controller available. Swinging for par is one thing, but the thrill of competition--however basic--makes many sports titles more enjoyable. This is one of them.

The two-player Stroke game is basically the same game as its single-player counterpart, since both players must try to get the ball into the hole using the fewest possible swings. That player is then declared the winner. The Match game offers competitors a little bit more freedom by comparing the number of strokes each player takes in order to sink the ball, and offering a point to whoever achieves that goal in the fewest strokes. Whoever has the most points at the end of the game is then declared the winner.

There really isn't much more to the game than that. Though it isn't bad by any means, it’s certainly primitive and limited. If you give it a try, you’ll definitely understand why Nintendo offered NES Open Tournament Golf as a reward to early Nintendo 3DS adopters, rather than going with Golf. Today, the latter title is more a historical curiosity than anything, made only slightly more interesting by the fact that nine of its holes were later reproduced as part of the Wii Sports package. Unless that fact interests you, there’s little reason to own the cartridge today unless you’re either a true NES collector or a diehard Mario fan.

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Freelance review by David Oxford (April 20, 2013)

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