Genre: Sports Developer: Santos Publisher: Sega of Japan Players: 1-2 Released: 1991
My first review for Sega-16 was to be for Battle Golfer Yui, yet here it is some two years later, and I still have not reviewed the game. Battle Golfer is a pretty text heavy game, and though many of the menus and selections can be stumbled through and learned via trial-and-error, any appeal of the dialogue and prospect of playing an adventure golf game are lost on the non-Japanese speaking player. Despite wanting to review the game, I believed myself to be a less than ideal candidate to do so given that I cannot convey any meaning beyond the story or identify its characters whatsoever. So, I let Battle Golfer languish on my to-do list, a door stop for the dozen or more English and import-friendly titles I allowed to take precedence over the neglected golf game.
Fast forward to earlier this year to my brief affair with GameTap, the service which has the unenviable task of convincing people to pay a monthly fee to play emulated (but legal) ROMs. I was surprised when I saw Battle Golfer available on the GameTap wheel, which renewed my interest in reviewing the. Unfortunately, the Gametap Battle Golf offering is nothing but a ROM of the original Japanese import game which doesn’t help me understand the adventure one bit. However, thanks to a bit of information gleaned from The Gaming Sanctuary , I can now identify the ginger Michelle Wie as sixteen-year-old Yui Mizuhara who, for whatever reason, must take on Professor G and his “Dark Hazard” group. Regrettably, beyond some character names and what is seen in the animated cinemas, I’m quite clueless about much of the game.
Still, someone has to cover it, right? For those scared away from text heavy Japanese titles, Battle Golfer offers two modes of play: Adventure Mode and Golf Play Mode. Adventure Mode is the meat of the game where the player guides Yui into battle against various people for who knows what reason in one-on-one golf matches across a few courses. Here is where learning to button mash through menus becomes a much needed skill for the ignorant gamer, as the player much navigate through a series of selections before and after each match, presumably advancing the plot. After each victory, the player earns special points for improbable super shots to help take on the next challenge.
Golf Play Mode allows players to enjoy a somewhat more normal game of golf, skipping all of the dialogue for basic stroke or match play. While Yui must earn experience points for her special “waza” shots in Adventure Mode, everything is unlocked for a Golf Play match, making it good practice for the main game. Yui can compete against five CPU opponents in Match Play or against a human player, but the character choice does not seem to factor in the actual gameplay.
Golfing is done via a menu offering five options. The first option brings up the swing menu; the second choice is to scroll over the course for a better view; the third is a close up of the hole with scoring statistics; the fourth selection is a moon language description of the hole; and the last choice brings up the scorecard. Aside from the language barrier, the menu options are fairly simple to navigate. Swinging is accomplished with the first menu choice, where the player selects the club, spot on the ball to strike, and optional super power before hitting the ball.
Yes, if the game’s title and review hasn’t made it clear yet, Battle Golfer isn’t a serious golfing game. Eight super powers such as controlling the ball during flight or unnatural hard curve shots are available, but each is limited by its SP point cost. Likewise, the courses feature all manner of unusual shapes, from skeletons to dolphins to guitars. Many of them are strings of islands, forcing golfers to land accurate shots to avoid the water hazard penalty. Sand traps behave like the real thing, but trees act like brick walls, bringing any ball not sent high over them to a dead stop. Despite the variety of courses, there is a sameness about them all as the vast majority of them are vertically oriented with no real variation in the path to the hole. Though playing on a course shaped like a giant foot or with a baseball diamond dominating the landscape would seem silly and fun, the game isn’t as wacky as its title and presentation would otherwise indicate.
Since so many courses feature holes surrounded by water or out of bounds hazards, the game emphasizes accuracy far more than any realistic golf game. The problem with this is that the game mechanics don’t help the player gauge how a shot will pan out. The simple green-yellow-red flashing power bar doesn’t provide enough information on how far the ball will travel after being struck with the chosen club. Putting becomes disorienting since the game switches to a close-up of the green yet the player and ball proportions remain the same, throwing off any sense of scale of the course being played. While most of this can be adjusted to with some practice, Battle Golfer can’t provide a consistent golf experience. Though one could say all golf video games boil down to a test of memorization for the most part — learning which club to use, where best to strike the ball, and how much power to hit it with to get the desired shot – the simplicity of the courses and presentation in Battle Golfer don’t mask that stigma well at all.
Then again, Battle Golfer is not meant to compete against the realistic golf video games, and perhaps if I could grasp the story bits I would be entertained enough to not feel so critical towards the golf portions of the game. Yet, when one can’t read Japanese, all one is left with is a subpar golf game with odd looking but flat and uninteresting courses and wacky but joyless special shots. I suppose golf doesn’t lend itself well to these sorts of poetic licenses, as the unique touches here just aren’t as exciting and fun as the somewhat similar treatments done with other sports seen in games like Baseball Simulator 1,000 and Dodgeball Danpei. Even then, the game’s poor A.I. leaves the single player mode feeling unbalanced, and the inability to select courses diminishes the viability of the two-player mode. The quick pace makes it a good choice for 16-bit golf action against a friend, but the bare bones presentation and lack of options hurt the game.
The one advantage – if it can be called such – is that Battle Golfer’s simplistic graphics do hold up better over the still more impressive but dated 3D courses of PGA Tour Golf. There is absolutely nothing impressive visually about the game: very few colors are used, detail is pretty much nonexistent, and animation is minimal. Battle Golfer does not set the 68000 on fire by a long shot, but its graphics remain simply clean and serviceable. No one will test his or her overclocked Genesis with this cartridge. The soundtrack shows a little more effort, but, again, it’s far from spectacular.
Battle Golfer Yui needs to be spectacular but fails. It disappoints because its title and opening cinema string the player along into believing the game will be special and exciting, only to have those hopes dashed upon play. It lacks the zaniness of Ninja Golf or the gameplay of PGA Tour Golf, choosing instead to be a very basic game of golf with a side serving of creativity. It doesn’t take Japanese comprehension to find the golf game here lacking, and if the audience can’t appreciate the non-standard portion of the game, why would anyone bother with the playable half? There’s too much at stake for Battle Golfer to be content with simply providing a playable game, but Yui fails to rise to anything above this otherwise forgettable offering.