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Golf Magazine: 36 Great Holes Starring Fred Couples

Genre: Sports Developer: Flashpoint Studios Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1-8 Released: 1994

I first played a 32X at a friend’s house when I was in junior high. It never grabbed my attention, and I quickly forgot about it. I’ve since added one to my collection many years back, and I have to admit that I never hooked it up until a few months ago (I know, shame on me!). Deciding that it was time to give it a chance and discovering that my unit was dead, I luckily found one at a thrift shop and hooked it up. A majority of the games I first played were pretty bad, but Golf Magazine: 36 Great Holes Starring Fred Couples quickly caught my eye. I’m actually rather ashamed of myself for not giving it a chance earlier because not only is it a great game, it’s one of the best 32X games in the library and a game any sports fan should readily try.

I’m a pretty big fan of golf (though I don’t get to get out and do the real thing too much lately) and will at least try just about any golf video game despite age or console. The one thing that really kills most them is the steep learning curve that almost all of them have, especially if you don’t have a manual. This is even more of a turnoff for me than the issue of most of them having almost no sound and no visual quality. Surprisingly, Sega made this about as simple to learn as it can get, and the programmers followed a control layout that is very similar to EA’s PGA series. Being more polished and refined, 36 Great Holes at least makes a solid attempt at using the capabilities of the 32X hardware.

When you first power up the system, you’ll see that the sound is quite crisp here, much more so than the standard Genesis could do. There’s almost no music present here, but the sound effects of the clubs, balls being hit, and the birds chirping are top notch, and this all gives the game a nice start. There are seven modes of play: practice, match play, stroke play, tournament play, shoot out, skins game and scramble. How’s that for variety? The game is composed of thirty-six of the greatest holes from several different courses and can be broken up into, shortest, longest, random or “Fred’s favorite.”

There are a lot of customizable options. You can create a character, select an outfit and pick your look, and nothing beats my friend and I picking all pink and flamboyant outfits just to make our character look as ridiculous as possible. Indeed, many a laugh came from that! Next, you select the set of clubs you like best, and thankfully there’s a save feature for all of this, instead an annoying password to continue like older games.

The mechanics work great here. Your power meter allows you to choose the power of your swing and lets you hook or slice the ball. Again, it works like the PGA series but is in much better detail. It’ll even let you choose different swings if you’re in a tight spot. Once you’re on the green you’ll notice that you don’t have to go to a sub screen to see the grade; it shows up in great detail and makes it really a breeze to study in order to make those tougher putts. If you’re like me and want to remember some of those great putts or drives then you’re in luck, because you can save up to four instant replays to view in the menu for bragging rights, and that’s probably my favorite part of the game.

The visuals are definitely an improvement over what the Genesis can do. Everything has a higher resolution and just looks nicer. Hills and sand traps have height to them here and look more realistic in appearance, all adding to the appeal of this great game. If there is a flaw, it would be with the voice samples. Fred gives a nice vocalized intro to the game when you first start, and he sounds crystal clear. The problem lies with his in-game commentary. Each time you make a nice drive, he says “that’ll play.” If you make it to the green, he says “get up a little.” His only other sayings are when you make a par, birdie, or an eagle or hole in one. Top that with the fact that there’s no music and few other sound effects, and it gets pretty annoying to hear his same phrases over and over. A few times I just put some music on and turned the volume of the game down.

36 Great Holes one other setback (I won’t call it a flaw) is the fact from which it gets its very name: there are only thirty-six holes (two courses worth), and after a couple of hours I saw it all and wanted some more. Compared to most other games of the time that had six to seven courses, this one feels short. Thankfully the variety of gameplay modes helps add some replay value to the game.

I really like the design of this game, and I especially like the variety of the modes. For these reasons, this one of my favorite 32X titles, and I had many hours of fun with this game with my aforementioned friend. I love saving new replays after hitting a sixty or seventy feet putt on the green but still wish the game was longer. I would also love to have sees what the rumored 32X CD version would have been like with all the extra courses it bragged about. Golf Magazine: 36 Great Holes loses a point for its short length and a point for the lack of Fred’s voice samples, but I’ll recommend it to any 32X owner. It’s a great game, and there’s so little that’s good in the library.

SCORE: 8 out of 10

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