I’ve been playing my Sega Master System a lot as of lately, going through many of my games and weeding out the good games from the bad to come up with a small handful of quality titles. I don’t have a problem with the console itself. As a matter of fact, I’m actually rather fond of it, but the more of the U.S. library I play, the more it leaves me feeling unexcited and bored.
Sega seemed like it tried to pad the library and carry the console itself instead of garnering third party support, resulting in most of the library being pretty dismal. Though Sega would later become a force to be reckoned with, its early sports titles left something to be desired to say the least. Great Golf is no exception. At first, it felt like a semi-playable, but mediocre game. but as I played it for more than 15 minutes it fell to the level of a dud.
Golf games never reached the level of polish that they have now with the use of analog control sticks, but this game lacks many of the features and mechanics that would make a golf game serviceable, even for its time. You can pick a Stroke Play or Match Play mode in the options; the only difference is that Stroke Play allows for four players and doesn’t use the tournament rules.
You get the option to select your clubs, and it tells you each club’s distance on the selection screen but not in-game, making the manual a necessity during play, as you’ll need to refer to it for club distances. You can hook or slice the ball by adjusting your foot placement before each swing, which I guess is accurate to the real sport. The game does take wind into consideration, but it is very temperamental. Even when the wind stays the same, you could hit the ball with the same power and from the same position and get a different result each time. If you overpower your swing, missing the green and forcing you to swing in the opposite direction, the game will not change the arrow for wind direction. That’s just sloppy programming.
These small issues can be forgiven until you get the ball on the green and the whole thing falls apart. To start, it no longer tells you the distance to the hole once you’re on the green, making distance and putting power a guessing game. As a result, I was rarely accurate with my guesses. The second problem lies in the fact that it doesn’t have any arrows or tick marks to tell you the pitch or the grade. You have to hit button 1 to bring up a separate screen for each hill, and it really doesn’t work and makes you feel pretty blind in each game, since you have to close that screen before you putt.
The graphics are sparse but serviceable. I wouldn’t consider them good even for an early Sega Master System game, and it’s often hard to tell just where your ball will go when you swing at it. The trees are ugly and grainy, and your ball will go right through them. Another complaint I have with the visuals is that the screen redraws itself slowly after each swing, which makes the game all the more boring to play.
The sound effects are atrocious. There isn’t any music in the game other than the title screen, and the sound effects are just simple and crude blips, along with a few short chimes when you go out of bounds or land a ball on the green. Even the sound of your swing is a pretty awful static hissing sound that will keep going until the screen redraws itself and you hit the button to set up your next swing. This may be one of the most annoying issues I’ve ever heard in a golf title. Surprisingly, Great Golf has FM sound support, but even that inclusion cannot save this game’s annoying sound issues.
It feels like Sega just wanted to get a library of titles on store shelves with little effort, as this game and every other game in the Great Sports series is poor and feel rushed and just aren’t fun to play. This is probably another reason as to why the Sega Master System never took off when compared to the NES. There may be a few good golf games released in Europe, but the entire sports library as a whole is somewhat of a letdown. If you’re a fan of vintage sports games or golf games specifically then you’ll have to get your fix elsewhere, as Great Golf, as well as the Great Sports series in general, are poor.
SCORE: 2 out of 10