Nintendo is Great: Golf (Nintendo, 1984)

The series Nintendo is Great will explore every game ever released for a Nintendo console/handheld, beginning with the Famicom.

 

 

GOLF

 

PUBLISHER/DEVELOPER: Nintendo

RELEASE DATE: 05/01/1984 (JP), 10/18/1985 (US), 11/15/1986 (EU)

ALSO ON: Arcade, Famicom Disk System, Game Boy, NEC PC-88, Sharp X1, e-Reader Nintendo Switch

FEATURED IN: Animal Crossing (Gamecube, 2002)

 

Golf is a pure experience. There’s no commentary, no music, no people on the side snickering or sighing when you hit the ball into the bunker. As you stare at each hole, wondering which club you should use, the silence is deafening; even the birds shut their beaks before you take your shot. The game features eighteen holes, standard-issue clubs, and mandatory polo shirt and slacks. Mario even looks like a real human this time. The implication is clear: take Golf seriously.

 

Let’s hope the ball decides to veer left.

 

This is not difficult to do. Every feature of Golf is sublime. The silence keeps you focused. Mario’s supple frame both amuses and empowers. The hole layouts are simple enough for beginners, but will take time and practice to master. The controls are simple and intuitive. The game also never tells you which club to use, encouraging you to sample and explore.

 

Mario golfs dangerously.

 

The power meter is the real revelation here. The further back the meter goes, the more distance the ball will fly. Hit ‘A’ when the meter enters the white lines and you’ll have an incredibly powerful shot. With practice and patience, you and the power meter can become one. From there, Golf elevates to a whole new level. You’ll hit shots you didn’t know were possible. Your hair will radiate a golden glow. You’ll feel like the Grand Duchy of the original Nintendo Golf Course.

 

“But if I used a fire flower, I could carve a path through those trees…”

 

If Golf has a fault, it’s that putting isn’t the fairest of practices. It’s entirely possible to shoot the ball directly over the hole and it not go in. The game only recognizes the ball entering the hole if you tap it in or if it gently rolls into the hole. Any forward momentum of any kind, and the ball will roll right past/over the hole. Plan your putts accordingly.

 

Not shown: Mario breaking his putter in twain.

 

Awkward putting is no reason to write off one of Nintendo’s earliest treasures. Our fathers and grandfathers didn’t run Golf into the ground because they weren’t sure what to do with their free time. Golf was their getaway from the rat race of life. Silence. Strategy. Virtual links from the comfort of their living room. All the things that bored us as kids. And yet, the older I get, the more attractive the aforementioned features become. Nintendo doesn’t always know how to cater to adults, but Golf remains an absolute eagle.

 

A-

 

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