Golf Master: Japan Tour Golf Hands-On

Konami's Golf Master: Japan Tour Golf for the GBA bears the official Japan Golf Tour license, and features cartoony CG rendered versions of several top Japanese golfers.

Konami's Golf Master: Japan Tour Golf for the GBA bears the official Japan Golf Tour license, and features cartoony CG rendered versions of several top Japanese golfers. Making appearances as opponents and eventual player controlled characters are the club swinging talents of Isao Aoki, Masashi Ozaki and many others.

You begin the game as a feisty blond youth named Daisuke, accompanied by his sassy female counterpart. Your goal of course, is to soundly defeat the current Japanese golf masters, who are out to make you look like the brash young upstart. The characters are rated based on their levels of power, spin and control, each having their strengths and weaknesses. The action is fairly standard golfing fare. A meter at the bottom of the screen is used to gauge the strength of your swing; pressing a button once starts to fill the meter, and the timing in which you press it a second time determines the accuracy and spin of your shot. Cycling through your clubs is achieved using the L and R buttons, while the directional pad affects your aim and target on the overhead course map.

The opening sequence is the first indication of the quality production behind Golf Master. The characters are large, nicely rendered models, and the attention to details is readily noticeable. The backgrounds, although not much more than stationary bitmaps, are nicely detailed and competently convey the sense of weather and location. While not at all innovative, little touches like the inclusion of rain, the tee and clumps of grass flying after a stroke and the victory poses add to the atmosphere. Not straying too close to realism, the game rewards you for perfect timing with special effects and the screen-filling compliment of "Nice Shot!"

Highly reminiscent of the Playstation Hot Shots Golf characters and sharing the same artistic flair, the real-life golfers portrayed in Golf Master are as varied and interesting as any fictional golfing roster. Disappointingly, the excellent cut-scenes, pre-match introductions, and wacky announcer are offset by the rather poor golf swing animations and the questionable choice of a slowly moving giant NES-styled golf ball.

There are five different generic 18-hole golf courses available for play, with names like Old Country Club, Desert Valley, and Sea Side Golf Course clearly indicating their layout. Visiting these courses often is a prerequisite to succeeding in the story mode, which pits your character against the golf masters in a number of seasonal tournaments and impromptu competitions. The story mode follows the real-life Japan Golf Tour scene accurately, the dates of competition coinciding with the actual tournaments. The tournaments include the Southern Classic Golf Tournament, the Grand Autumn Tournament, and the World Championship.

Anyone with a passing familiarity with golf video games will find that at first, the game is very forgiving as far as wind speed, and trajectory is concerned. If you can properly gauge the distance and timing of your strokes, birdies and eagles come with regularity. As you proceed to more difficult courses and towards the exceedingly proficient high-level golfers, the level of challenge increases substantially. There are a number of play options, including tournament and match play, a training mode and four-player link-cable stroke play. The use of the Japan Golf Tour license adds to the comical feel of a GBA title that does what Camelot has done for so long, only not quite as well.

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