Even back in his NES days, Mario was doing everything from refereeing boxing matches in Punch-Out!! to dishing out medicine in Dr. Mario. He also participated in a fair share of sporting events, including 1991's NES Open Tournament Golf, which has just been released for 500 Wii points on the Virtual Console. It's a solid game that can be quite challenging, but there are so many better and deeper golf games available that unless you want to play it again purely for nostalgia's sake, it's tough to recommend.
For such an old sports game, NES Open has a decent amount of play options, including the ability to save your game mid-round. You can play a round of stroke or match play against one of five increasingly difficult opponents, the first of which is Luigi. You can also enter an 18- or 36-hole stroke or match play tournament with a field of 64 competitors. You'll win prize money based on how you finish, and you can also bet money during match play. Your earnings aren't actually used to purchase anything, but you can view your career winnings in the clubhouse. If you're struggling with a hole, you can change the clubs in your bag or practice any hole on the game's three courses: US, Japan, and UK.
NES Open Tournament Golf is very similar to the plainly titled Golf, which was released on the NES in 1985. You start off with a top-down view of the hole, and all of the pertinent data, such as wind direction and speed, distance to hole, strokes, and par number for the hole, is shown on the left. A cursor shows the direction you're currently aiming in, and you move your cursor with the D pad. After selecting your club, swing speed, and how much spin you want, you're taken to the shot screen. Here you view the action from pseudo-3D perspective right behind Mario. You press one button to start your swing, press it again to determine the shot's power, and then one last time when the cursor is under the white area to determine accuracy.
This sounds easy, but the game's really unforgiving. You're on your own when it comes to determining what percentage of a club's power you need to use, and unless you're aiming for the pin, there's no way to determine how far away your desired landing zone is. Missing the small white spot will have a huge impact on your accuracy, and you can only sit and watch as the ball slices or hooks into the rough. Putting is tough, too. Colored markers show the greens' speed and slope, but it's difficult to determine how much power you need on a putt--a problem made more frustrating by the frequency with which putts lip out of the cup.
One thing that has helped NES Open age relatively well is that it's still a decent-looking game. The visuals are very colorful, the characters are large, and the 3D shot screen is pretty impressive for a NES title. Like nearly every other golf game, there's not much to listen to, but the sound effects get the job done.
NES Open Tournament Golf is a solid game that can still be a bit of fun to play, but it's tough to recommend. Unlike games like Tecmo Bowl or RBI Baseball, which are more fun than many contemporary football and baseball games, the list of golf games that are better than NES Open is lengthy. With so many better options available, you might as well just go with one of those.