Golf fans waiting to get a taste on the N64 can start with the clapping and cheering, because Nintendo has finally brought home a golf game to its flagship system. Waialae Country Club True Golf Classics is Nintendo's renovation of T&E Soft's Augusta: Masters '98, which was only released in Japan. Is the title worth the wait? Let's find out.
WCC is a surprisingly easy title to pick up and play. Even gamers who wouldn't normally play a golf game might find WCC engaging enough for a full 18-hole course. No small feat, in any case, but WCC manages to capture the addictive gameplay of Nintendo's old GameBoy title, Golf, and wrap it into a neat 64-bit package. Upon starting the game, it's possible that you won't even need to refer to the manual, as the game's intuitive controls and user-friendly menus practically play the game for you. If you do find it necessary to check the instruction booklet, you'll find it well thought out and efficiently designed. In fact, the game instructions only take up a few pages, while the rest of the booklet focuses on the individual characteristics of the different holes of Waialae, which ultimately winds up being the game's main shortcoming: There's only one course, the eponymous Waialae course in Honolulu.
Despite this, T&E Soft have managed to create an engaging number of options to compensate for the lack of course variety. Six different modes are available for your perusal: Waialae Open, tournament play, stroke play, match play, skins play, and practice play round out the selections offered. As most of these modes are self-explanatory, most armchair golfers will likely gravitate towards the Waialae Open. During competition, you'll find the game screen considerately designed, and there's an innovative menu selection for tailoring your approach to the green. Tee up, club selection, stance, hit point, and shot are the basic options available onscreen. Tee up lets you place the tee, club selection lets you choose your club, while stance lets you adjust your own positioning. Hit point lets you select the spot where you hit the ball, since hitting it lower on its surface will cause a higher arc with less distance, while hitting the ball on the upper part of the sphere will result in a line drive. Shot, as the name implies, finally allows you to drive the ball, while making even further adjustments. Not to say that this is a tedious affair, quite the opposite. Generally, if you choose to avoid the majority of the menus, you can simply go straight to shot and not suffer any detrimental consequences since the computer caddie selects the appropriate club for you anyway. While lining up your shot, a rainbow-colored arc indicates the likely trajectory of your ball, allowing you to make further refinements in your shot selection. While this may sound complex to some, it's really not, and might possibly be the one of the easiest golf games to just plug and play.
All of this golfing joy doesn't come without its downside, however. Through no fault of the N64's processing power, WCC has its fair share of shortcomings, the most obvious being the single course to play. Other not so wonderful factors include an almost aggravating sameness to each of the holes. Maybe once during the 18 holes will you get a change in the weather - usually a pathetic-looking attempt at rain that looks like a kid with a white crayon drawing all over the screen. The consistent sunniness (odd shower aside) of the game coupled with a rather bland game engine combine to make a fairly monotonous golf experience. All the holes look the same. Each progressive hole you start looks just like the last one, which tends to sap your incentive to play. Despite Nintendo's assurances that this game is fully polygonal, the characters are made up of digitized sprites, resulting in a pasted-on-the-screen look that some might find annoying. Unimpressive frame rates also conspire to hamper the proceedings, nothing horrible, mind you, but you would think the N64 had more to give than this poorly designed engine displays. Perhaps the least important but equally disappointing factor is the color commentary. You get two guys blabbing on, who sound like they're reading a children's book, to children. To call these guys dry isn't enough. You feel like you're listening to some kind of "learn a foreign language" tape. Try to avoid paying attention to these guys. It makes the whole thing easier that way.
Working in the game's favor are some neat little options such as the create-a-player feature, which lets you alter your player's attributes and even his clubs! Another handy feature is the Cartcam, which lets you explore the course in a virtual cart. While it does little to help you anticipate the nuances of the course - and actually highlights the games graphical weaknesses like flat cardboard trees and people - it's still an entertaining diversion. Think Duke Nukem 64 in a golf cart, and you're halfway there.
Despite the zits and pimples, Waialae Country Club is a competently designed golf game. Its only major downfalls are the lack of variety and the disappointing game engine. However, WCC's bad points are better than most other console golf games' good points, so it's a fair trade-off. Throw in a golf bag full of picture-perfect gameplay, and you've got an excellent alternative to doing the real thing. If you like golf and are dying to have a golf game for your N64, this game is recommended. Otherwise, like a trip to Honolulu, Waialae Country Club True Golf Classics is best appreciated as a short-term investment. Rental only.