Golfyssey 07 — Sega SG-1000

The Sega what?

Why, the SG-1000 – Sega’s first entry into the video game home console hardware market that almost nobody remembers because it soled poorly.  It sold only (legitimately) in Asia, though clones sold in other countries.  One of the clones really took off in Taiwan, so there’s that.  The hardware for this console is very similar to what the ColecoVision had under the hood.  You might be thinking that I forgot to review a golf game for the ColecoVision, but as far as I know, there were never any golf games released for that system.

If you’re old enough to remember Sega’s TV ads from the early 1990s, then you remember how they positioned themselves as the daring and edgy company who wasn’t afraid to show blood and guts and mature content while Nintendo made kids’ stuff.  But if you’ve ever played any of the games for the SG-1000, you’ll see that the story wasn’t always like this.

Most games for this system are really cutesy and kid-friendly.  And since Sega was an arcade game producer at the time, most games are Sega titles.  There’s nothing startlingly original here, and most of what can be found for this system exists in better versions elsewhere.  One exception is the odd hybrid version of Pitfall II.  It’s not a port of the real Pitfall II, rather it’s a strange looking mashup of Pitfall and Pitfall II.

But there are several sports themed games for the system, and among these is a golf game.  “Champion Golf”, from 1983:

Champion Golf 01

Champion Golf 02

I get the feeling that Sega wasn’t trying as hard to impress people with this console as they were with their arcade games.

This golf game has a different control mechanism from most that I’ve seen.  Once you get past the title and demo screens (and quickly annoying cheery music) you see a screen that looks like this:

Champion Golf 03

There sits your ball upon the tee over on the left side on the screen.  This first hole appears pretty challenging, and you must choose either the left or right path to avoid the rough and the trees in the middle.  But either way, you have to avoid sand traps.

See that little dude holding the flag on the border of the course?  He’s how you aim.  Your joystick moves him around and wherever he is standing, that’s where you will drive the ball.  That stick-man holding the golf club in the top-left corner is animated, and he is in continuous movement.  There is no power meter for this game, nor anything really like that.  Rather, you are supposed to time your swing to where the animated golfer’s club appears in his swing.  When he’s got his club all the way back and you press the button, you will get the most powerful shot.  When he’s raised his club only slightly, you will hit the ball only a fraction of that strength.  The trick is to time it properly.

That’s how it’s supposed to work, anyway.  In reality, it doesn’t always work like this and the shots end up being pretty much random.  This is a very bad game.  It quickly gets ultra-annoying due to the loud bell-ringing sound the flag-dude makes when you move him around the course too.  Was that really necessary?  Golf is a game that requires patience, skill, relaxation and meditation.  It’s not fucking flashy, action-packed and loud.

Ugh.  I might as well finish my review.  I took more screenshots, it would be a shame not to use them.  Here is the ball sailing through the air, no doubt despite the best efforts of Sega and Mr. Loud Bell Flag Dude.

Champion Golf 04

I should probably mention the wind speed and direction meter and the club indicator too.  They really aren’t any good when the actual swinging mechanism is this broken, so you might as well ignore them.  In fact, I don’t think there even is a way to select a club, I think the game automatically chooses one for you.

Champion Golf 05

Well, how bout that, I managed to make it to the other side of the course.  This was actually my fourth attempt at doing so because I was trying to use the emulator’s built-in screenshot utility while playing the game and it was kind of tricky.  Other than that I only have awesome things to say about Meka.  Download it now!  It has one of the best interfaces for an emulator that I’ve used.

Champion Golf 06

Oh, it’s ON motherfucker.

Champion Golf 07

And here is a closeup of the green.  The Animated golfer is now holding a putter and instead of a wind speed and direction indicator, you see slope information about the green.

And this is where the broken swing mechanics just ruin the game.  I gave up after 17 swings because I just could not rely on Mr. Animated Display Of Swing Strength Deceit to actually show me how hard my swing was going to be.  Two pixels from the cup?  Let’s hit it hard enough to physically crack the surface of the ball!  You like walking, don’t you?

So believe it or not, the SG-1000 was later sold as a computer after it had a keyboard and some other stuff bolted to it.  This is the kind of system that really should have had better games made for it.  And if you stick around for my review of golf on Sega’s next piece of hardware, you will see that this is a familiar refrain with Sega.