When the Game Boy came out in 1989, it was the first truly successful hand-held video game console. There had been other hand-held and portable video games on the market before, and some even had multiple selectable games built into them. But the Game Boy was one of the first that took cartridges. It was also the first console that I ever owned myself, and I had a total of seven games for it. I still remember long days of draining those rechargeable NiCd batteries while playing “Tetris” or “Super Mario Land“. The hardware died long ago, but I still load up the emulator every now and then and give one of those old pea-soup coloured games a spin.
There aren’t many golf games for this system, as the Game Boy appealed mainly to kids and young teenagers. But there are some.
I found this game to be a lot like a cross between “Golf” for the NES and “Arnold Palmer Tournament Golf” for the Sega Genesis. It plays pretty briskly without any lag, but it’s definitely for the kids.
You can play alone or with a friend through the game link cable. Good luck with that here in the year 2013, though you might just get the feature to work through emulation. You can also choose one of two courses, the creatively named Japan and U.S.A. courses.
There’s a “Fight Club” joke in here somewhere.
Here is what you see when you start the game:
Your aiming cross can be moved by pressing left or right with the direction pad. Up and down select the club. Select will access a save game menu, and start will pause the game and show your score card:
Pressing B will show you the top-down view…
To begin your swing, press A.
You will also be rewarded with a temporary but merciful silence. The music in this game is particularly annoying, I find. But like I said, this one’s for the kids. The power meter is 3-button, which is the standard now. Your shot will be fully animated.
Yep, those wave-looking things is water.
There is no zoomed view on the green, but pay close attention to the slope arrows. They will impact your aim in a big way.
Next up for the Game Boy is “Ultra Golf” from 1991.
This is definitely an improvement over “Golf”. There’s still corny music throughout this one, except when you’re actually making your swing. “Ultra Golf” has two modes of gameplay, tournament and practice. After you get through the pre-game setup, your view looks like this:
If you press select you will go to the new course menu and you can choose to play the other course if you wish:
Back on the course view, press A to start play. You will see this screen:
Watch that gloved hand pointing down. Right now it is pointing to a course map and the aiming cross. You can move the direction pad left or right to aim. When you have aimed your shot, press A again.
Now you can select your club by using the direction pad (up or down). Press A again to move on to adjust your stance:
When you are finished, pressing A again will begin your swing. The power meter is 3-button style. Be sure to stay within the marked boundaries of the power meter or you will wreck your shot.
When you make it to the putting green, you will be able to use the direction pad to move the view up, down, left and right:
Pressing A will start your putt. The power meter is 2-button now.
Take the slope arrows into effect and aim accordingly. Don’t swing too hard and you should be able to get the ball into the cup.
Finally we have “Jack Nicklaus Golf”, also from 1991.
This one is a pretty faithful port of “Jack Nicklaus’ Greatest 18 Holes of Major Championship Golf” for the NES. I’m glad they shortened the title too, because “Jack Nicklaus’ Greatest 18 Holes of Major Championship Golf” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.
And as far as Game Boy golf games go (gosh golly gee), this one is the best. Like the NES version, the course view is rendered in 3D. It takes a while, but believe it or not, I still think “PGA Tour ’96” for the Sega Genesis takes longer to render its view.
There are lots of options compared to the other two games for this system:
Again, if you can scare up real hardware and a game link cable, have at it. Otherwise, getting multiplayer to work over emulation will be your only hope. You can choose from four courses, which is pretty nice for a console with such limited capabilities as this one.
When you start to play, you get a weather report:
You also get the top-down view automatically. Use the direction pad to scroll the view left and right.
The controls are simple too. Select will show you the game menu. Start will show you an option to quit. Press A for the action.
Your power meter is on the left, and it is the standard 3-button type. The flag icon above the 3D view shows the location of the hole, and the ball icon shows your aiming spot.
The animation is pretty impressive for the Game Boy. As you can see, I was more focused on taking these lovely screenshots than I was in avoiding the water.
Like many golf games, you can choose to re-hit or drop the ball when you hit the water.
This screenshot really shows the limitations of the Game Boy’s graphics. With only four colours to choose from, it was always going to be hard to draw realistic scenes on the screen. The large solid dark expanse of water looks very odd to me, and I wonder why they couldn’t have patterned it like the checkered pattern of the fairway seen in the upper left.
The game shows its impatience with my crappy playing.
I sure wasn’t expecting much when I started to play these three golf games. The main selling feature of the Game Boy was its portability. Games with such low resolution and only four shades of brownish green would never have been able to sell to anyone had it not been for the novelty of that portability. More than two decades later, there really isn’t much point to revisit and play these particular games over any other golf games – other than pure nostalgia. Since I never played any of these games when I originally had the Game Boy, they don’t hold that appeal for me.
There are much better golf games to be played, so I really can’t recommend any of these, unless it’s for that nostalgia I mentioned before, and you just have to play that exact same Game Boy game that you played back in the early 90s when you were a kid.