Golfyssey 19 – Sega CD

If you were Sega, and you were at the top of the video game console market in the early 1990s, and you wanted to perform a stunning “ditch” that would send your company spiraling down to the bottom as calamitously as possible… how would you go about doing it?

Well, do what the real Sega did!  Compete with yourself, spread your resources thin, compete with yourself again, compete with yourself yet again, pull a baffling PR stunt that only makes people scratch their heads and infuriates your retail partners, and enjoy your slide to the bottom of the heap while other companies take the place you vacated.

In the mid 90s, CD-based storage for video games was gaining traction as an idea.  There was a lot of discussion going on about the advantages that future CD based systems would bring, due to the immense storage size of a CD when compared to the average cartridge.

In Japan, the PC Engine console (the Japanese name for the TurboGrafx-16 that I made so much fun of earlier) had gotten a CD based addon that allowed some great RPG games to be made for that console, and Japanese gamers raved about them.  The CD storage allowed realistic music and video to be included in games for the first time, and Sega wanted to be among the first to bring this kind of technology out.

So did this mean that the folks at Sega were hard at work on the next generation console to follow up the Genesis?  Sadly, no.  Success had blurred Sega’s focus, and they were busy doing too many other things at once by this time.  Their Japanese and US divisions were operating as more or less separate entities, and often they were operating at cross purposes and would sometimes refuse to work together.

Whoever came up with the idea, it looks pretty bad in hindsight.  The Sega CD came out in late 1991 in Japan, and was released in North America nearly a year later.  It wasn’t a new console, and you needed to own a Genesis to use it.  But it did promise to add more processing power, better graphics, better sound and of course all the benefits of CD-based games to your gaming experience.

Also with the benefit of hindsight, it can be said that releasing the Sega CD instead of developing a next generation console was a big mistake.  The Sega CD took valuable floor space away from Sega Genesis consoles in retail stores.  This is called competing with yourself.  Didn’t they learn from Commodore’s demise that this is a bad idea?

The games that came out for the system showed that game developers were caught flat-footed with all that extra space on the CD.  In most cases, they really didn’t know what to do with all that space, so Sega decided to release a lot of games in the “Full Motion Video” genre.  These were about as fun as watching a movie from two blocks away while having to make some choices on the plot every now and then or solve some asinine puzzle related to the grainy video you just saw.

To make things worse, the system’s processor wasn’t suited for playing video well, so a lot of games – especially early ones – featured only one quarter of the screen with terrible quality, grainy, choppy, blocky video that you were supposed to enjoy and pretend was an ultra-realistic gaming experience.

So the Sega CD was a bomb.  The best you could really hope for were better handling of graphics and CD quality sound if you found a game for the system.

There were two golf games released for this addon during its brief life.

“Dynamic Country Club”, 1993

Dynamic Country Club box

Dynamic Country Club 01

Dynamic Country Club 02

You can see from the two screenshots above that this is a Japanese game and that this game includes some of that crappy “full motion video” that I was talking about.  Thankfully, the FMV only appears in the intro right when you load the game.  The screenshot doesn’t do it justice, it really did look quite terrible.

You are met with a rather poor looking interface, even for a Sega Genesis game.

Dynamic Country Club 03

And even though the Sega CD could pump out that CD-quality music, there is just the standard Sega quality music playing here.  Thankfully too, this can be turned off.

When you start playing the first hole, you do get to hear actual sound from the CD in the form of speech.  Here, a portly Japanese man tells you about the hole you’re about to play.

Dynamic Country Club 04

I don’t know, maybe he isn’t.  For all I know he’s telling you about some completely different topic or another.

2lIWE

Moving along by pressing the C button, you get more advice (or maybe dire warnings of doom) from one of the perky pixelated female caddies that you chose during setup.

Dynamic Country Club 05

I don’t know why there aren’t any male caddies to choose from.  Maybe Caddy School only takes female applicants in Japan.  Or maybe these caddies are robots.  This is a Japanese game we’re talking about.

Speaking of controls, the Mode button will bring up an in-game menu, the B button will cancel an action, and the C button is your action and OK button.

Dynamic Country Club 06

When you press C, you see this view and you can start your shot.  Left and right on the direction pad will aim the shot.

Dynamic Country Club 07

C again will get you your club selection window.  Use the direction pad (up and down) to switch clubs.

Dynamic Country Club 08

Another press of the C button allows you to change your stance, also with the direction pad.

Dynamic Country Club 09

Pressing C again will bring up the power meter and an aiming graphic.  The power meter is 2-button press type.  Press C to start and finish the swing.

Dynamic Country Club 10

Immediately after you do so, a pink dot will appear on the golf ball shown.  The pink dot will snake its way down the ball, and you must press C again when the ball is in the right position for your shot.  This is the same kind of way that making a shot in “Pebble Beach Golf Links” and “Wicked 18” works

Dynamic Country Club 11

After each shot, you will get a summary of how you did.  The caddy’s expression will change to match your performance.  She looks more or less satisfied with how I’m doing now, but I had her quite despondent looking on my first try.

Dynamic Country Club 12

Getting onto the putting green brings up an automatic terrain grid to help you aim your shot.  The power meter works the same way on the green, but you don’t get a chance to determine where you strike the ball with the club.

Dynamic Country Club 13

Dynamic Country Club 14

When you get close to the hole, the view will zoom into it from above.

Dynamic Country Club 15

I bogeyed the hole, and she’s probably telling me that I’ve hurt her feelings.  Now I feel bad.

Not a bad game for the Sega Genesis, but this shows exactly why the Sega CD wasn’t a success.  Too many titles didn’t take full advantage of the CD medium and ended up being more expensive versions of Genesis games that didn’t really need to exist.

This game in particular doesn’t do anything better than other golf games that have come before it.  The ball flight animations are handled quite poorly actually, and instead of showing one scene from one angle of your ball flying through the air to its target, you often get two or three or more shots of the ball making its way over the course.  This kind of “action” was handled much better in a game for a much less capable system, namely “The Golf ’92” for the NES.  On the Sega CD, “Dynamic Country Club” has trouble with doing it, and the game freezes each time it changes the angle.  It has a jarring effect and completely breaks the continuity of the shot.  There are so many other games that handle what “Dynamic Country Club” does with much more skill and grace, so this one can definitely be skipped.

“Links: The Challenge of Golf”, 1994

Links- The Challenge of Golf box

Links 01

I have read somewhere that the “Links” series of games published by Access Software is the best series of golf video games that you can play.  This is the only Links game I have played, and if I am to judge the series by this single game, then I must judge that writer to have either been drunk or under the effects of ether when he wrote that statement.

Come to think of it, I don’t see why said writer couldn’t have been drunk and high on ether while making such an inflammatorily ridiculous claim.  This game has the potential to be a pretty good golf game, but there are some pretty massive problems that I will talk about soon enough, dear reader.

The above screenshot actually shows some of the best functionality of full motion video that one could get out of the Sega CD.  Like any system, there were tricks found to maximize performance.  Eventually, full-screen video that didn’t look like it was filmed with a potato became the standard for all those poorly-acted scenes that still nobody wanted in their games.

Links 02

The interface is fairly clean and nicely laid out.  The C button and direction pad control the cursor.

Links 03

You can choose control options for some of the peripherals that were sold.  I didn’t realize that there was a mouse you could use, and I certainly didn’t realize that the “Tee V Golf” controller existed.

sega-teev-golf-1

sega-teev-golf-4

Neat.

Links 04

Links 05

More setup

Links 06

Before you play, you get a flyby (in not as crappy as usual full motion video) and a description of the course you are about to play.  Then you get a separate flyby and description for each hole before you play it.  These can be skipped.  All sounds and voices come from the CD by the way.

This is the first time you get to hear your narrator for the game, Ben Wright.  This guy was a golf correspondent for CBS before he said some stupid things about lesbians and the LPGA in 1996 and got shitcanned for it.  Smooth maneuver, Ben.

Normally I wouldn’t give a fuck about what a video game narrator did or did not do outside the confines of the video game I’m playing, but this guy sounds like a jerk and he insults you during the game.  Almost everything he says is condescending.  To make matters worse for me, he sounds almost exactly like one of my most recent bosses who turned out to be a professional liar and a man with absolutely no morals.

Links 07

Once you get to playing, you see a lot of information on the screen.  But I think other games have handled displaying the same amount of information much better without sacrificing the size of the viewable area.  The A or C button are the action buttons, the direction pad moves the cursor.

Links 08

You can access loads of options and functions with the cursor.  Here’s where you can shut that asshole Ben Wright up.

Links 09

Some tutorials are available too.

Links 10

An overhead view of your current hole

Links 11

You can also check your ball lie…

Links 12

…and call up a terrain grid.Making a swing is also done with the A or C button.  Move the cursor to the “SWING” area after setting up your shot.  The power meter is two button, and you must press and hold the button until the swing is at the top.  Release the button at the top and press the button again when the meter is at the bottom.

Links 13

Another feature that loses points with me: the mulligan.

Links 14

Getting onto the putting green automatically brings up the grid for you.

Links 15

And you get to see just how poorly you did.  Hooray.  Ben wright called me a worthless cunt while this was on the screen.That’s not true.  But I don’t think this is as good of a golf game as it could be.  One major problem that I haven’t even mentioned yet is how slow everything is.  I’m sure this has to do with the high-quality sound.  This game takes forever to load information from the disc, and the cursor arrow changes to a disc icon between shots and when things are being set up.  Even doing things that don’t require sound take a very long time, like bringing up the grid and sending it away, or calling up and dismissing the ball lie window.

The interface seems to be intent on providing everything you might ever need all out at once, and I think the game suffers for it.  It looks cluttered, and one only needs to look to an earlier Sega Genesis title (“PGA European Tour”) to see how this can be handled differently to make an elegant interface that retains functionality.

But my biggest gripe of all is with the narration.  Even though it can be turned off, Access Software definitely chose the wrong man with the wrong attitude to narrate this game.  I don’t want to be insulted, belittled, teased and mocked when I’m trying to play a relaxing round of video game golf you fuckheads.

This is one of those games where there is so much potential but it’s all wasted by so much other garbage getting in the way.  I can’t recommend this game either, so unless you really need to dust off your Sega CD addon for your Genesis, there’s no point in playing any golf games for this system.