Another hand-held console released by Nintendo, the Game Boy Advance came out in 2001. This one is 16-bit, and is comparable to the Super Nintendo in graphics and sound. By the early 21st century, video games weren’t seen by their makers so much as an artform that provided players with a fun experience as they were products that supported hardware sales and the corporations that manufactured that hardware. I don’t sound too cynical, do I?
This is going to be the last system I will review because it’s the last that I have any golf games for. Modern video games really turn me off, with 3D being just a big bore to me. I also really dislike the rampant commercialism that seems to pervade the industry. Everything seems to only be an advertisement for the next big thing these days, so I’m out.
But let’s check out two games for the Game Boy Advance.
“ESPN Final Round Golf”, 2001
Konami, Disney, ESPN… All names of professional companies who really shouldn’t muck anything up too severely.
This game starts with repetitive music playing, but it can be turned off in the options. You have a choice to hear background music or sound effects.
The gameplay styles are tournament, stroke, match play, and practice. You can also choose from 14 golfers.
This is looking pretty good so far, especially for a game on a portable system. You can also choose one of five courses, and choose one of three starting tee positions.
Upon starting, there is a limited rotating closeup view of the hole, which is kind of pointless. After that, you get a brief view of your golfer in position, but that jumps right away to a top-down view that scrolls to the destination of your current shot.
The B button will snap this view to the putting green and back.
Pressing A will return you to the course view.
The Select button will pause the game and get you to the in-game menu:
Pressing start will clear the view of the extra text. You’ll notice it won’t get rid of that big honkin’ ESPN logo.
Press start again to get the extra text back. The B button will alternate between a normal and a power shot, but the power shot is, like stupid powerful. It’s about twice as powerful while using the same club, so I really don’t get this game. Maybe the “normal” shot is like a putt while using your #1 wood club or something.
Using the direction pad won’t allow you to select clubs like it will in other games. I don’t think you can select clubs in this game. Instead, touching the direction pad will bring you back to that top-down overview. Once there, you can aim by moving the direction pad either left or right. Press lightly, because the aiming pointer moves a lot with every press.
Press A to return to your course view. The power meter is 3-button style. Hook and slice are backwards, and I think this is game number four out of all the ones I’ve reviewed that messes this up. Protip: if you’re the only one marching out of step, it isn’t everyone else’s fault.
Your golfer’s swing and your shot are animated. Barely. The animation is bad. It’s really crude, and I don’t think the Game Boy Advance can be blamed for the low quality of the look. The game just looks shitty when things are moving.
Also, after you’ve been playing for a while you may become annoyed by the sound effects. Remember that you get a choice between background music and sound effects. The sound effects grated on my nerves after a short time with this game too. Whoever thought the sound of a Cuckoo’s whistle would be a good idea to include is either a troll or a moron.
I’m not impressed. Actually, I was impressed by the shot I made to get that last screenshot. But I wasn’t impressed by this game. After playing “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2000” for the Game Boy Color, I know that far better games for hand-held systems are possible.
“Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf”, 2002
Much better. Even though I’ve seen some poor quality under the “PGA Tour Golf” name, this one is off to a good start.
The music you hear can also be turned off in the options, and there are options for many things in the game.
The weather can be random, fine, overcast, or storm. Taking full advantage of the GBA’s hardware, this weather is actually animated on the screen as you play. Other options include a choice between pro and amateur difficulty, and three styles of gameplay. There is the “PGA Tour”, a “Shootout” which is multiplayer, and then there is the “Play Now” option you see highlighted above.
Looks like stroke play with some conditions and only twelve holes. Odd choice for a golf game, but it’s there and it’s one of the games limited set of gameplay styles.
Here we see a view of the first hole.
Once we get to our course view, we see all the info at a glance that we will need.
The Start button will pause the game and let us see the ingame menu.
The leaderboard looks like this:
The Select button will adjust the strength of your shot, cycling it through 100%, 50% and 25%. This appears to be a simplified method of controlling the distance you want the ball to travel in lieu of club selection, which I think is absent from the game. Again, I think it’s a lot less elegant than the way other golf games handle it.
Left and right on the direction pad have no effect while in the course view. Up and down will adjust your stance, but not in the usual way for golf games. The stances in relation to the ball in this game are forward, middle and back.
Press the B button to go into an overview of your shot.
The camera will be zoomed into a top-down view of your shot’s current destination. Pressing Select while in this mode will still cycle shot strength, and you will see the destination move on the course as you press Select. You must also aim your shot while in this mode. Use left and right on the direction pad to adjust your aim while in this overview. Press B again to exit.
When you are satisfied that you have set up your shot, press the A button to begin your swing. The power meter is 3-button type and it will appear in circular form over Tiger.
You must be very precise with this power meter otherwise you will hook or slice the ball badly. The swing and ball flight are beautifully animated. You see “ESPN Final Round Golf”? It doesn’t have to look like crap! Go hang your head in shame and sit among the ashes!
And if you make a particularly nice shot…
There is even applause.
When you get to the putting green, the camera view switches to top-down. The controls still work as they do before, except the power meter is now 2-button.
Well damn, that was a nice shot.
This game does things differently than a lot of other golf games, but it manages to make everything work. And not just work, but work extremely well I think. This was a fun game to play, and like a few others, I played a few more holes before I forced myself to put down the controller and write this review. It has that hard to describe “feel” that a quality golf game has, where everything fits together so well and moves along that way too. So I will surely be playing this game in the future, and I will even go so far as to say that it gets a place in my top 10.
If you have a Game Boy Advance, pick this one up. If you want to give this game a try on your PC, check out the NO$GBA emulator.