Before the hyper-realistic, face-deforming technology of modern Tiger Woods games was conceived in the deepest dreams of Electronic Arts (a company busy with Marble Madness at the time), there was Golf for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The game wears its no-nonsense attitude on its sleeve, focusing on simulating the time-honoured sport with all the detail its limited resources can handle. This mission is accomplished in the most straightforward way imaginable, and the result is an acceptable product that will most likely leave you snoozing in your imaginary golf cart, imaginary score card shielding your eyes from the imaginary afternoon sun.
A portly man who resembles Mario in more ways than one grips his golf club with laser-focused intensity, and seeing that he swings true is up to you. The text-heavy overlay may leave you confounded at first, but if a little golf-related knowledge doesn't help you out, the digital instruction manual included in the Wii U version of the game certainly will. You can cycle through a dizzying number of clubs, from the trusty putter to a powerful Driver, but there are a few factors to consider before making your move. Angle and potential hazards are a couple of biggies, but wind conditions will also mess with you; it takes a lot of experimentation to find a groove, no thanks to the lack of indicators and suggestions. In the end it's just you and the swing meter.
This contraption determines your strength depending on the windup, challenging you to line up the reticule with a small sweet spot. This area varies depending on the club in use, but swinging too late or too early will hook or slice the ball, respectively. This will likely be an early deterrent for the impatient as countless shots can be ruined by slow wits, concluding with a drink in the lake. This ritual of club-switching and hairpin timing can be relaxing and/or frustrating, but more powerful than both outcomes is monotony.
Watching a white dot plink its way from fairway to sand trap, the entire ordeal spied from a bird's eye view, wears thin after about ten minutes. Putting the controller down for more fulfilling activities is generally more tempting than pressing on to master Golf's intricacies, particularly since there aren't many. Getting a feel for the game is satisfying, no doubt, but compared to a host of newer and inescapably better titles in the genre, the rewards are lukewarm. Competing with a friend isn't a bad option (either in stroke play or a round of matches scored by hole wins), but that's all Golf has to offer. On the other hand, the original Animal Crossing comes with a playable version of the same game, including the similarly just-released Tennis and… well, the original Animal Crossing. Put that way, the Virtual Console price is real tough to swallow.
Whatever you do, don't buy Golf for its atmosphere. Aside from a nicely detailed character model, the presentation is about as charming as a score card, and almost as confusing. All eighteen courses are thankfully clear enough to track your ball without difficulty, but the stark black background doesn't do much to replicate a pleasant day on the Links. The music isn't much to speak of either, mostly because there isn't any; the lonesome sound of a sailing golf ball is all the ambiance you'll find here. Like the rest of the game, it's barebones and rather boring.
For the golf-obsessed gamer, this incarnation of your favourite sport might be a fair way to go, but it's likely to drive everyone else away. It may have been a stroke of genius in 1985, but a massive range of superior products deftly wedge their way between this game and a recommendation. As it stands, Golf is another hazard on Nintendo's eShop just waiting to become a chip on some unsuspecting buyer's shoulder. You've been forewarned.