Total time played: 30+ Hours
Short review: Easily the most fun, most accurate and prettiest Golf game on the NES.
Interesting links related to NES Open Tournament Golf
When I saw I was going to have to play a golf game that required winning $1,000,000 I was not looking forward to it. I have played a few golf game on the NES over the years and all were mildly entertaining and have very little replay value. I should have known that the game with Mario on the cover was going to be great. In fact, this may be the best sports game on the entire NES (Excluding Mike Tyson’s Punch Out).
Why Is It So Good?
First off, the graphics are good enough to pass for an early 16 bit game and the controls are easy to understand but deep enough to satisfy seasoned golfers (I am not a seasoned golfer).
Unlike most other golf games on the NES there are also multiple modes of play. These modes may be fun to pick up and play but if you want to earn $1,000,000 as quickly as possible you will most likely not see everything the game has to offer.
Seeing the ball enter the cup never got old.
Let’s Win Some Money
The goal of the game is to win $1,000,000. You earn money by playing in tournaments or betting on a single hole. Depending on your rank you can win some pretty good money but it takes a long time. The first several tournaments I played in I came in 37th, which I am pretty sure is last place. For coming in last you win $500. Only 2,000 rounds of golf to get $1,000,000!!
I was getting pretty discouraged early on but kept practicing and eventually got good enough to win a tournament. Of the 27 complete rounds I played I probably won 3 tournaments. I probably also reset about 200 times when I wasn’t doing well. Knowing you are going to come in last after 4 holes it is hard to play 14 more holes. The reset button is your friend.
This was a rare screen during my play through.
Of course, I did this a lot before I realized in the “Club House” menu you could see stats. My stats are greatly skewed, I kind of wish I had played through each round now, but, if I did that you would never read this review as I would have never beaten the game.
Page from the manual showing some ways to win money.
So Many Choices
First off, you can choose 14 clubs to keep in your bag from a total 16 clubs. Once you pick your clubs you can set additional defaults such as swing speed and putting power as well as whether to put top/back spin on the ball.
- Choose your club (14 choices)
- The distance the club can hit in perfect conditions will be shown as well as your distance to the hole.
- Choose your swing speed (3 choices – slow, med, fast)
- As you would expect, the faster you swing the farther you can hit the ball. But, it comes with a trade off of being harder to hit the ball straight.
- Choose where to hit the ball (5 choices – top 2, top 1, center, back 1, back 2)
- You can hit dead center, put top spin or backspin on the ball. Backspin means when the ball lands it will roll backwards and top spin means it will roll forward.
- Choose the direction to hit the ball (infinite)
- Based on the hole direction and wind speed you can face different directions.
Now that you have your settings the view changes from showing an aerial view of the hole to showing Mario teed up and ready to go. But, your choices aren’t over yet.
- Choose whether to hit the ball high, low or in the middle.
- This determines the height of the shot. I ALWAYS hit in the middle, unless there was a tree directly in front of me in which case I’d hit high to try to clear the tree.
- You can fine tune the angle of your shot on this screen as well aiming more to the left or the right.
- Finally you are ready to swing.
- Tap A once to see a white line move to the left across a horizontal meter at the bottom of the screen. The farther left the line goes the more power you put into your shot, but, be careful because if you wait too long you will miss the shot and get a 1 stroke penalty.
- When the white line is at the desired power level tap A again and the line moves back to the right. Try to stop the line by tapping A a 3rd time in the sweet spot of your horizontal meter.
- Depending on swing speed this is easier said than done. It is super easy to slice or hook the ball.
So pretty for an NES game.
If you have the 1 wood club equipped and you are able to tap A perfectly 3 times (full power and directly in the sweet spot) you hit a “super shot” which travels farther than a regular shot. The farthest I hit was around 330 yards, without the super shot 269 was my average.
In the Zone
Sometimes I’d play a round of golf and just be nailing every shot straight ahead and sinking putts even when the terrain was tricky. Other times I couldn’t hit a straight shot to save my life. I definitely had more bad rounds than good rounds over the course of the game. The saving grace was the bonus challenges…and the reset button:
2 holes each round would provide an extra challenge. One challenge was “Longest Drive” and the other was “Closest to the pin”. If you won either of these challenges you would get the chance to win some bonus money by sinking a putt into one of 3 holes. There is no skill involved as Mario will always sink the putt, the goal is to randomly pick the hole with the most money. With these two challenges you could win up to $10,000 (each one paid differently but the overall max was $10,000, at least at the amateur level)
Such an Amateur
The money you win changes based on your status. You start as a beginner and as you would guess this ranking pays out the least. Once you feel you are good enough you have to play two rounds of golf and score below a certain score to increase your rank to Amateur. You do not win money for these two rounds of golf. I was able to be promoted fairly early on which increased the amount of money I could win. I never tried to go Semi-Pro or Pro because I worried the tournaments would get much harder and I’d end up winning less money in the long run.
The only difference I noticed between beginner and amateur is that the wind seemed to be more erratic at the amateur level.
“I played golf once. I did not get a hole in one, but I did hit a guy. That’s way more satisfying. You’re supposed to yell, “Fore!” I was too busy yelling, “There ain’t no way that’s gonna hit him!” – Mitch Hedberg
Unlike Mitch Hedberg, I did hit a hole in one. In fact, I hit a bunch of them, maybe 7 or 8. I even hit two in a single round, but somehow still finished above par. There were 2-3 par 3 courses on the US course that if the wind was mild and you swing perfectly you could hit a hole in one. The stars had to be aligned, but I was able to do it multiple time.
While hitting a hole in one is satisfying it is even more so when you realize you get to win extra money like winning the longest drive and closest to the pin challenges. This is easily the most money you can win at once in the game. In fact, at the amateur level, I had a 33% chance to win $55,000 for hitting a hole in one, the minimum is $20,000.
This was my favorite screen in the game, it means I was about to win a lot of money.
Oh yea, 2 under par.
Every time you would earn a milestone amount of money you would automatically go to the bank to deposit with who I assume is Donkey Kong. He would usually say a cute phrase about the amount of money you have. My favorite and the most outdated was after winning either 200k or 250k he told me I had enough money to buy a small house in California…pretty sure that isn’t the case anymore.
Just making a deposit.
Different Ways to Win
There are 3 courses you can play but you do not win more money on one course vs the others. So, I only played the US course as I figured I’d master that instead of being mediocre at all 3 courses.
You have the option to play a tournament with 30+ golfers and can do either an 18 or 36 hole tournament. You win more money for playing 2 18 hole tournaments than a 36 hole tournament so I never did the longer option.
You can also play a round against just one other golfer. The downfall here is that you win less money overall AND you have to watch the other golfer actually play the course. So, playing 18 holes takes the same time as playing 36 holes by yourself in a regular tournament. I only played 1 one on one tournament for this reason, which included 5 sudden death holes and I lost…so, I basically played 23 holes for nothing.
You can also bet on a single hole. The betting values start at $1,000 and go up with each hole you win. It is definitely a gamble as the computer seems to get better with each hole. But, if you lose you actually lose money so I didn’t do this option much. I did however end the game playing the 1 hole bet as I was only $11,000 short of $1,000,000 and figured winning that last bit would be quicker one hole at a time instead of playing 18 holes again.
NES Can Do That?
If you visit the club house in the options menu you can view a lot of information. The game is very detailed and allows you to set up many defaults as well as name every golfer who plays in the tournament with you. You can also view instant replays of your last hole in one, albatross, eagle and maybe even birdie. In fact, I think you can watch an instant replay of any shot after you take it, pretty sure no other NES game allows this.
Even with only 3 courses the added touch of the hole moving on the green each time you played meant you had to actually study the greens as you never knew what the terrain would be.
This game is very deep and has a lot of customizable options and fun add ons that don’t really do anything to change how you play but are really impressive for an 8 bit game. Basically, no stone was left unturned, there is more attention to detail here than in any other game I can think of on the NES.
I spent a lot of time playing this game but was ready to move on by the end. Even so, it is hands down a classic that I never hear others mention. It feels like the first game in the Mario Golf series even though it doesn’t have that title. It is pretty, it is fun and it offers a lot of variety.
My only gripe is that it doesn’t have a career mode. I would have liked to have been forced into playing the 36 hole tournaments and the one-on-one tournaments and the additional courses just so I could see everything the game has to offer. The fact I could play the same tournament 27 times on the same course and beat the game almost feels unfair, but, with over 500 games left to beat I can’t waste a lot of time, I have to take every shortcut I can without cheating.