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Waialae Golf Club

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Reviewed by Raymond Almeda The Nintendo 64 has long needed an outstanding golf game (heck, it's needed any golf game!). A crucial underlying tenet of Nintendo's "quality over quantity" philosophy is that every category should be filled with a dominant title, a game that sets the standard for its particular genre. Unfortunately, Waialae Country Club: True Golf Classics is by no means the definitive console golf game. While Waialae may provide a modestly entertaining golf simulation, it simply pales in comparison to PC cousins like Links 1998 and Jack Nicklaus Golf. Unless absolutely starved for an N64 golf game, gamers are best advised to explore these PC titles instead. Waialae is not necessarily a poorly designed game; it is simply a first generation game. Nintendo has partnered with developer T&E Software to port over an American version of last year's Japanese release. It's worth noting that the game was originally released in Japan with the Augusta Masters course. But apparently the old fogies in Georgia had a few problems with Nintendo releasing a Masters game in the States, so we're all off to Hawaii. Unfortunately, Waialae is not powered by a particularly impressive engine. While companies like Acclaim are wowing N64 owners with eye-popping high- resolution visuals, the graphics in Waialae appear somewhat dated. The (presumably motion-captured?) animation of the golfers in action is surprisingly choppy and unrefined. One would expect smooth motion capture from Nintendo, but these video duffers jerk around like rusty Star Wars androids. Note that there is only one course offered in Waialae (Oahu's famed Waialae Country Club). With only one course on the agenda, one might reasonably expect an on-screen depiction of exacting detail. Unfortunately, the course is as dated as the golfers are choppy. The visual renderings of Waialae are low- resolution and mostly unimpressive. Trees are blocky and 2D in appearance, and the general animation of the course seems unintentionally artificial. Check out the amazing courses offered in Links '98 for an example of the way video golfing should be. After being struck, the ball sails forward with a blue "streak" or tail. While this does aid with the viewing of the shot, it is obviously unrealistic. Unfortunately, thanks to some slipshod camera work, the streak is also arguably necessary. The default camera in Waialae is almost too active. We are treated to far too many angles of the ball in flight, and thanks to the game's low resolution, none of these angles are very helpful. Even the 16-bit PGA Tour Golf had its own "ball-cam" that was fun to watch. Waialae sorely needs improvement in the camera department. Particularly annoying are the camera angles that appear on the putting green. When actually putting, it is often difficult to discern the hole. Although a grid appears to aid the reading of the green's slope, the entire endeavor appears to lack precision. The overall gameplay experience in Waialae is sufficient, if not terribly satisfying. The game offers what are now standard options in video golf (create-a-player, customizable club selection, etc.). But there's little here that we haven't seen before. On the plus side, the shot interface easily allows for adjusting the golfer's stance and even the targeted portion of the ball. But while these minute adjustments undoubtedly affect the trajectory of the shot, over time most players will ignore them. Each hole in Waialae is preceded by an optional camera "fly-by." The camera automatically pans the course, while some scrolling text offers a few obvious strategic tips. Of course, this advice is generally ignored, and most gamers will quickly turn off these fly-bys in an effort to get straight to the action. Waialae does include a "cart-cam" feature. Presumably this simulates the experiences of being in a golf cart, and allows one to freely roam the course. But note that this golf cart moves at incredible speed, and is able to levitate. The name "Harrier Jet Cam" might have been more appropriate. In an odd twist, sometimes the weather may turn sour during the middle of a round. In an odder twist, the golfers continue plodding forward throughout what appear to be severe rainstorms. While I never lost one of my video golfers to a bolt of lightning, note that this would have made the game much more entertaining. Kids, don't try this at home. Waialae Country Club: True Golf Classics is not a bad golf game; it is simply a mediocre one. N64 owners would probably be better served by exploring the PC Jack Nicklaus and Links titles. With any luck, perhaps Electronic Arts or Activision will port one of their golf brands to the N64. In the meantime, only true diehard golf enthusiasts should hit the digital links of Waialae.

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