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Waialae Country Club: True Golf Classics

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Reviewed by Scott McCall Thanks to Nintendo of America and T&E Soft, North American N64 owners finally have their first golf game, Waialae Country Club: True Golf Classics (pronounced "Y-Lie"), nearly 75 games after the system's inception. Took long enough, didn't it? Fortunately, Waialae Country Club is more than sufficient when it comes to meeting the needs of the video game hacker. In fact, it's even better than the two N64 golf games that were previously only released in Japan (St. Andrews Golf from Seta and Masters '98 from T&E Soft). If the name "Waialae Country Club: True Golf Classics" gives you a case of deja vu, it should. T&E Soft itself published a version (with the order of the names flip-flopped) for the Super NES in the fall of 1991. That game started its tradition of releasing quality golf games for various systems, and it's evident that T&E Soft's golf simulations have only gotten better and more realistic since then. The N64 recreation of Waialae Country Club is just as faithful, right down to the unpredictable trade winds and numerous doglegs of the real course. Like F-1 World Grand Prix, another recent Nintendo Sports release, Waialae Country Club has a CD-ROM-style introduction when you first turn on the game. Once you press start, there are seven options to choose from: Quick Start, Continue, Game Modes, Setup Data, Check Records, Course Guide, and Options. Quick Start immediately puts you into Tournament Play. Continue lets you resume a game you're currently playing (only one game can be saved at a time). Game Modes, which will be discussed shortly, is where you choose your method of play. Setup Data lets you customize and/or delete one of ten players. Check Records will enable you to look at detailed records, such as course and player statistics, and will enable you to replay miraculous shots. Course Guide shows you the fly-by and description for each hole that you would normally see in any other mode. Finally, Options lets you toggle various options. There are numerous game modes from which you can choose in Waialae Country Club. In any of the multi-player modes, you can play with human opponents, computer opponents, or both. There are five computer opponents who get progressively tougher. Waialae Open (1P-4P) is a four-round tournament. You must place 40th or better by the end of the second round. Tournament Play (1P-4P) enables you to skip to the last day of the Waialae Open. Stroke Play (1P-4P) is when the player who finishes 18 holes with the lowest stroke count is the winner. Match Play (1P vs. COM or 2P) pits two players against each other on a hole-by-hole basis. The player with the lowest score on a given hole wins it, and the player who wins the most holes is the overall winner. Skins Play (2P-4P) is the always-enjoyable mode in which players vie for the lowest score on each hole. Each hole is worth $2,000, $10,000, $20,000, or $40,000. The player with the lowest score on a hole wins the money for that hole. If there is a tie, then the money keeps on carrying over. What's nice is that the user can choose the amount for each hole. Practice Play (1P) enables you to play any hole you want. Golfing action in Waialae Country Club is easy enough for amateurs and gives enough control for professionals. The game has a great, easy-to-use interface that displays all of the necessary information on the screen. It always shows a slightly zoomed map, the hole number, the length and par of the hole, what shot you're on, how far you got to the pin, what club you're currently using (along with its distance), and the lie of your ball. You also have the opportunity to choose where you want your tee, what club you want to use, what kind of stance you want (for hooking or slicing), what point on the ball you want to hit (for putting on spin), and where you want to aim the ball. Thankfully, you have your choice between using the Control Pad and Control Stick. As with any golf game, one of the most important parts is the swing meter. Luckily, Waialae Country Club has a realistic one that's not too hard to use but isn't too easy so that you hit a perfect shot every time. The swing meter looks like the letter "C" and wraps around your golfer. Pressing the A button starts moving the red power bar. The higher it goes, the more powerful the shot. At the top of the meter is a red area for crushing the ball. Once you reach the desired point, you press A again to start the backswing. Then you must press A a third time to hit the ball. There's a red "impact zone" at the bottom of the meter that you're aiming for. Missing this zone will cause the ball to go left or right. And if you've tried to crush the ball, but missed the impact zone, then you will either duff or top the ball. The impact zone's size and the speed of the bar also vary from club to club. T&E Soft has been developing golf games for years and years -- and it shows. All of the club and ball physics in Waialae Country Club are correct and some small touches have been added. For example, you'll see flying divots and tees, you'll notice a "ball sight" line that helps you follow the ball's path, you'll make use of a great "Cart Cam" option to view the current hole (press Z to bring up the menu), you'll notice that it may actually rain for a hole or two, and you'll find some nice camera angles. When it comes to camera angles, you have your choice between Standard, Exciting, and Classic. Standard, the default and best camera setting, uses camera angles much like a TV network broadcast. Exciting switches to a viewpoint that chases the ball. Classic is the type of boring perspective found in old golf games. There's also a very cool close-up of the pin/hole whenever your ball gets near it. Furthermore, if you have an incredible shot, you can press Z, replay the shot, and save it to the cartridge for future bragging. I do have a few gripes with Waialae Country Club, though. First of all, reading the greens is very, very difficult. A way must be found to make it easier. Second, hitting putts and short shots with the swing meter can be tough, which can be good or bad. Third, there is only one course! Granted, having more than one course in a golf game isn't as important as, say, having more than a couple of tracks in a racing game. But even golfing fans need to take a break from playing their local course over and over. Graphically, Waialae Country Club is unimpressive, aside from the good use of camera angles. First of all, the course doesn't seem rich enough with bland textures and a lack of definition in some of the hills and slopes. Second, there are plenty of digitized graphics all around, but they're just that -- ugly, digitized graphics like you saw back in the 16-bit days. There is almost a laughable amount of animation for the golfers, and that doesn't even say anything about the static environment. The crowd, trees, and buildings are nothing more than simple, non-animated 2D bitmaps that are pixelated like no other N64 game. Even the water, which is something the N64 excels at, doesn't look very good. Only the moving clouds look half-way decent. There isn't really any clipping or pop-up, but you'll notice trees will just disappear when viewed from certain camera angles. On top of that, the low-resolution, blurry graphics can make it difficult to discern objects that are important to see. High-resolution graphics would really help in a golf game. The sound probably fares a little better. Despite music that has a distinct MIDI sound, there is some nice two-man commentary in the Tournament modes. Too bad the voice is only used in Tournaments. The crowd sound, which is only around in that mode as well, is also very good and is fully stereo. There are even some accurate, high-quality sound effects for swinging clubs, hitting balls, sinking putts, and so on. The only downside to the sound (besides the music) is the lackluster sound effects for water, whether it's for the ocean or for raining, and the lack of other environmental sounds. Considering Waialae Country Club: True Golf Classics is the first and only golf game available in the U.S. for the N64, gamers should consider themselves lucky that they got a pretty good version. The gameplay is extremely solid, the game has a great saving scheme, and the sound effects are good. The two problems are that the graphics don't even come close to taking advantage of the N64 and that there is only one course to play on. Nevertheless, Waialae Country Club should provide N64 golfers with enough enjoyment until the next golf outing comes along.

Graphics: 2.8 out of 5 Sound: 3.6 out of 5 Control: 3.8 out of 5 Gameplay: 4.1 out of 5 Lastability: 3.4 out of 5 Overall: 3.7 out of 5

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