08/03/2014

BS GOLF DAISUKI! O.B. CLUB (SUPER FAMICOM)

Golf: the sport of kings! Or is that horse racing? Or interbreeding, possibly? Never mind, what kings get up to in their spare time is their own business. Me? I spend my time writing about videogames, like this one: NCS / Masaya's 1995 Super Famicom a-good-walk-spoiled-em-up BS Golf Daisuki! O.B. Club!


That title comes out as something like Golf Lovers! Out of Bounds Club in English, so while they may love golf they're not especially good at it. It's like calling a football game Missed Penalty Soccer, or a dancing game Just Dance Like VGJunk. Those of you familiar with the Super Famicom's more obscure peripherals might have noticed the "BS" in the game's title, which doesn't stand for the thing BS usually stands for - instead it means "broadcast satellite" and denotes that Golf Daisuki was originally available as a downloadable title though the Japanese Satellaview service. I know, right? Downloadable videogames. Shame that concept never really took off.


Here are the controls, handily labelled for those of you who can read Japanese. I can't, but I figured them out anyway. It's golf: use a stick to knock a small ball into a hole. How complex can it be? Getting a decent screenshot of the woman on the menu screen proved a more difficult task, because in every shot I took she's got her eyes half-closed, captured in mid-blink to give a faint expression of smugness to her lecture.


Mission one: select your player character. The top two rows consist of a father, mother and their six children, which says something for the aphrodisiac qualities of golf. On the bottom row you've got a woman with the typical "kung-fu girl" haircut, a small child and, apropos of nothing, two cat people. Okay, sure, whatever. At least now I know that this isn't going to be serious and detailed golf simulation, because cats can't play golf. No, I'm not going to make a joke about Tiger Woods. I used up my terrible pun allowance in the last article.


So Golf Daisuki recreates crazy golf rather than the regular kind, although "crazy" golf implies a certain hecticness that this game doesn't possess and it's not "mini" golf either because there's a stage set in outer space, so I've settled on "whimsical golf" to describe it. Use your charming putter to smack your enchanting ball past the fantastical obstacles and into the surprisingly sober and uninteresting hole.


Here you can see me fucking that last part up, because I hadn't gotten to the game's power settings yet. Unlike almost every other golf game from this period, Golf Daisuki eschews the usual three-press controls system - press the button once to start the power meter moving, press it again to select your power and one more time to determine your accuracy - and simply allows you to choose how hard you hit the ball. Then you can aim using the dotted line, choose what type of spin to put on the ball and finally unleash your shot. The power bar always starts at eighty percent when starting at full power might have been more useful and your aim isn't automatically directed towards the hole like in most golf games, but once you get into the habit of remembering to change them for every shot then playing Golf Daisuki becomes a breeze, and you'll soon be pulling off shots with all manner of wild curves and carefully-calculated ricochets, like so:


Look at that; round the tower, past the fountain, over the bridge and straight into my opponent's heart like a dagger. That's if I was playing against an opponent in this match, I forget. There are three gameplay modes, although none of them change the essential experience of the game much. You can play alone to record your best score on a course, in a one-on-one match against either the computer or a fellow human, or in a four-player team battle.


The four-player mode is where Golf Daisuki shines brightest, especially if you're playing with friends. You get the usual fun of playing against someone who's sitting next to you and thus is immediately available for good-natured ribbing / a playful punch on the arm / a less playful punch in the mouth, but this game goes that step further than in ordinary golf games by having everyone's ball in play at the same time. You can see three of them in the screenshot above, and this means that Golf Daisuki's multiplayer mode has that added ingredient that improves any multiplayer mode - the ability to screw over your opponent for no purpose or gain. You can use your ball to knock the other players' balls out of the way, or behind an obstacle, or even out of bounds if you're feeling particularly vicious. Most of the time, doing so doesn't help you much and you'd be better served trying to play shots that lower your score, but I defy anyone not to send their competitors back to the tee or into a bunker when the opportunity arises.


Here, for example, it took all my mental fortitude to go for a complicated bank shot towards the pin instead of turning around and thwacking the red player's ball into the endless void of space. This is like crazy golf mixed with croquet, then. As such it makes me think of the movie Heathers, which is fine by me. I love that movie. You should watch it if you haven't. Take a drink every time Christian Slater reminds you of Jack Nicholson. Actually, don't do that, I don't want any liver failures on my conscience.


You can play any of the game modes on one of Golf Daisuki's six courses, each of which has eight holes. The first is the most "normal," a course of green grass and duck ponds, although it's hardly a regulation golf course. They don't tend to have pinball bumpers and friendly moles that will deposit your ball on the green if you knock it into their burrows, which is one of the reasons I don't watch regular golf.
You can see it's raining, too - weather effects blow in in real-time as you play, with the wet weather making your ball travel more slowly. There's also what seems to be a wind meter at the bottom of the screen, although because you play almost all your shots along the ground I never seemed to have to factor it in to my calculations.


The second course is a breakfast table, complete with huge slices of toast to negotiate and the coffee cups of an extremely messy giant to contend with. Knocking your ball into the spilled coffee causes it to melt away (and be called out of bounds) so the giant must take his coffee like me: enough granules for it to almost be chewy, enough sugar to dissolve golf balls and teeth alike. There are also musical notes scattered about the place that play the sound of dogs barking when you roll over them. I'll be honest, I'm at a loss to explain those.


Also on the table - unlicensed Donkey Kong breakfast cereals. DK's famous red tie has been replaced by a jaunty cravat in an attempt to throw off the lawyers. Nice work, Masaya.


Next up, some ancient ruins. Ancient ruins of various civilisations mixed together to form a golf course, with Moai statues sharing screen space with the Nazca hummingbird. Ramps become much more common in this course, as do conveyor belts made of quicksand and sections where the shading of the isometric viewpoint makes the scenery a little hard to parse.


That's what they call non-Euclidean geometry, right? It took me far longer than it should have to realise that the hole is actually sitting on a plateau and my golfer is at the bottom of a slope here. Lovecraft would be proud. There's a game idea for you hip young developers out there - a golf game set in the sinister void between dimensions where man's laws of physics and mathematics have no dominion.
My golfer is standing next to a present, and yes, they give you power-ups if you hit them. They're a mixed bag, with the only undeniably great one being the power to control your ball using the d-pad after you've taken a shot. There's also one involving a clown, and I shouldn't have to tell you that it rarely works in your favour - it swaps the positions of everyone's balls, but the problem is that if you managed to get the present that probably means you're further ahead than everyone else, so your ball is just going to be moved backwards. It's disappointing, and in general the presents are a missed opportunity because you have to go out of your way to collect them when a shot that puts you closer to the hole is generally a better use of your turn.


On an unrelated note, this girl has Sonic the Hedgehog's shoes.


Toytown is next, and the complexity of the courses is ramped up still further with teleporter panels, longer distances from tee to pin and a system of pipes that carry your ball from one place to the next, including this rather challenging shot where you have to jump your ball into the small box in front of said pipe. It's good fun, with most of the frustration it could cause being tempered by the fact your opposition aren't that great at golf either. It doesn't seem to matter which character you pick. Unless I'm missing something - a distinct possibility given that I'm about as observant as a cyclops with conjunctivitis - everyone plays the same.


Onward to the beach, which is hindering my attempts to say something interesting about it by being very similar to the first course. It's got more railings, I suppose? I know I did fairly well whenever I played it by throwing caution to the wind and just smacking the ball in the vague direction of the hole at 100% power, and that's a fairly reliably strategy for most of this game. It helps that there are a lot of arrow panels on most stages, panels on the ground that propel your ball in the direction shown if you hit them. They tend to keep you going in the right direction, but there are still plenty of chances to try something a bit different.


The last eight holes are floating in space, as you've seen already. They've got the artificial gravity working just right, so you don't need to worry about your balls floating away. Man, I have written the word "balls" a lot in this article. Balls. Balls. Yep, it doesn't looks like a real word any more. Thanks, Golf Daisuki.


A middle-aged man and a small child in Sonic the Hedgehog's shoes celebrate their golfing victory over a housewife and a humanoid cat amongst the eerie crystal pillars of a long-dead spacefaring civilization. You don't get that in EA's golf games.


Let's get the negative stuff out of the way, because BS Golf Daisuki! O.B. Club does have its flaws. The power-ups are an underdeveloped concept, there's not much in the way of options or difficulty levels or playable characters that aren't just interchangeable, mannequin-like placeholders. There are some issues with the game putting the camera in awkward positions when it's your shot, forcing you to manually drag the viewpoint into the right place and slowing the game down. The aiming line sometimes feels a touch inaccurate. Cat people creep me out, but that's a personal issue for which I am seeking professional help.


Those are minor things, though, and when it comes to the big question of whether or not I enjoyed playing Golf Daisuki I'd have to say "yes". It's just fun, simple fun that's good with friends. It's cheerful and chirpy, the graphics are nice, (as they ought to be, considering this game was made the year after the PS1 was released and wasn't broadcast until 1997,) and the gameplay is complex enough to be interesting while still having pick-up-and-play appeal.


As a final note, BS Golf Daisuki! O.B. Club reaffirms the simple truth behind all golf games: watching the actual sport of golf is a task of such brutal, soul-sapping dullness that enduring it for a mere moment can make me pray for the sweet release of death, but golf videogames? They can be a real pleasure to play. I'd test this theory with cricket, but cricket is somehow even worse than golf and I'm afraid of what I might do to myself and others if I sit down in front of a Test match.

5 comments:

  1. Personally, if a game has cat mutants that I can play as, I will play it no questions asked. This is the main reason I got into Everquest, actually, and that game half ruined my life, so maybe I should rethink my gaming philosophy.

    So, would you say this is better or worse than Kirby's Dream Course? I had a lot of fun with that one, at least it until it got too hard for preteen-me and I gave up on it.

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    Replies
    1. I'm the same with skeletons - if I can play as a skeleton, I'm there! I've never played Kirby's Dream Course, so sadly I can't give you a proper comparison.

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  2. Characters from this game look a lot like Miis.

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  3. I haven't played kirby's dream course since it came out but me and a mate put a lot of hours into it back in the day - I'd recommend checking it out. I also have a vague recollection of playing super international cricket on the snes. It was definitely more fun than watching cricket!

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