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REVIEW: Neo Turf Masters: If Loving This Game is Wrong, GUESS WHO’S WRONG.

There’s been so much going on in the world of Nintendo lately, I have no idea why I even brought it up first thing. From the whole amiibo phenomenon/limited availability fiasco to the release of new 3DS as well as recent additions to various big name software franchises, our favorite game makers here at this site are all over the damn map in terms of customer satisfaction. That was a long sentence, and this one is too as we’re in a critical time for the company since Wii U sales are lagging behind those of even the GameCube at this stage in that system’s life cycle. Yet the 3DS is thriving and nerds are eating each other alive across online auction sites trying to secure plastic molds of Wii Fit Trainer and Mega Man. So how has yours truly been spending the last several months spiraling around amidst all of this high profile chaos?

Tethered to a classic controller playing SNK arcade golf from the mid-90’s like my life depends on it.

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Neo Turf Masters is a slice of pure, pick up and play heaven that was unleashed upon arcades around the world way back in 1996. Developed by the makers of (you guessed it) the beloved Metal Slug, Turf Masters accomplished the seemingly impossible: It made golf not only fun and exciting, but downright addictive. It’s a shockingly simple and yes, action minded approach to a sport that otherwise wouldn’t seem like a natural fit in any way to the arcade format. You choose your character from the outset by focusing on their various handling abilities (think Mario Kart), or if you’re perhaps feeling progressive based on culture/gender.

Wait.

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The mechanics are pretty simple: There are two streaming dials to focus on located at the bottom right corner of the screen. One for the strength of your shot and the other for a low/high approach. This default system places you in the most ideal position but it’s important to read wind variations as well as gauge the natural landscape (hills, rough, etc.) to angle your swings appropriately. Ya gotta pay attention to this stuff as it’s entirely possible to blow a good night’s sleep sweating over how you blew a -6 lead wondering where the fuck that tree came from. You’re allowed to rotate between various types of clubs and putters with any given shot using up and down on the cross pad but I really have no idea what the differences are and honestly, the game kinda does it for you. The real key to a successful run is sorting out the various slices you can accomplish via left/right adjustments by way of said D-pad while paying attention to the wind patterns. This is beginning to sound kind of complicated I guess.

It isn’t.

Fun gameplay taken into account, the primary draw with Turf Masters is atmosphere. Embedded above is my favorite track taken from the Japan course, which I feel plays like an audio time capsule to a formative era spent in bowling alleys, eating pizza nonstop and hanging out with my girlfriend well past her curfew. In fact, press play on that and let it hang in the background while you read the rest of this post and you may find yourself having a hard time turning it off. Topping off the audio landscape are adorable little dialogue flourishes that charm with slightly broken English. Bits like “Please select the type of your game” and a wonderful female narrator who announces things like “Prayer one for Par” or excitedly exclaims “On the Gween!!!” can cause a serious case of insta-grin.

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Featuring at the time state of the art graphics that showed off not only fully digitized characters but Mode-7y type landscapes, this game still holds up as visually very compelling. Especially after a few stiff drinks. There are four 18-hole stages to choose from upon pressing start: U.S.A., Germany, Australia and Japan. And they’re all fantastic in their own dynamic approach to fairway design. I mean, just look at that screenshot above. How the hell is this guy gonna cross that waterfall to sink a birdie and not settle for par or (God forbid) bogey?

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But y’know. Shit happens. I feel like this post needs another paragraph so I’m going to gush about how much character is on display with this thing. The little in-between cinematics are pretty weird yet endearing and like the aforementioned audio treats, stack up to create an experience that is completely unique and most importantly: FUN. One of my favorite cut scenes is one that I couldn’t find a screenshot for so I had to take one with my phone. You can take a look at it by clicking here. Because I mean really, what kind of pose is that? It’s like he’s saying “Oh, was that PAR?”

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The best part? Once you’ve downloaded this gem from the Wii Virtual Console (for 900 Nintendo points) or picked up a copy of the SNK collection, you’ll never have to think about inserting any pesky quarters into an arcade cabinet you’ll probably never find. So, whattayasay Mr. Face? Do you dig playing Neo Turf Masters as much I do?

Mr. Face say this game AWESOME. Mr. Face never wrong!
Mr. Face say this game AWESOME.
Mr. Face never wrong!

Neo Turf Masters was played using my brain, eyes and fingers.