If you are reading this, then you are either interested in at least an arcade version of golf or a fascinating person yourself. Out of so many fantastic titles for the Neo Geo, such as Samurai Shodown, King of Fighters, Ironclad, and Metal Slug, why did I review this game? Well, a couple of reasons. First, I have covered a lot of imaginative and colourful games, so it would be fair to even this out a little by changing the style and genre completely. Second, while I never really cared for sports in general, I actually love golf. You will never see me review the entire Tiger Woods-series, and while Mario Golf-reviews will happen one day, I simply wanted to look at something a bit different.
What you would expect, but with clear quality
Neo Turf Masters is a golf game through and through, but a solid one at that. For those of you who do not know the rules of golf, here is a short rundown. You will be hitting a ball with a club through 18 fields, each having a hole you are trying to get the ball inn. The fewer the shots you have to take, the better. You start off the game by picking one of the 6 golfers to play as, each with different stats that will help you throughout the game. The stats are driving, accuracy, skill, recovery and putting, each being somewhat self explanatory. All characters feel useful since the stats only changes the outcome slightly, but enough to find a preferred playstyle.
When you start a game, you will have to pick a club, aim, and choose if you want to hook or slice. After this, you press A at the right time for the amount of strength for your shot, then again for your swing’s accuracy and if you want a high- or low ball. The game always gives you a suggestion on what club to use for each swing, such as sand wedge when you are in bunkers, but you are always able to pick one of your choosing in case you want to use another one. This is really nice for letting newcomers be eased into the game, while still giving veterans options on how to proceed.
Alongside aiming your club, you will have to look at the map to make sure you will not hit any obstacles such as water or trees, and keep in mind that the wind can both help and interrupt your perfect shot. You are not able to see how far your ball will go, so you will have to accommodate the strength of the swing with your chosen club and the distance you have left to reach the hole with. It can be very demanding to get the ball in the hole within as few hits as possible, but that’s what makes Neo Turf Masters so great. You need to plan as well as possible for every shot and have all the time to get a good swing, providing a strong and good challenging.
There are 4 areas to choose from, each with 18 holes. They are based on different, existing locations, but do not have much to offer when it comes to their design. They are varied enough to be fun; with bunkers, waterfalls and similar decorations changing up the layouts, but more creativity to the layouts could have gone a long way. Each area takes about 20-30 minutes to get through and you will be ranked at the end on how well you did them. Since this is an arcade game, you have a certain amount of holes, which are basically continues. You will need to hit below par as often as possible to be able to continue playing the game, where par represents the expected amount of shots to clear a hole with. Hitting below par, will extend the amount of continues you can gather, so it is a nice way to make the arcade version something else than a money-sucking machine.
However, the non-arcade versions have the option to simply add credits, so you will only be focusing on the score. Actually, this is one of the few arcade games for the Neo Geo where points matter, since you need as few strikes as possible to win over other competitors. Finishing the game without coming near first place will not be satisfying at all, making it so you will have to improve as well as you possibly can, which definitely helps with unlimited continues.
What Neo Turf Masters offers is basically what it advertises: an arcade golf game. There is not much more to say, except that it is solid in its execution and easy enough for newcomers to get into and have fun with. More variety to the stages could have gone a long way, but it never gets repetitive and adds many smart details to make it exciting and engaging.
Gameplay Score: 7.5/10
Lean and green on the screen
Neo Turf Masters has a realistic approach to its visuals, with great character models and areas being based on real locations such as Australia and Germany. The animations of the characters’ swings are amazingly smooth and the multi-scrolling layers are still impressive to this day. However, despite the lovely backgrounds giving some sense of where you are, you will unfortunately see a lot of green. This is certainly to make the game feel more realistic, but more interesting layouts would have been welcoming, such as a rocky scenery. The colours are at least strong and everything is impressive on a technical level.
The music consists of fantastic jazz tunes that both makes you hyped and energetic for playing the game, while also calm enough to give you a relaxing atmosphere to swing the club to. All are catchy, varied, and makes the game more exciting than it really is. The sound effects are satisfying, such as swinging the club to hit the ball or just hearing it land on different surfaces. The same goes for the announcer’s calls, with all being understandable and solidly preformed, with the crowd and your player’s reactions after every course being implemented well.
Presentation Score: 7.5/10
Might as well wait for your turn
I would usually talk about multiplayer as a part of the main game when it is presented alongside the singleplayer mode, but we have only two minor options here. One is joining the main campaign, where both take on the championship of one of the areas, while the other version will put the players head to head against each other. These modes are very similar, with the difference being counting strokes and counting won holes, and it is a shame there could not have been more than two players joining in, since you will have to take turns to play either way. However, what is here is perfectly fine and it is nice that those options are at least present.
Extra Score: 6/10
Neo Turf Masters will not set your world on fire, but is definitely a fun arcade game that should not be overlooked, even for those who are not a big fan of sports games in general. While it is not the most imaginative game there is, it gives you a golf game with good qualities and is enjoyable for at least an afternoon.