ACA NeoGeo: Neo Turf Masters (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 15.04.2017

Review for ACA NeoGeo: Neo Turf Masters on Nintendo Switch

Golf games fall into the sports category of games, and yet, it also feels like its very own genre apart from other disciplines in that they are usually very slow paced games that don't rely much on reflexes, but instead on careful and patient consideration for a wide range of parameters, making it a perfect type of game for people who do not have the patience to work to acquire quick reflexes and skills in order to face CPU and human players alike in duels. When it comes to video game adaptations of the genre, Nintendo itself has had a big influence on how those types of games have come to be expected to work, from the power gauge for shots to overall presentation style. It helped that the regretted Hiroshi Yamauchi was an immense fan of the sport himself, and pushed for the development of such titles in the NES days. As years went by, the genre has evolved and seen so many refinements, and a handful of franchises have stuck out over the years on a wide variety of platforms. Nintendo's systems got Mario Golf, Everybody's Golf by Camelot has been a mainstay on Sony platforms, EA's PGA Tour has been the reference in terms of serious simulation and, last but certainly not least, the excellent free-to-play Korean fantasy-themed title Pangya remained popular for years on the PC, but is alas now discontinued everywhere but in Japan and Thailand. In the arcades, however, the absolute reference was and remains Nazca's Neo Turf Masters.

This is naturally not the first time that this piece of entertainment has been re-released. It has been ported to many other systems over the years on Neo Geo compilations, such as for the PS2, or even as a portable version for the Neo Geo Pocket Color back in the day, although, naturally, drastically scaled down and cut back on content. The Wii Virtual Console also saw a port of the Neo Geo AES version (the home console conversion) released for it, so this is not even the first time that the classic title hits a Nintendo system, but this particular outing for the Switch is based on the MVS version (the original arcade one).

Whereas the Wii release only offered the game itself - plain and simple - this newer release is notable for offering access to a plethora of options normally hidden away inside the innards of the arcade cabinet on which it originally ran. Not only can players change the game's region by selecting the Japanese or English version (which mostly just changes the title screen of the game to Big Tournament Golf), but they can also change any settings pertaining to difficulty, like the amount of time players have at their disposal to gauge distance, wind and so on before they play their stroke, hole penalties for being over par, right down to the simple difficulty settings. In this way, the game can be altered to be made a lot easier than what one would have experienced running into the original arcade cabinet in the wild.

Also, like other ACA Neo Geo releases, this one includes quick saves and the expected screen aspect ratio correction, zoom and filter options, such as a neat scanline effect with several levels of depth selectable.

The main addition of interest to this latest release, however, is the Hi Score mode. Like other ACA Neo Geo titles, this one has the lure of online rankings added. Short of having a proper online mode to play against other human players over the internet, the incentive of ranking high on the score board and show off your name to the world of expert Neo Turf Masters out there is an interesting prospect.

Screenshot for ACA NeoGeo: Neo Turf Masters on Nintendo Switch

It's unknown whether those online rankings are cross platform or not, since they must be hosted by Hamster itself. However, the low number of people on the board at time of writing would hint more towards those rankings being tied to the platform the title is being played on, in this case the Nintendo Switch, as its still-very-recent-release would explain why there are currently not yet many people chalked up on there.

Hi Score mode has the player play with the default arcade settings and no access to quick saves and playing for the best score possible, which in golf means scoring the least points/strokes possible on each of the four available 18-hole courses. Last but certainly not least is the Caravan mode, the most peculiar of the bunch. Using the same rules as the aforementioned Hi Score mode, players are given five minutes to get the best score they can before being withdrawn from the game, which can be both fun and innervating, as the countdown can be seen at all times on the side of the game window, pressing the player to hit the ball as soon as possible to get as far along the course in as little time as possible for the best score.

Those modes added here are really where the main attraction of this newest release is, as otherwise the game remains the same as it was originally in terms of actual playable content. The same eight golfers are available, as well as four 18-hole courses with varying degrees of difficulty, which for the time was quite a meaty offering. The additional content that once was added to the Neo Geo CD release is not to be found, as this one uses the arcade version as its bases and sticks strictly to it, which will disappoint some fans for sure, as this means that this isn't the absolute ultimate release of Neo Turf Masters.

Any concerns about controls can be put to rest, as they are perfectly translated to the Nintendo Switch. Like all golf games, there are quite a lot of parameters to take note of when hitting the ball, such as stance (to induce a hook or slice effect on the ball), power, direction and so on...

Screenshot for ACA NeoGeo: Neo Turf Masters on Nintendo Switch

Despite this complexity, never are the controls in the way of what the player is aiming to achieve. With that being said, however, newcomers may not find this particular game to be very welcoming, as it is completely devoid of a proper tutorial other than the basic controls.

This is a fun title that only takes itself mildly seriously, as testified by some of the character art, but it is still a relatively hardcore affair, and therefore not recommended for anyone who has never played a golf game before at the risk of not understanding why the ball isn't doing exactly what a rookie would expect it to do. However, this being a reissue of a game that's now over 20 years old, it is safe to assume that newcomers aren't likely to be taking their chance with this title before any other in the genre. Instead, people who know the title or have played older golf games are the most likely to be picking up this ACA Neo Geo title.

Naturally, in the visuals stakes, this game shows its age. Hailing from the 16-bit era, it had very little competition in terms of visuals at the time, although early SNES releases like True Golf Classics: Waialae Country Club, with its still polygon-rendered scenery, did leave its impact for the rest of that generation of console several years prior. Neo Turf Masters employs no such effects, and favours a view behind the player's back on shots and putts, and a bird's eye view the rest of the time. This being a Neo Geo game, the use of no-frills 2D does not prove to be a detriment to the game's presentation. On the contrary, everything is delightfully detailed and gives off an air of realism that even exceeds polygon-rendered efforts released around the same time on 32-bit systems still in their infancy.

Where the style of presentation shows its drawbacks is in the gameplay. Indeed, the use of 3D allows for some comforts that 2D doesn't allow and which players of golf video games have now come to accept and look out for. The most important of those is showing the slope of the green.

Screenshot for ACA NeoGeo: Neo Turf Masters on Nintendo Switch

Modern games, and even games older than Neo Turf Masters, like the aforementioned Waialae, use wireframe rendering, sometimes accompanied by additional details, to show in which direction the inclination of the green goes and how steep it is, helping with determining the trajectory the ball will take and how strong the player should hit the ball to compensate for a potential uphill or downhill slope. Neo Turf Masters instead only shows a vague representation of the green seen from above, with bumps giving an approximate idea of the land features, whereas the windowed view of the player's putter pushing the ball only ever shows a perfectly flat surface, going towards the hole, which can be off-putting when used to more complex affairs seen in other games in the same genre.

On the flip side, greens in this game are mostly completely flat surfaces, with the aforementioned bumped areas in the way, so it's often possible to have the ball land in a part of the green from which no bump will be in the way towards the hole on the next stroke. It's a peculiar aspect of Neo Turf Masters that may feel like a step back for a 1996 game, but it works within its own universe as its own quirky personal feature, and does not get in the way of the enjoyment.

Lastly, in terms of sound, loads of speech samples can be heard throughout from over-enthusiastic commentators and players, with a strong note of Japanese accent added in for flavour. Music does tend to get repetitive, as each course uses the same piece of looping music for the whole 18-hole series, which can last quite some time. It's easy to imagine this not being as big of an issue inside a noisy arcade; however, in the comfort of the home, this issue does stand out a little - although it is not distracting, either, and the experience remains thoroughly enjoyable as a whole.

Screenshot for ACA NeoGeo: Neo Turf Masters on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

While the core game itself shows its age, both in the visuals and partially as a result of the latter, in the gameplay stakes, the heap of additions and options added to this latest release of the Neo Geo cult classic help soften the deal, as it is clear what kind of audience re-releases of such old titles are geared towards: fans of retro games in general or of the Neo Geo/arcade titles in particular. As such, it does not disappoint in the slightest as it remains still a thoroughly playable and enjoyable experience that was in its time amongst the finest golf games available, but also one of the more accessible. Naturally, being a Neo Geo title at heart, Neo Turf Masters is still a very challenging one, and newcomers to the genre of video game golfing should not pick this one as their starting point, since it does not at all explain all the parameters that they should look out for before they hit the ball. Knowing the ins and outs of golf, either video game golf or the real sport, is a requirement for sure, lest the player be in for a steep learning curve. For all other players looking for some retro golf action at home and on the go thanks to the Switch, look no further!

Developer

Nazca

Publisher

Hamster

Genre

Sport

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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