Having just finished swinging away with the delightfully charming Golf Story, my excitement to try out other games featuring the sport has certainly risen. And while the Nintendo Switch might still be building up its repertoire of athletic-based titles, Hamster Corporation’s list of Neo Geo releases does contain a few sporting ones, including arcade golfer Neo Turf Masters. Can a 20-plus-year-old golfing title still stand up against the more modern competition though?
Neo Turf Masters is an arcade game in every way possible – from its snappier pace to the limited options and modes to the overall cheesy feel of its presentation. Which is no bad thing, golf is always something of a relaxed and gentlemanly experience and it’s nice to see it presented in such a refreshing, goofy way.
With the game being an arcade take on golf, the controls are kept nice and simple only requiring two well-timed button presses from the player. Tapping the button, the first time will set the power of your swing, while the second will determine the height of your shot. You’re also able to select from the usual assortment of clubs – everything from drivers to irons as well as favouring for a hook or slice in your shot. You have a choice between six golfers each with their own strengths and weaknesses where power in your drive may mean sacrificing accuracy. Their appearances and nick-names are chuckle worthy too.
Just like the controls, the modes too are simplistic with just two available. The opening menu greets you with either Stroke Play or Match Play, the former seeing you compete against a group of computer AI across an eighteen-hole course. Scoring under par will move you up the leaderboards while hitting a string of bogeys will slide you back down again making it tough to climb back. Whether you play this alone or with a friend there’s certainly fun to be had here even if the challenge can feel a little too tough at times. The latter meanwhile is two-player only, the pair of you battling it out for the lowest score on each individual hole. Just as you’d expect from any sports game, playing with another human is much more enjoyable than a number of faceless AI. The Switch also feels like the perfect home for Neo Turf Masters, the Joy-Con ideal for the game’s uncomplicated controls.
Outside of these are the usual extras Hamster continue to throw into their Neo Geo efforts including Hi-Score mode that sees how well you can perform on a single credit and Caravan mode that limits you to just five minutes of play meaning speedy shots are key. Any high scores can also be compared with others via online leaderboards, a nice addition that is surprisingly addictive as you try to rise the ranks. Tweaking the game’s appearance or gameplay are also possible to make your experience as retro or difficult as you like.
Sadly the game only offers four golf courses each taking you to a different part of the world. The difficulty of each increases the further you progress putting up a pretty decent challenge especially as you hit the back nine. While the selection does feel a little on the light side, the real appeal here is in mastering each course through repeated plays and improving your scores. If only one or two more courses were included to bolster the package just that little bit more.
Despite the game being over 20 years old now, the visuals hold up surprisingly well. Each of the courses look different enough with pleasant backdrops like canyons and waterfalls but it’s the golfers that are the real highlight. Whether it’s the super smooth swing animation or each golfer’s celebratory pose after sinking the ball, it’s tough to hate on the game’s style. The soundtrack, while nothing amazing, does compliment the overall quirky style of the visuals. The voice samples are also humorously exaggerated with excitable cheers urging you along.
Neo Turf Masters is one of the better Neo Geo titles Hamster Corporation have released on Switch so far. While light on content, the game’s charming presentation and satisfying gameplay make for a one of a kind golfing experience that’s at its best when playing with someone else. A great addition to any sports fan’s Switch library.