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Ace Golf GameCube

Published by Eidos Interactive
Developed by Telenet Japan Co. Ltd.
Released - Out Now
Price : £39.99

With quality GameCube titles being a bit thin on the ground recently and the real quality stuff (Metroid Prime and Zelda for example) being a long way off for us PAL gamers, picking a new title for your beloved Cube is difficult to say the least. Fear not though, because Eidos Interactive have done us all a massive favour by releasing the one of the most addictive console games of the year, Ace Golf.

Now I know that you're thinking that golf is boring and that you're not interested or indeed you've probably looked at the screenshots and thought this games is for kids and that you'll stick to your Links 2003 on your PC. Well if you have thought either of these things then you'd be wrong. The developers, Telenet, have done a magnificent job with Ace Golf. Not only does it have that distinctive Nintendo look and feel about it, but it also plays stunningly well and puts most 'serious' golf games to shame.

Ace Golf comprises of six 18 hole courses, one 9 hole course, 14 individual golfers (all with their own disadvantages and advantages), 6 caddies and a wealth of tournaments to keep you busy. Of course in true console style there are also many objects (clubs, shoes and other items) to be unlocked and all these will modify your golfers performance somewhat. Ace Golf is not content with merely providing you with these special items though, experience must be gained through using them to get the full benefit of them.

Of course if you've followed PC golf games over the last few years you'll know that the day of clicking buttons are at an end and that the mouse swing has taken over. Well Ace Golf has taken this on board and the golfer's swing is emulated through the use of the C stick. Put simply the C stick is pulled back to the required percentage of power (showed by a power gauge) and pushed forward to emulate the swing. Pushing the stick forward in a straight line will give you an excellent shot whilst being slightly off centre will cause the ball to draw (off to the left) or fade (off to the right) like in real life. The swing method is excellent but it has one drawback, it is very awkward for left-handed gamers, especially as the controls can't be reconfigured. Spin can also be applied to the ball by moving the directional pad whilst performing the swing.

Your shot can be modified too, by pressing the B button. Normally pressing the B button will give you a power shot (offers a little extra power of course) but when you're around the green you can adjust the type of approach shot you make by pressing the B button. Your shots are rated as either Excellent, Great, Good, Poor or Bad. Power shots use some of your golfers stamina and overuse of them will result in one tired golfer whose power will begin to dwindle. Excellent shots help to replace a little of the stamina so as well as giving you a great chance to make birdies they also help your golfer.

The variation between the different golfers is very impressive. The game begins with only Miho, the former college golf star, and Yoshiki, the pop star, unlocked. Other characters include the militaristic Lisa, the academic Rosetta who tends to fade her shots and the 78 year old Kenneth from Ireland who hates playing in the winter. Characters have ratings for power, control, impact and spin. For each of these attributes you are given the current ability and the maximum potential for that golfer. There are also some fixed attributes and these tell you whether a golfer has a tendency to draw or fade shots or whether they tend to make high or low shots etc. The Golfers each have an amount of item points that are used to determine what equipment they can use. The equipment ranges from the power glove (which increases power at the cost of control) to the fire ball which is superb when used in the summer.

The game also has 6 crazy caddies who are on hand to give advice. You call a caddy by pressing the start button followed by the R button. Caddies can only be called when you're on the tee and on the green. Of course this is when you need the most advice but it would have been good if you could have called them at other times too. Still at least you actually see them doing something which is more than can be said for most golf games.

Ace Golf offers a tournament mode (1 player), stroke play (upto 4 players), match play (2 players) and mini-games (upto 4 players) as well as a training mode that lets you practice any holes you want. The tournament mode has six stages and each stage consists of tournaments and two matches. Winning a match will unlock the opponent therefore you'll need to complete the tournament mode to unlock all the characters, which will take you ages. The stages in tournament mode need a certain amount of stars before you are allowed access to them. You'll need 10 stars to access stage 2 and a further 15 to access stage 3. Winning a tournament will earn you 3 stars and winning a match will earn you 2 stars. You don't have to play through a tournament in one sitting either. When quitting back to the main menu your progressed is automatically saved. If you're golf fans, you'll already know what stroke play and match play offers. Stroke play is about getting the lowest shot count for the whole course whilst match play is about completing a hole in fewer shots than your opponent with the match being won by the golfer who won the most holes. The mini-games offer 3 different games. There's Mission which poses multiple golfing challenges for 1 player. Then there's Survival, which again is for 1 player and sees you facing an opponent to win a hole. The idea is to win as many holes as possible. Should you lose a hole it's game over. Finally there's Near Pin for 2-4 players. Near Pin is played on the short course Wai-Wai GC, which consists of 9 par 3 holes. Whoever gets there tee shot nearest to hole wins that hole.

In terms of graphics the game looks great. What is a little disappointing are the textures that have been used on the golfers, which look a little poor. Elsewhere though the textures look very good, particularly on the ball and the grass. The courses are all very different and have slight seasonal variations. The game provides the necessary visual means to show the wind direction and the nature of the ball's lie on the ground. The usual grid appears on the green too but arcade golfers might be upset that no indicator shows how to line up the perfect shot. Ace Golf demands good technique though and believe me it's all the more addictive for it. It's also very impressive to see that the ball physics look realistic. As a player of Links on the PC for quite a while now, I've become rather sensitive to what 'proper' ball physics should look like and Ace Golf has impressed me. Putting has to be accurate and move with the correct amount of power otherwise it's not going to go in, which is great to see.

Deaf gamers will be pleased to know that Ace Golf is absolutely fine for them. The only speech in the game comes in the shape of the caddies' and golfers' rather repetitive one liners such as Hanako's excruciatingly painful 'You can do it'. Believe me there is an option to turn these off and most hearing gamers will probably do just that. The caddie's tips that you can receive are given exclusively in text so there's no problem there either.

Ace Golf is one heck of an impressive title. Sure the golfers are fictional and some might not like the Anime look of the game but the gameplay is pure magic and shames what's on offer in EA's Tiger Woods offering for the Cube and indeed Outlaw Golf on the Xbox. If you're a golf enthusiast with a GameCube or indeed just looking for a top quality title, Ace Golf comes highly recommended.

Overall Game Rating: 9.0/10
Quite simply superb. The control scheme, whilst excellent for right handers, will prove very awkward for left-handers.

Deaf Gamers comment:
One liners from the caddies and golfers are not subtitled but the caddy tips and all information is shown in text.