RELEASE DATE: 02/15/91 – (JP)
Battle Golfer Yui tells the bizarre story of Yui, a teenager whose superb golfing skills get her kidnapped by the mad Professor G. Professor G’s organization, the Dark Hazzard, plots to take over the world using battle golfers, Yui among them. The game doesn’t describe what a “battle golfer” is or what makes them different than regular golfers, other than some powers that enhance their golf game. Perhaps they consistently play under par and also bash skulls with nine-irons?
In the opening cinematic, Yui is being programmed to become the battle golfer known as Black Fire. Before the programming takes full effect, however, a mustachioed stranger with a machine gun busts through the lab and rescues her. Just in time, too. In these opening scenes, the game delights in showing her with little clothes on, despite the fact that she’s sixteen. I know Battle Golfer Yui was developed for Japanese audiences and standards are different there, but that didn’t make these scenes any less uncomfortable to watch.
Several days later, Yui sees a television ad for a golf tournament sponsored by the Dark Hazzard. She wonders if her friend, Ran, who was kidnapped alongside her, will be there. The game then begins with Yui out to rescue her friend and presumably destroy the Dark Hazzard.
Once Yui enters the tournament, she encounters other battle golfers, all of whom have lost their minds. Her rivals range from a young Japanese pervert, to a woman who thinks she’s a yokai in disguise, to an… old guy in a red body suit? They don’t speak normally. They call Yui names other than Yui, they don’t answer her questions, and frankly, their designs are unsettling. I’m sure the developers were aiming for humor with these interactions, but I found them more annoying than amusing.
Unfortunately, in order to progress the story and finally play golf, she has to engage with her rivals in a certain way; a process that’s more tedious than entertaining. The options provided are typical adventure menu options – Speak, Ask, Check, Think. If the option you choose doesn’t make them say the right thing, you’ll have to cycle through all the options again. It’s not terribly time-consuming, but when all you want to do is play golf, you’ll wish the game was more flexible.
Once you’re on the green, Battle Golfer Yui shifts from a weird adventure game to an eerily normal competitive golf game. The well-designed course layouts, the lighthearted music, and the spot-on golfing mechanics all point to good times ahead. The pick-up-and-play mechanics particularly impressed; there’s very little customization needed to make a good shot. The correct club for the shot is usually chosen for you (although if you want a different club, you can choose one). All you need to do is direct your shot, mind the wind, and adjust the power meter.
You play three holes with each rival. If Yui and her rival play a tie game or if Yui fails to match her opponent, the game is over. If Yui gets a better score than her rival on any given hole, she will level up and acquire SP. If Yui beats her rival, they will teach her their special moves. I didn’t acquire every move from each rival, but the ones I did get were a mixed bag. The Kamaitachi move gave me a perfect shot in an otherwise challenging course, while the Central and Pacific League moves curve the ball really far to the left or right. The latter two moves never helped me in any course, while the Kamaitachi almost made the game too easy.
Despite the superb mechanics, Battle Golfer Yui is the hardest golf game I’ve ever played. Your rivals rarely make mistakes, and even when they do, they recover quickly. You will need to learn each course and make the best shot each time you hit the ball, or you will not advance.
Thankfully, after you beat a rival, the game gives you a password. Friends, you will be so thankful for that password, particularly if you’re playing the way the game intended. I said “Screw the long passwords” and used save states in order to see more of the game, and it still took me a long time to make the shots needed to advance.
Battle Golfer Yui seems to understand that its story is ludicrous, and that’s good. At least it’s self-aware (or at least the English translation by Filler makes the game appear self-aware). Nevertheless, the over-the-top anime-inspired story and the bizarre characters didn’t appeal to me, and the game’s attempts at humor fell flat.
More importantly, Battle Golfer Yui‘s golf game demands perfection. I get it. You don’t just control a normal human golfer like Jack Nicklaus. You control a teenage golfing prodigy – a girl who’s already fantastic at golf – who’s then brainwashed to become better at golf. But here’s the problem. I’m not a battle golfer. You’re not a battle golfer. Yui and her freaky programmed friends are battle golfers. If they want to hurl gibberish at each other and destroy the links all day in order to get that one perfect shot that lets them advance, so be it. I’d rather drink an Arnold Palmer.
POINT OF INTEREST:
Battle Golfer Yui developer Santos has quite the fragmented history. Originally known as Whiteboard, the company developed a couple Japanese-only mahjong arcade games and the Space Harrier Famicom port (yeesh) before helming the infamous Mahjong Cop Ryuu for the Mega Drive. Whiteboard changed their name to Santos in 1989, developed Toki: Going Ape Spit and Battle Golfer Yui, and was purchased by Sega in 1991. Sega changed their name to Megasoft and, as Megasoft, they developed two titles: Aa Harimanada, a sumo wrestling game and… Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master?! The latter game was absolutely their crowning achievement, and not long after its release, Megasoft was merged into Sega’s own R&D departments. Presumably for a job well done.*
*thanks to SegaRetro for the info!