Retro Corner – Actua Golf / VR Golf ’97

actua golfRory McIlroy PGA Tour launched this week, the latest in a long string of EA golf titles. Only this time it swapped out Tiger Woods for the Northern Irishman, Rory McIlroy. The game was somewhat slated for its lack of key features that were missing, although the gameplay and graphics were still rather impressive. With that, we reminisce about an old PlayStation and Sega Saturn golf title, Actua Golf. Or VR Golf ’97, if you live in the United States.

Releasing in 1996 and developed by Gremlin Interactive, Actua Golf was actually a pretty fun sports title, allowing up to four friends to play together on multiple controllers or the same controller. Graphically, it wasn’t great at the time, and like any other sports title, they don’t age very well at all. The first thing you will probably remember is the menu music, which to this day, still loops in my head every now and then. You would spend so long in the menus adjusting your golfer’s look as well as their name, that the tune would just stealthily sneak into the back of your brain and rest there for eternity.

Funnily enough, looking at the main menu, I can recall when we first got this game into our home, that we didn’t know how to play a tournament or any other game mode. You had to press the A or X button over the word ‘Practice’ to change it to Skins, Strokeplay, Match Play or a Pro Tour, which was great, offering so many ways to enjoy the sport, which in the end played the same. Not a golf dig, I promise!

Once you choose one of the various golf courses to play on, you can choose to walk the hole, allowing you to traverse the hole in first person, and it looks hilarious now, in hindsight. You can also select a narrated flyby, which tells you about the hole, which was always amusing, at a time when voice recordings were such a new thing in video games on consoles. Hooray for cd quality music and voice recordings!

actua golf gameplayWhen you’re finished admiring the beautiful graphics and your surroundings, you press C or Circle on the PlayStation controller to bring up your HUD, showing the map, the direction you’re going to hit the ball, the wind direction, and the swing meter. Press the button again to start swinging, then again on the line to choose your power, and then again when the bar comes back down. Hitting it right on the button ensures the best accuracy, but it wasn’t as easy as it looked!

Actua Golf did make use of a handy little putting grid as well, unfortunately not shown in this video above, which gave you a decent indication of how flat or slanted the green was. Actua Golf spawned two sequels, which only appeared on PlayStation and not the Saturn.

Golf games have come a long way over the years, and although this doesn’t look like much now, it was a great game in its time.

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