By Tibe

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Here are Irem and SNK, face to face with their respective golf games released in 1990! Top Player's Golf is one of the first batch of games on the Neo Geo. SNK released the great Fighting Golf a few years before, and here it's a brand new title, running on a strong new support, much more powerful. Irem meanwhile, tries its first 'golf' experience in arcade with Major Title. The game runs on the M-84, which is nothing else than a M-72 packing a few subtle changes. Surprising as it may seem, this motherboard prior to the mythical M-92 displays a much higher screen resolution: 384x256! Which is the only advantage on the sheet on the SNK hardware, which holds the upper hand on all other characteristics. The 12 megs of Major Title face Top Player's Golf's 62 megabytes. An opposition that feels like an execution, but it would be forgetting that Irem's designers are the same ones who'll give birth six years later, to the legendary Neo Turf Masters ...

GRAPHISME

Two good-looking golf games, with diametrically different styles. The explosion of colors, one is even tempted to say vulgarity of colors -as they are many and flashy here- is opposed to sobriety. Both sobriety of line, end, just, what is definite, but also on the colors: it is a bit bland, too bad! A balance between the two games would have been perfect. On the one hand, Top Player's Golf throws with his flood of bright colors and gradients, on the other Major Title does not really invite to party with its very neutral tones. Nevertheless, the trait is more talented and all class. The fact remains that TPG offers more scenery, more intermediate screens and finally more detail thanks to its powerful zooms.

TOP PLAYER'S GOLF............. 85%

 MAJOR TITLE.......................... 79% 

ANIMATION

Here again, Top Player's Golf opts for exuberance: zooms in abundance during the intro, then every time on the playground and the ball, and a huge zoom when ball lands on the green. Suffice to say that SNK wanted to inform players that their console was managing this function perfectly: that's it! Besides that, the players' moves are broken down, the scrollings fast; sea moves, and the effects of the ball on the grass, water or bunkers is well made. Major Title doesn't feature all this stuff, but like Neo Turf Masters later, the ground-seen face-is modeled in a rather neat pseudo-3d. The gestures of the golfers are of equivalent quality to its rival, the zoom on the ball is there (but not the screen zooms, bad!). And about scrollings, there's no complaints. What makes the superiority of SNK here is the number of details both on the field, during the intermediate phases and of course the phenomenal amount of zooms. At this, the soft of Irem opposes a very modest animation without any surprise.

TOP PLAYER'S GOLF............ 92%

  MAJOR TITLE........................ 70% 

SOUND

The soundtrack of Major Title is even more obsolete than the animation. However, the themes are more subtle than those of TPG -and surely less heady, after a while!- but the sound effects are downright means, even back in those days. Impact sounds of the ball are all basic and far from realistic, while the few vocals and crowd noises are sizzling to perfection. Top Player's Golf true to its style here, is still the foot in it. Legion of vocals with excellent quality, please! Elevator musics worthy of a true respectable golf game, and very good sound effects on the field, except for that sound when the ball gets in the air. You understood it, the Neo Geo takes the lead on the audio part.

TOP PLAYER'S GOLF............. 79%

 MAJOR TITLE......................... 54% 

REPLAY VALUE

Major Title offers up to four players to compete in stroke play (everyone playing for the score in a competition), and a solo part in tournaments, but also the match play for two players (each hole won, no matter away from score). There is unfortunately only one course and a single golfer to play: it is therefore very limited! Top Player's Golf was a reference at the time: three game modes (Stroke Play, Match Play and Nassau Game), four selectable golfers, and two different eighteen-holes courses! Not bad, especially since the designers have allowed some fantasy fun enough on some holes! Needless to say more, it is way above Major Title that still have its  four players game though.

TOP PLAYER'S GOLF............. 89%

  MAJOR TITLE......................... 68% 

GAMEPLAY

In Top Player's Golf, it's possible before each shot to see a map of the full hole, a close-up of the green , and a global view -perfect for setting the direction of the shot. You can see the wind direction and strength based on the clouds, but no numerical measure is given (whatever be realistic!). Three woods, ten irons and a putter are available (same for MT), and the caddie can be checked at any time, which even offers a little speech at the beginning of each hole. Once ready, we move to 'Shot': once set the orientation, you can access the power gauge. The blue area performs low-powered shots, ideal for approaches. The short brown zone performs a full power stroke, while the surrounding green areas are reserved for the spins. Top spin or backspin can be added with the control stick. Every golfer has a more or less rapid gauge, more or less forgiving inaccuracies. It is rather difficult to be precise with this system, but probably not impossible with a little practice. Putts are basic: the slope of land is shown in a small window, and all the greens are flat... In Major Title, you can't scroll the field and examine the green: there's only the map on the right that can help. At the bottom of the screen, four parameters can be set with the B button: club, direction, spin and power. A 'Spin' gauge, (whose appearance and speed vary depending on the parameters of the field) is active until you decide to start your swing. This determines top spin or back, knowing that the white line represents the neutral and the red areas, a missed shot. About putting, the field can lean but also bow in different directions. The power must be adjusted finely enough to get the ball in the hole. Ultimately, Irem's game offers a much more serious interface leaving less place for chance: it's really amazing! Once assimilated, it's fairly comprehensive and above all practical.

TOP PLAYER'S GOLF............. 80%

  MAJOR TITLE......................... 89% 

CONCLUSION

A much tighter duel than we could expect, as the game of Irem was pretty surprising. Not looking like anything special, it's still well thought out and packs a smart interface, simple and effective. Also to its credit, the four-player action and a well-proportioned difficulty on 1-P game. On the other hand, Major Title is a bit dull and lacks luster: it's too discreet and the realization is simplistic. The interface makes the performance to be simpler, more complete and better thought than Top Player's Golf's one, but now, SNK's production looks and sounds way better. Colors, zooms, vocals... its realization is a good notch above, no doubt about it. What applies to TPG's victory in this comparison, is indeed its life and replay value, with two courses, four golfers and three game modes, where MT has only the bare minimum to oppose.

TOP PLAYER'S GOLF

86%

 

MAJOR TITLE

75% 


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