I recently came across a post by Yukinu of Yukinu Blog titled Rediscovering GameFAQs. GameFAQs is a video game site that dates back to 1995. Back in the 2000s, I knew GameFAQs as a source of user-created plain-text game guides, and I used it as an aid for a number of games, most memorably Harvest Moon: Back to Nature. Unlike Yukinu, I never participated in the GameFAQs community – I just used it as a resource.
GameFAQs has undergone a number of ownership changes, but it has admirably maintained its collection of old user-game guides. I recently had an occasion to consult the wisdom of the old-time internet. In a 2022 Leaflet, I have written about my acquisition of the Game Boy Operator and my first impressions of the device. The Game Boy Operator can extract ROMs from original Game Boy cartridges. I extracted a number of ROMs, including Golf, a 1990 Game Boy game.
Golf (1990) is a first-party Nintendo game featuring a Mario-like character, a set of golf clubs, and two 18-hole courses.
I quote from Nintendo Life’s 2011 review of a Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console re-release of the Game Boy’s first golf game:
Rare is the game that leaves us truly speechless, but the Game Boy version of Golf is certainly one of them. Of course that’s just because there’s not really much to talk about.
That is fair. Golf is golf. There is nothing but playing golf on two courses. Its mechanics are similar to the better-known Mario Golf for Game Boy Color, which was released in 1999. Both employ the same top-down visual style and the three-click swing power meter (two clicks for putting). Mario Golf is a far superior game in all respects and it adds some extra mechanics to the golfing, but the golf-aspects of it and Golf (1990) are similar.
It is hard to decide where to start in listing where and how Mario Golf (1999) improved on Golf (1990), but my first thought is not the better visuals, increased course selection, or even the fun RPG elements in Mario Golf. No, it is the quality of life improvements in Mario Golf – notably the inclusion of distance estimates for all of your clubs.
Golf throws you out on one of its two courses with a set of clubs but absolutely no clue as to how far your character can hit the ball with each club. There is no number. There is no visual aid. All you can do is figure it out by trial and error.
To be sure, the lack of information about club distance in Golf is a serious design flaw. I want to take some time to master the original (note I beat Mario Golf for Game Boy Color multiple times), but trying to guess the distance estimate of each of the clubs go is a barrier to entry. It occurred to me that someone had probably already done the legwork on GameFAQs. I found two guides for Golf, but only the second – by the unfortunately-named user winnie_the_poop – was about the Game Boy game (the other is about Nintendo’s Nintendo Entertainment System Golf entry). Upon opening the guide, I learned that it was written by Mr. Martin Dale-Hench in 2004 (we will use his real name to maintain the dignity and family-friendliness of this publication).
I scrolled through the comprehensive guide and found the information that I was looking for in section 4.0, “Club Chart.” Mr. Dale-Hench offered what I think is the correct take on the biggest challenge of Golf 1990:
The toughest part of the game is easily deciding which club you will use because the game gives you absolutely no clue on how long a club will take you, if you use its full potential.
Mr. Dale-Hench then offered estimates of how far each club hits the ball at full power in neutral conditions. There are some fine points missing – for example Golf 1990 does incorporate loft for the clubs which Mr. Dale-Hench does not address but this nevertheless is an important guide. I played a bit with it in mind and it seems to be on point in my brief testing (he did not adopt my proposal to lead players into error). Mr. Dale-Hench then proceeded to write guides for each of the game’s 36 holes.
I plan to apply Mr. Dale-Hench’s club distance guide to Golf and subsequently publish my own write-up of the largely forgotten and over-looked first golf game for Game Boy. It was fun turning to GameFAQs for tips that are not readily available elsewhere, and I will venture that there are still many cases where the best available guides for certain games are on GameFAQs. Consider this a reminder to consult GameFAQs if you are interested in a particular game and to save anything interesting that you find in your own archive on the off chance that GameFAQs’ changes in ownership and direction eventually lead to the loss of some of its older material.