When the Game Boy Advance debuted in Japan, one of Konami’s many launch titles was Golf Master: Japan Golf Tour, a relatively straightforward golf game featuring big-head anime characters. ESPN Final Round Golf 2002 is based directly on its Japanese counterpart, offering a modest if unspectacular golfing experience.
The U.S. sports network branded ESPN Final Round Golf 2002 offers four modes of play: training, stroke, match and tournament. The stroke mode allows up to four players to compete in a round of 18 via the link cable or on the same system. Match play is restricted to a two-player contest, as golfers battle it out to win each hole. The tournament mode is designed for solo play, pitting players against 14 progressively difficult fictional golfers on any of the five provided courses. Last but not least, the training mode grants beginners and veterans alike the opportunity to shore up their golf skills, including driving, chipping and putting.
ESPN Final Round Golf 2002 is a very simple game of golf to learn and play. The standard three-click swing method is employed, whereby you hit the button once to start the swing meter, a second time to record the power of the shot and a third time to mark the accuracy. Once you’ve taken a few practice swings and gotten the hang of the time-tested design, it’ll take quite a miscue to shank the ball. Putting is even more basic, since accuracy is taken right out of the equation. Once you’re on the green, it’s usually not more than one or two putts before you’ll sink the ball. Even the power of the putt is generally ignored at close range.
Visually, ESPN Final Round Golf 2002 is rather uninspiring. Whereas Golf Master: Japan Golf Tour featured 14 big-head anime characters based on real-life golfers, the American version sports the same number of golfers, only more realistically proportioned, not to mention fictional in nature. There’s still a noticeable lack of animations in the game, particularly with respect to course flybys. As well, while there are five courses to choose from, there’s very little to distinguish one course from another, other than the occasional tree or sand trap, so you don’t really get a feel of playing on multiple courses. The highlight of the visual department is easily the varying weather effects, including both sunny and stormy weather, as well as the ability to play during the day or at night. The audio department is decidedly better, evidenced by ambient noises, solid sound effects and an interesting compilation of Japanese tunes.
ESPN Final Round Golf 2002 is an adequate portable game of links. It offers strong replay value but its simplistic gameplay and lacklustre visuals will likely leave hardcore golfers wanting more. If you can tolerate the flaws though, you just might enjoy a few rounds of golf.