Even though there had been tons of golf games on consoles dating all the way back to the Atari 2600, to my reckoning, there had only been two major pro golf franchises. One is EA's PGA Tour, and the other is Links. While PGA Tour was the de facto franchise on consoles, Links was at its best on PCs, save for the fantastic Links 2004 on the original Xbox. For the longest time, I thought Links only had that one appearance on a console with all the rest being PC games, but it turns out that there was a Links game on the Sega CD. Unlike the outstanding Xbox game, the Sega CD game is pure crap.
Links: The Challenge of Golf was clearly designed to show off what the Sega CD could do that the Genesis couldn't. That means tons of FMV that's so grainy you can't tell what the hell you're looking at. While the two-person narration by Ben Wright and Steve Elkington was reasonably well-done, the video gave me a migraine.
Further, as bad as the video looked, it STILL provided a greater visual experience than the game itself. Remember how I complained about Turbo Golf's cluttered interface and ten-second view renders? Those are a friggin' gift from the gods compared to this game! Links found a way to stuff the screen even more with tons of text and gauges, pushing the actual shot view to barely 1/3 of the screen area. However, the worst part is the mandatory load time of 15-20 seconds EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU CHANGED YOUR VIEWING ANGLE!!! Unlike Turbo Golf which provided an aiming cursor, limiting the re-renders to any time you shift more than 45 degrees, turning the camera view is the ONLY way to aim in this game. In the time it took me to play nine holes of this game, I could finish TWO WHOLE ROUNDS of PGA Tour Golf 3 on the Genesis!
If you thought that there would be plenty of options and solid mechanics to ease the pain, you thought wrong. The swing mechanics borrow from Chip Shot on the Intellivision. They are a little tighter here, but I still have to wonder why they didn't just use the standard three-click method. Chip shots are available but are functionally worthless since the ball won't roll when you use them. There is support for the Genesis mouse, but do you know ANYONE that had it? Options are anemic for a game on a CD. Character customization is limited to entering a name and choosing clubs. Finally, there is only one course on the disc (Torrey Pines) which is pathetic when you remember that PGA Tour Golf 3 crammed eight full courses onto a lowly Genesis cartridge.
The biggest challenge I faced with the Sega CD iteration of Links was forcing myself to play it. This is easily one of the most wretched golf games in history! Since you can't have the Sega CD without a Genesis, you have absolutely no reason to play this; just grab ANY of the far-superior Genesis golf games instead. The only positive I can give this game was that it gave me a new respect for Links 2004 on the Xbox. That a series can turn from a turd like this to a game that can compete with sixth-gen Tiger Woods is probably the greatest miracle I had ever seen!