As I mentioned when I was reviewing the horror games on the Atari 2600, I respect developers that do things that are gutsy. Let's face it, the Sega Saturn was definitely not a 3D powerhouse like the other fifth-generation consoles. In fact, the 3D chipset was only put into the Saturn at the last minute when the Playstation's specs were released. While there are fully-polygonal games on the Saturn that look good like Panzer Dragoon, anyone can tell 3D is not one of the Saturn's strengths. So, putting the first fully-polygonal golf game on the Saturn was a gutsy move in my opinion. Fortunately, it paid off.
VR Golf '97 (known as Actua Golf in Europe and Japan) was the first big attempt to do a fully 3D golf game. The courses are fully-rendered, allowing for every view you could possibly need for your shots. The characters are polygonal, as well. Coupled with outstanding camera work, it was the first time a golf game felt like a real TV broadcast. The two-man commentary is also well-done, although the disc-reading between phrases can make the dialogue sound a little stilted.
The mechanics are very solid. The traditional three-click swing meter works well, even if the meter moves a little fast. The control for draws and fades is so perfect, I'm amazed not more golf games use it. There are eight game modes, including two tournament modes. Characters can be created with stats that are tracked in the tournament modes. All in all, this is some very good stuff.
A few deficiencies keep this game from the Pro Tour. Like I said, the Saturn doesn't handle 3D that well, and that becomes apparent when you see the rather muddy textures and the stuttering animations. Most damning of all is the fact that there are only two courses in the game. Both courses are very well-built, allowing for plenty of options to get to the hole, but two courses still seems inexcusable for a game on CD, especially since PGA Tour Golf 3 on the Genesis was able to cram in 8.
I had a lot of fun playing VR Golf '97. I just wish there was more to it. The gameplay is solid enough to recommend to anyone from beginners to masters, but the course limit really cuts down on the game's longevity. If Gremlin just added maybe two more courses, this would be one of the best golf games of the fifth-generation. As it is, it just has to settle for being the best golf game on the Saturn.