When you start playing Japan Pro Golf Tour 64 you're greeted by a beautifully atmospheric introduction movie on a playfield with a tune reminiscent of that in the Nintendo 64 Zelda games, very nice. Most of the game is in English, so there's no big learning-curve like with some of the other Nintendo 64DD games.
And off to the different game modes we are, firstly there's the big one: 'network opening' which, at one point, allowed you to go online and play against three other humans in a tournament via Randnet (which we'll get to later). In 'Qualify Tour' you do the same with your own character. Other options include, 'grand opening' where you grandly go up against Japan's grandest golfers to be the ultimate golf champion, yet I somehow always end up last and not feeling too grand! 'Career mode' doesn't need any interpretation. 'Match play' is the offline 1 to 2 player battle variant, and 'stroke play' is the four player variant in this game, here you logically stride for the best score and not as I do it, the fastest play to the hole while getting stuck in every corner. You golf experts out there know the drill in all these modes I'm sure.
This game was only available for two weeks through credit card pre-ordering from Nintendo of Japan's online store. Estimated Nippon sales say only 3,000 to 10,000 copies of this game could have ever been released! Sadly the Nintendo 64DD didn't sell too well (only in between 13,000 to 15,000 units) so the online service went offline within months. It was the only N64DD game that was playable online, which certainly set it apart and is sad to lose it.
What I'll probably never understand is why in this game, like all golf games, the crowds and surrounding attributes like bushes are always either flat pictures or a distant/close-by blur? With last generation racing games I can understand them trying to cut back on 3D characters on maps to keep the frame rate up, but this is a golfing game and it has the added power of the expansion pack at it's disposal, so why they didn't add more 3D is beyond me. Only reason for these I can find is that the game must've been developed for a 1998 64DD launch and it got moved up by almost three years without any tweaking. If that's the case then the game's engine is a remarkable accomplishment. It's smooth and does the job well, real shadows and drifting skies included.
The gameplay is intuitive and fine-tuned. After selecting one of the many existing Japanese courses (and of course a real pro and club to go with it) you are ready to jump in. Keep your eye on the wind & hitting/putting direction and on what point you hit the ball. Now stay clear from bunkers, bushes, and water; and with a little analog stick-pulling-power-swinging practice you'll do fine. Smooth controls from beginning to end. Sure, some of the onscreen hints are in Japanese, but even a novice player like myself had a good time with it all.