Neo Turf Masters (known in Japan as Big Tournament Golf) is a golf simulation game developed by Nazca and released by SNK for arcades (running Neo Geo MVS hardware) in early 1996, the Neo Geo AES on March 1, 1996, and the Neo Geo CD on May 1, 1996.
The first of two games (the other being Metal Slug) developed by Nazca (prior to being acquired by SNK), Neo Turf Masters is known for its simplistic gameplay, difficult courses, and a unique continue system (where exceptional performance rewards the player with additional game time). It is the spiritual successor to the team's earlier Irem golf games: Major Title and The Irem Skins Game.
A mobile port was developed by SNK and released for the Neo Geo Pocket Color on July 31, 1999. The original game was digitally re-released by D4 for the Wii (via Virtual Console) on August 18, 2008, by DotEmu for both iOS and Android devices on June 30, 2016, and by HAMSTER (as part of the Arcade Archives series) for both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on February 23, 2017. It was included in some Humble NEO GEO Bundles starting in late 2015 for the PC, Mac, and Linux (both downloadable, with ROMs included, and on modern browsers). It was also included in the 2008 SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1 compilation for the PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, and Wii.
As far as golf simulation games go, Neo Turf Masters is fairly similar to the traditional offering. The player has four different courses to play on, located in a few international locations: Germany, Japan, USA, and Australia. Each course has 18 holes, naturally, totaling 72 holes of golf. The Neo Geo CD version has a hidden fifth course (Scotland), totaling 90 holes of golf.
The player has control over their golfer's aim (by moving the joystick left or right) and the curvature of their shot (by pressing B for left hooks and C for right slices), adjusting for the wind and course conditions. By moving the joystick up and down, players can choose which club to use. Each swing requires simple control (two taps of the A button) over two meter types: the Power Meter (which controls how far the shot goes) and the Height Meter (which controls the vertical arc of the swing). Along with controlling how much wind affects the ball, the Height Meter also determines if the swing misses (penalizing the player). On rougher terrains, both meters move at a faster, more difficult rate, and the chance of the swing missing is greater.
In the base arcade version of the game, one coin yields three holes, but successful play is rewarded with more holes, while poor performance results in a reduction of the holes left. This can be adjusted by the arcade operator.
Similar to The Irem Skins Game, each of the game's six playable golfers have different strengths and weaknesses:
- Driving - Determines the base distance of each club. For example, the 1-Wood of the weakest Driving golfer (Adams) has the base of 250 yards, while the strongest Driving golfer (Almeida) has the base of 280 yards.
- Accuracy - Determines the base speed of both the Power Meter and Height Meter. Golfers with a stronger Accuracy rating have better control over both meters.
- Skill - Determines the size of the Height Meter itself, allowing greater control over the shot's curvature.
- Recovery - Determines the size of the "miss zones" of the Height Meter, which increase on rougher terrain.
- Putting - Determines how much control players have over the Putting Meter. Golfers with a stronger Putting rating have their meter broken down into smaller pieces, reducing the risk of over-shooting and under-shooting.
- George Spinner - The American "Young Hero", Spinner has no strengths or weaknesses.
- Thomas Stewart - The British "Technician", Stewart is the most versatile for both easy and difficult swings (with great control over his Power and Height Meters, even in rougher terrain), but does not have the shot distance of most golfers and has slight difficulty with putting.
- Frank Adams - The Australian "Veteran", Adams is slightly more difficult to use (as he has the weakest shot and weak control over all meters), but has an easier time dealing with rougher terrain.
- Robert Landolt - The German "Shot Maker", Landolt is easier to use when in simple situations (as he has the most control over all meters and has a very strong shot), but has a more difficult time dealing with rougher terrain.
- Fernand Almeida - The Brazilian "Power Golfer", Almeida is a risk-reward golfer. If players can handle his tough difficulty (as he has the weakest Accuracy, Skill, Recovery, and Putting stats of the entire game), they can manage long par-5 holes with ease (as he has the longest Drive in the game).
- Toyoshiege Takeno - The Japanese "Putt Master", Takeno has the best control of his putting but has a tougher time elsewhere (due to his weak Accuracy and Recovery stats).