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Special Tee Shot is a golf game for the Super Famicom, released exclusively for the Satellaview modem peripheral. Though not a part of the Kirby game series, it holds a very important connection to it, as it was the basis for Kirby's Dream Course.
Development & release history
Special Tee Shot was originally planned to be released as a cartridge for the Super Nintendo/Super Famicom system in multiple regions. Preview materials for the game appeared in North American gaming magazines in the early 1990s, and it was advertised as an upcoming title on the packaging of some SNES systems.
Although development of Special Tee Shot apparently reached completion at this time, Nintendo chose to withhold the game from release, perhaps feeling that it lacked a strong enough identity of its own to stand out from other golf games. The result was that HAL Laboratory was commissioned to create a similar game of their own in collaboration with Nintendo EAD. It would take advantage of the established setting and characters of HAL Laboratory's Kirby game series, while using the same engine and basic gameplay design as Special Tee Shot.
Prior to Kirby's Dream Course, HAL Labs had already played an instrumental role in the development and refinement of the entire golf video game genre. The company's experience with making golf games began with Satoru Iwata's programming work on Golf for the NES, and continued through their Hole in One series, which saw 6 entries between 1984 and 1991. The final game in the series, HAL's Hole in One Golf, had been the first golf game released for the SNES, meaning that HAL had already proven their ability to create such a game on the hardware.  HAL's accumulated experience with the genre may have influenced Nintendo's decision to choose them for the project, and by association, the inclusion of their character Kirby.
Despite the initial cancellation of Special Tee Shot, the game was eventually finalized and released as a broadcast download for the Satellaview add-on for the Super Famicom in Japan - the same method of distribution used for the Kirby's Toy Box sub-games. Several contradictory reports of its original broadcast date exist, but it is known to have been made available to Satellaview users via the St. GIGA satellite radio service during certain periods between 1996 (the finished game's copyright year) and 1999. Special Tee Shot has never been made available outside Japan, nor re-released in any region. It has not been referenced or acknowledged in any Kirby games to date.
There are a great number of differences between Special Tee Shot and Kirby's Dream Course, enough to consider the former not merely a prototype, but a completely separate game.
Differences between Special Tee Shot and Kirby's Dream Course
- Though still a whimsical and fantastical take on the sport, Special Tee Shot follows the rules of real golf much more closely than its successor. There are no enemies to defeat, and the hole has a preset location on every map, making for more linear strategy.
- There is also no health or lives system, as was present in Kirby's Dream Course. The player's performance is entirely determined by a traditional golf score: each hole has its own par, and stroke penalties are given for falling out of bounds. To unlock the next course, the player must earn a low enough overall score on a course to win a trophy (bronze, silver or gold). Failing to sink any hole in nine shots results in an instant game over.
- The player character is a red ball with eyes, who is significantly smaller than Kirby (except when "inflating" before a shot). He is joined by a red and white "hat" character who marks the placement of the hole, and a yellow ball who displays the number of strokes remaining till par. Also, the red ball morphs into the number of his stroke briefly before each shot, though he will only show a deflated expression after failing to make par.
- The controls for aiming a shot have a much finer degree of precision, more along the lines of those used in games that try to simulate golf realistically. The ball's physics are also lighter than those of Kirby, and more comparable to a real golf ball.
- Holding the L or R button when aiming a shot will display the direction and angle of the shot in exact degrees.
- The game has a completely different set of courses from Kirby's Dream Course. There are four normal courses, four Extra courses, and a very challenging Gold course that is unlocked upon attaining a gold trophy in every other course. Kirby's Dream Course lacks a special last course beyond its Extra variations.
- Unlike in Kirby's Dream Course, every map in the game has an introduction screen showing the name and number of the hole, the par for the hole, and a simplified miniature representation of the map. Names are often descriptive of the design of the map.
- Instead of being solid green lines, the barriers commonly found on the edges of maps are made up of chains of purple dots that appear to have lots of empty space in between, although this is not so. Their design was likely altered for Kirby's Dream Course so that their boundaries would not be confusing or unclear.
- A number of environmental gimmicks found in Special Tee Shot are not present in Kirby's Dream Course, such as an undulating wave of terrain that carries the ball along, suspended net trampolines, giant potted flowers that bloom when hit, and different types of large pinball bumpers. In maps where bumpers are enclosed by barriers, they can cause the ball to ricochet for a far longer time than would ever be possible in Kirby's Dream Course.
- While Copy Abilities are not present, several types of power-up switches found on the courses will produce different effects when touched by the ball. These effects include the opening of the hole being widened, the strength of a shot being increased, and the ball temporarily gaining the ability to "magnetize" into the hole by merely passing over it.
- When adjusting the curvature of a shot from left to right, the dot representing the direction and strength of the curve on the gauge must be stopped roulette-style, just like the top spin/back spin gauge in Kirby's Dream Course. It cannot be adjusted manually by increments.
- The score sheet for the entire course being played is displayed on the main HUD, not just after clearing a hole.
- The soundtrack is made up of original compositions instead of new renditions of existing Kirby series themes. It has a jazz style.
- There are two different multiplayer modes: 2 Player Stroke and 2 Player Match. While Kirby's Dream Course's multiplayer was limited to selection of four special courses that were not available in the single-player campaign (and their Extra variations), these modes play out across the same courses used in solo play. The differences between the two modes are mainly reflected in how the final score is tallied, whether by total score or the number of individual holes won by each player. The players' balls cannot bump into each other and push each other around as in Kirby's Dream Course, and are replaced with marking dots during the other player's turn.
- Like in real golf, wind is a factor affecting the movement of the ball. It can be set between three levels of strength, or a randomly adjusting level. Wind is normally only present in the game's two-player modes, but after completing the Gold Course, it can be enabled in single-player for an additional challenge.
- The credits list of Special Tee Shot includes the signatures of each member of the development team, all written using the in-game drawing tool. The scoring statistics of each staff member are also listed, as if they were present on the game's leaderboard. However, these seem to be either assigned at random, or as representative of the staff's prestige at Nintendo (for instance, Shigeru Miyamoto is given Level 99 at the Gold class).
- Some (likely placeholder) graphics from Special Tee Shot were left unused in the Japanese ROM data of Kirby's Dream Course, as an unintended hint of the game's origins. They were removed for the US and European versions.