#566 – Side Pocket

                              

                                                                     Cyndi Lauper cheers on Rick Astley from afar.

 

                      

                                                        The City Master is ordering a milk on the rocks, just because.

 

PLAYERS: 1-2 alternating

PUBLISHER: Namco

DEVELOPER: Data East

GENRE: Pool

RELEASE DATE: June 1987

 

NES pool simulators are a curious lot. Fantasy titles like Lunar Pool take place in space and feature adjustable gravity, while horribly realistic nightmares like BreakTime: The National Pool Tour overachieve with multiple modes. Amongst these billiard-slapping vagabonds is Side Pocket, a pool game that keeps to itself and is all the better for it.

 

Kickin’ it solo stick? Turn on Steely Dan and play a Pocket Game (they don’t call you Kid Charlemagne just ’cause you look like you’re fifteen). The goal of the Pocket Game is to become the City Champion. Then the State Champion. Then the USA Champion. And finally… the World Champion. Reaching new heights of excellence requires you to woo the waitresses at each tournament, listen to Aja as much as you can stomach, and rack up as many points as possible. Points are given if: you sink balls at all, in a particular order (ball 1-2-3, etc.), if you don’t miss a shot, or if you hit the bonus star that pops up from time to time. Should you become the World Champion, perhaps you should invite a friend over to see who the real Kid Charlemagne is. Two-player modes include a standard Pocket Game and a 9-Ball Game. Trading quips with a second billiards player is aces, but single-player pocket slamming is worthwhile as well. Side Pockets succeeds because it’s unassuming, cool, and sticks to the basics. Other pool offerings should take a cue.

 

B

 

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  • Though I do love this game for the reasons you mention, it has two glaring faults in that there are only about five angles to hit each ball, making some very basic shots impossible, and the relative weakness of the shooter. Even the hardest hitting breaks don’t send but a few balls anywhere.

    The SNES version shares these faults, though has a better presentation.

  • Side Pocket 2 (aka Minnesota Fats: Pool Legend) on the Genny is probably my favorite iteration of this game, but I’m always down for a game of Side Pocket on any console/arcade cabinet with the garish green and teal bezels.

  • @deathbytroggles: yeah, I noticed the ball didn’t hit as hard as it should have, but failed to mention it. Good catch.

    @Matthew Conway: Do you watch Simpsons? Everytime I see Minnesota Fats, I think of Homer calling himself “Springfield Fats.”

    • No, I can’t say I’ve watched the Simpsons since the early 90’s when the Simpsons Arcade Game was all the rage. It amazes me sometimes that the show is still going.