3DS Virtual Console | Data East / G-mode | 1 Player | Out Now | $2.99 / £2.70
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23rd April 2012; By KnucklesSonic8
Right off the bat, 9-Ball Mode serves as the basic pick-up-and-play mode for users to jump into. You'll start off with the preliminary Break Shot and then proceed to pocket all of the balls on the table in numerical order, with the sinking of the 9-Ball signifying the conclusion of the game. Using the Circle Pad or the +Control Pad will turn the ball into position as a guideline shows you where the ball will hit. Once you've decided on a direction, you simply press A to get the needle in the power meter moving and press it a second time to send the ball forward.
Determining the right spot at which to stop the aforementioned needle for can be hard to determine because of the feedback you receive. When it stops between the quarter mark and the halfway point, for example, the cue ball will move a lot slower than you might expect. Even judging the sensitive spot at which to hit the ball can be a bit tricky when you want it to go off in the opposite direction. Perhaps it would've been easier to accomplish if there was a zoom feature. That point notwithstanding, this is actually where the ability to alter the point of contact on the cue ball can make up for whatever you can't determine visually on the spot.
To do this, you simply hold the B Button and use either the Circle Pad or the +Control Pad to switch from Follow to Draw, and from Left to Right. In addition to these, you can also go past the highest Follow setting and get into the three Masse Shots, which will essentially allow for some neat backspin. Masse 2 is more risky than the first, and what plays out is almost as if the pockets have a gravitational pull. Going full blast with Masse 3 will actually send the ball flying over the board entirely, which is kind of amusing. This had me looking forward to the possibility of being able to leap over balls close together, but sadly, this is never allowed. Because of how easily these last three can backfire on you, it'll take some practice before you can use them to your advantage.
While the game might offer some minor praise on your shots in the corner of the screen, you'll notice that you're not awarded points on your performance. In like manner, you're also not given penalties for inadvertently performing a foul. Thus, the game's main mode really is just about going for a quick game of pool on your lonesome. The drive to keep playing actually stems from practicing these advanced shot types and getting better at using them effectively, but you still won't get rewarded for your efforts. I imagine if you were playing this back in the day, bragging rights would've been enough to go on, though.
With all of the above in mind, Pocket Mode will better serve players longing for something more than just a straight conversion of the arcade game. This mode brings a slight tournament style of gameplay to the fore with actual points to be earned, zone calls, a shot limit to work within, and a target total to work towards. Heading into the Pause Menu, you can view just how many points you have in comparison to the target score listed at the top of the normal play screen. Players will start at the class designated for beginners, and by racking up points, they can become a champion who's presumably revered by even professional players. What stands in your way of achieving such fame is the shot limit I mentioned earlier, which decreases by half a point each turn you take where a ball doesn't find its way into a pocket.
Other points of interest in this mode begin with the Super Ball shot -- an occasional power-up that has the potential to send the cue ball continually bouncing off walls for a short while. It may come as a surprise to learn, however, that this isn't the most exciting part of the entire package. That would have to be the zone calls mentioned before; challenges that direct you to sink a ball in the specified hole to get two more blips added to the shot limit meter. Even though the guide automatically targets the next number in the sequence, these challenges do not specify which ball you need to use. So if you're going for a sequential order in the balls you sink, then these opportunities can actually throw you off. It's actually a satisfying feeling when you manage to sink one in, but it's as equally frustrating when you're off by a very small margin. Finally, after successful completion of a round, you'll be transported to a one-shot bonus event that will have you performing trick shots using the balls provided. This could have probably been turned into a mode in itself if the team wanted, but these events can still be seen as decent breaks.
It is by no means an easy task to advance to new status levels in this mode, which actually makes Side Pocket have more to it than initially perceived. More to the point, Pocket Mode proves to be the biggest spot you can sink your time ball into, while still not serving as a replacement for any additional content. There are no real extras presented in the breakdown of modes, and with 2P Play being an inaccessible feature in this specific version, the weighting of the value seen here becomes very obvious. However, given the price, it's fair to say that the package is decent enough for the casual user.
Aside from one or two touches, the overall presentation is a bit bare. First, when it comes to the appearance of the balls, you can press the B Button to toggle how they are represented on the table (as numbers or actual balls). Small circles are placed on balls without stripes to help you see the rolling motion more clearly, but even with this, the action can still appear stiff. Instead of slowly moving along the same path as the ricocheting balls, the cue ball often stops abruptly after a fully-powered shot as it collides with another. Some may find that a bit off; same goes for the numerous times where you'll see balls blinking or the guideline stutter as it passes through a group. Thankfully, there's some pretty entertaining music as well as a comical little exchange between two characters to help make up for flaws with the other aspects of the presentation.
What we have here is a straightforward game with a couple likeable components to it that fans of the sport may enjoy entertaining themselves with. Non-fans of Pool need not apply here, but even if you're just going to follow the game's automatic guidelines all the time, you probably won't stick around for very long. On the other hand, Side Pocket can prove to be a briefly fun for those who like the sound of looking into the advanced techniques the gameplay allows for. Side Pocket is more on the simple side than other pool games you might've played in the past, and while it may not be a terribly great investment, some may actually enjoy this enough for it to be considered an okay buy.
17/30 - Okay/Average
Gameplay 6/10 - A straightforward translation, one or two parts feel a bit off, can add backspin and employ other advanced trick shots
Presentation 6/10 - A bit bare, animations aren't always that great, stiff at times, music is very pleasing, minor technical flaws
Enjoyment 3/5 - Can be mildly fun despite the simplicity of it all, satisfying to sink a challenge shot, doesn't offer much in the way of rewards
Extra Content 2/5 - Two player disabled, 9-Ball mode is for quickplay sessions only, progression of Pocket Mode gives you reason to return
Equivalent to a score of 57% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System