Review: Side Pocket (3DS eShop / GB)

Dead ball

The great thing about the Virtual Console is that it allows people to experience games that they somehow missed out on the first go around and encourages discovery of forgotten and overlooked gems. The flip side is that not everything dug up has aged particularly well, like Data East's portable version of once-esteemed billiards game Side Pocket. Its physics and general lack of competition may have made it a shark back in 1990, but 21 years on it's dead in the water.

Virtual billiards live and die by their physics. Since the whole of the game is about predicting and controlling the angle and velocity of spheres, having wonky physics can kill a game of pool just as fast as a horrible jump mechanic can a platformer.

Nothing feels right in Side Pocket. Breaks on full-power send the cue ball hurtling towards inevitable impotence, stopping dead while the pack shuffles around and possibly throws you a bone by sending a corner ball rolling in a strange direction. Lining up angles is next to impossible too as the balls never seem to collide or react as expected. You may as well be hurling a rock at bags of sand.

In light of this, it seems pointless to go on about the ill fit of putting a game reliant on color discernibility on a four-tone grey screen, or its functional but bland numeral workaround, or its lack of link cable support on 3DS, or its incredibly and unfairly demanding tournament modes. Because nothing feels right, its depiction of 8-Ball and 9-Ball are some of the most not-fun times to be had on Virtual Console.


Side Pocket on Game Boy is a relic best left unearthed. Instead of spending money on it, go to a pool hall and get hustled by a real person as you'll at least feel like you had a say in losing.

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