Super Nintendo, NES & GameBoy tomfoolery;

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Up from (Super) Obscurity

Back when I wrote my second article (about a bowling video game) I mentioned that all I want out of obscure Super Nintendo games is to find a sort of "sand box" game:
To me, that means a game where I can pursue one main activity (be it bowling, competing in the Winter or Summer Olympic Games, or learning why to equip a hat), but I can stop along the way to smell the roses...perhaps I can customize my in-game avatar, chat with some of the friendly game-world denizens, or at least enter a specific name for my character.
Unfortunately this week there'll be NONE of that. Instead, buckle up for disappointment with...
CHAMPIONSHIP POOL (as presented by the Billiard Congress of America!)
I'm not sure who the Billiard Congress of America is, but their title screen is a little underwhelming. I mean, who uses System font? *coughcough*
Anyway, we're started off with a bunch of gameplay options. To get the hang of the controls, I thought I'd start with:
Ok, so that is kind of funny...though this is the first Super Nintendo game I've seen that's boasted about its weight. Anyway, let's look at the different ways of looking at the pool table!
Default view -- let's call it "overhead"
Zoomed-y-in view, but still overhead...
Neat Awkward-Tilted View...should be familiar to fans of Solstice:
Yeah, that's great...but how do I hit the ball?
Well, here Championship Pool has some tricks up its sleeve! Instead of following the unwritten rule of game mechanics of every golf/pool/bowling game ever, you don't use the left and right buttons to aim, then press the button once to wind up, then press button again to lock in the sliding-scale of strength to put behind your shot.
Instead you get to point to the exact spot on the table where you want the cue ball to go...and every time you point at a different location, it shows an animation of how the cue ball will get to that point, and where the ball it hits will go to after that:
Once the computer has confirmed that you will sink the ball, you press the button again to fire away. It makes you wonder why they even bother having you aim; why not just a "press the A button to win" feature?
Really, this sort of kills the whole game for me, and I end up trying to pick a target spot without particularly watching where the trails end up going, so I can just kind of aim and let fly, as if I'm competing at a sport where skill is important.
I guess I could end the article here, but I took so many more screenprints!
So, aside from letting you choose your aim until IT'S CONFIRMED that you're going to sink the ball, what else can you do?
Well, remember the other trivial details in pool, like how hard you want to hit the ball? That's all managed in a sub-menu, of course!
Sub-menus also guard all the finer points of pool, like hitting the cue ball off-center with your pool cue* or jabbing it in any number of funky ways to make wacky things happen (like the cue ball flying over another ball, or flying out of this cartridge entirely and landing in a good video game).
*: a.k.a., "the stick that the bad guy's chief henchman in Road House used to beat people up"
Well, that's kind of a, what can you do outside of "Freestyle"?
Wayyyy ahead of you! Championship Pool also lets you see THIS:
Yes, if you need a game which can show you a static picture of a computer-generated shady pool hall in a potentially dangerous part of town, featuring Jaws-era Richard Dreyfuss scratching his back against a lamp post, THE BILLIARD CONGRESS OF AMERICA has you covered!
I am, of course, kidding: this still-rendered image isn't a feature of the game, it's the load-screen of the "Tournament" mode, which then proceeds to lay these heavy words on you:
Tough opponents, eh? Well, I don't know about that -- with whatever cyberpunk-style implants that I have which allow me to unerringly predict if my shot is going to succeed or not, I'M a pretty tough opponent, MYSELF! But let's see what other poor shlubs are here to feel my cybernetic wrath...
Ok, uh...hi, worthy opponent Randy! Nice 'do! Are you going to get back together with "n' Play" going to make another House Party movie any time soon?
On to the first match of this SINGLE ELIMINATION TOURNAMENT!
Next we see the most fun and lovingly-animated part of the entire game, which I'm going to do an injustice by abbreviating from its original 10-second glory: THE COIN FLIP to determine who breaks first!
The fifty-fifty odds of getting to break first is the best chance of success going to have in the whole tournament. Because after you take your shot(s) and miss, you see first this screen:
then you're introduced to the downfall of this game as an attempted form of entertainment:
They don't even show you your opponent shooting! Evidently, the ball moving across the table, identically to how it does when YOU shoot, is a special effect TOO EXPENSIVE TO PROGRAM.
And they think the phrase "TIME WARP SIMULATOR" at the bottom of the screen will confuse us to the point where this doesn't seem cheap and irritating. YOU'RE NOT FOOLING ANYONE, AMERICAN BILLIARD CONGRESS! I'm TOTALLY voting a straight anti-incumbent ticket during the next American Billiard Congressional Election Cycle.
So, anyway; now it's your shot again. Of course Randy the computer player has probably cleared half the table by now...but because you weren't allowed to watch, you have to scan the table carefully to see what balls remain, and which ones you want to shoot for.
This takes a few seconds, because the best way to see the whole table is the "overhead" view, and from that altitude its difficult to differentiate the stripes form the solids.
As I've mentioned, the precise shot preview feature saps all the fun out of the game, so I try to free-hand a shot without watching the computer-generated trails and inevitably miss. Then you get to see THIS message:
Uh, so I lost, and it didn't even let me see when or how? What, was I too busy standing out in front of the pool hall hangin' with Computer Generated Imagery Richard Dreyfuss to watch my opponent play in this very vital SINGLE ELIMINATION tournament? Darn that "Time Warp!"
More importantly, what am I going to do now? I've been ELIMINATED in the most harsh way possible in a sporting event: by SINGLE ELIMINATION.
I guess it's back to the main menu and...
What the hell?! Ok, Championship Pool, I didn't quit on you when you showed me exactly what any shot I could think of was going to do before I had to shoot...
I didn't quit when you hid all my enemy's moves under the guise of TIME WARP SIMULATION...
and I didn't quit when my opponent ran the table on his second turn; but now you've crossed the line!
In my world, "Single Elimination" still means something. It means something to me, and it means something to Computer Generated Imagery Richard Dreyfuss.
Right, buddy?
— carlmarksguy, 2012-06-08
Saints be praised that it isn't "My Life in Ruins" era Richard Dreyfuss. (god that movie was stupid) If there was an option to disable the auto-telepathy, and maybe they bothered to SHOW YOU YOUR OPPONENT'S PLAY, this actually might have been a good game.
Yeah, there MAY be a "less psychic pool shooting" option (I know there is in Freestyle, I didn't see it in Tournament play WHERE IT MATTERS!). Also I totally agree, hiding your opponents shots makes the game feel like MAN VS. NUMBERS rather than a game of pool. I don't get it, but that bowling game hides your opponents turn, too. I don't care if you don't have a way to show the CPU guy starting their shot, but at least show the last few seconds of the shot/bowl so I get a sense for what happened without looking at stats!
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