Nester's Funky Bowling
  • Genre:
    • Sports
  • Platform:
    • Virtual Boy
  • Developer:
    • Saffire Corporation
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • US 02/26/1996
Score: 65%

This review was published on 07/03/2016.

Nester's Funky Bowling is a sports video game developed by Saffire Corporation and published by Nintendo for the Virtual Boy. It was originally released in North America on February 26, 1996, though oddly, it didn't get released anywhere else, not even Japan. This was the second-to-last game released for the system before it was promptly discontinued due to poor sales. As for who the heck is Nester, he's a fictional character from comics that were published in the now defunct Nintendo Power magazine. He used to be the magazine's mascot, but was later replaced by Mario. Nester's Funky Bowling is the first time Nester had a starring role in a video game, though it's not the first time he's been in one, as he had cameo appearances in a few other titles. Hester, Nester's "unknown twin sister," also makes her debut in this game. Anyway, the game itself isn't too shabby, but it does get repetitive after only a short while.

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If you don't know the rules of bowling, don't worry, because I'll explain them. In bowling, you swing a heavy ball so that it rolls along the ground and eventually hits the ten pins at the end of the lane. Multiple players can compete in a single game, each of them taking turns to throw balls at their own sets of pins. A single game of bowling lasts for ten "frames," which is comprised of a full round of turns from all the participating players. Every player gets up to two attempts per frame to knock down all their pins, with those pins being replenished in between frames. Knocking down all pins on the first roll is known as a "strike," and knocking them all down on the second try is called a "spare." Failing to knock everything down after two rolls is referred to as an "open" frame. When on the tenth frame, players get additional roll attempts if they get strikes or spares. Points are awarded for any pins that are knocked down, and the player with the highest score by the end of the tenth frame wins. That's it, really.

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So that's how real bowling works, but how does this game work? First, you choose either Nester or Hester as your playable character. Once in the game proper, you use the left or right directional pads to position your bowler. It's at this point that you'll probably notice the weird curved arrow meter thing in front of your character. This is the spin meter, which determines how far your ball will curve to the left or right. The spin meter will have a small vertical line sliding back and forth on it, and you press the A button to stop it at the desired spot. If you simply want the ball to go straight, then you stop the line when it's exactly at the center of the spin meter. Immediately after that, you'll see an arrow on the ground that'll gradually fill upwards. This is the power meter, and like the spin meter, you press A to stop it where you want. The fuller the power meter, the faster the ball will go. And that's how you play this game. It's very simple.

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For a game bearing the Virtual Boy's barf inducing red and black color scheme, Nester's Funky Bowling looks serviceable, but not anything more. It's not one of the worst looking Virtual Boy games, nor is it one of the best. The bowling sequences themselves look rather drab. The main issue with the visuals here is that there are too many blacks and not enough reds. Hopefully nobody takes that statement out of context. However, the graphics look considerably better during the various animations that frequently play after throws. During these animations, Nester and Hester each have different facial expressions depending on your performance, like they'll jump for joy whenever you get a strike, or get intensely mad if your ball misses the pins. There are a fair amount of animations and they do add a bit more personality to the game. While purely cosmetic, this is probably the best thing the game has going for it.

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There are only three modes to play in Nester's Funky Bowling. The primary mode is simply titled Bowl, and it's a standard ten frame game of bowling, no strings attached. Then there's Practice mode, which does as its name implies and allows you to practice your bowling abilities. In Practice, you're given the ability to customize the pin layouts, so you're able to reduce the number of pins from ten to one and anything in between. Finally, there's Challenge mode. Challenge mode challenges you with the task of getting strikes on randomly generated pin formations, with each formation being more difficult than the last. This is perhaps the most interesting mode, but unfortunately, it loses its appeal rather quickly. The same could be said about everything else in the game, as none of the modes are really that engaging. As a result of that, the game gets quite repetitive after a few rounds of bowling.

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This is the only Virtual Boy game with support for two players. Well, sort of; there was supposed to be a link cable released that would allow two Virtual Boys to connect, but the poor sales of the system prevented that from ever happening. Instead, this game uses the old method of trading a single controller back and forth to simulate a two player experience. The problem is that you'll also have to trade the Virtual Boy itself back and forth. Considering how cumbersome the Virtual Boy is, that's incredibly inconvenient. The worst part is that you'll probably have to readjust the Virtual Boy every single time you switch by pressing the select button. If you didn't know, you usually have to adjust the Virtual Boy's screens into focus by turning a dial and moving around a slider. Normally, you only have to do this once before playing a game, but if you were to constantly swap the system between two people, you'll have to do it far more often. This alone renders the two player mode in Nester's Funky Bowling nearly unplayable.

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The controls are solid and the bowling mechanics are decent, but a lack of good modes means that this game gets stale faster than French bread. The two player mode also stinks. Nester's Funky Bowling is certainly one of the better games in the Virtual Boy's lackluster library, but outside of that, it's nothing special. Plus, the Virtual Boy already had Virtual Bowling by this point, which is a Japan exclusive bowling game that's mostly better than Nester's offering. If you want a good bowling game for the Virtual Boy, you're better off going with Virtual Bowling. I can't imagine why anyone would want such a thing, though.

Word Count: 1,153

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