Posted on May 5th, 2011 6 comments
Maker: Naxat Soft
Release Date: 8/10/89
Price: 5500 yen
Media: HuCard (2 Mbit)
PC Engine FAN Score: 19.34 / 30.00
Kōgien: “A total of six billiards games are available for play. Each one is playable in action, simulation and techique modes, letting you enjoy the experience from practice to actual play.”
When I think of pool, chiefly I think about being drunk in exciting, exotic locales. The last time I played pool was at a bar in lovely Breckenridge, Colorado, where I got involved in a game with an Englishman and an Irishman who spent the entire time whining that billiards is for addled baboons and snooker was a far superior table sport. My technique was the best out of all of us, no doubt thanks to my advantage in age and erudite dual-wield skills with a pint. These are abilities I lacked the time I played pool previous, Austin circa 2004, on an Acclaim press junket about four months before they filed for bankruptcy. It was on Fifth Street somewhere and — wahey, kind of like Break In — it wasn’t pretty.
(My paragraphs, they always wrap themselves up like a neat little package in the end. That’s the Magweasel difference.)
Billiards sims have never been common. It’s understandable. Until Jimmy White’s ‘Whirlwind’ Snooker in 1991, they all looked exactly the same — straight overhead view of the table, a bunch of little balls, nothing to stimulate you visually. They were all realtime geometry homework. After Jimmy White…well, it was the same thing, except in 3D. I never quite understood it, but in Europe, at least, they go crazy for it.
There was sort of an audience for Break In in 1989, though, enough that Famicom Tsushin actually scored the game 30 out of 40 points (at a time when this still meant something). But to modern eyes, we may as well be playing Trick Shot on the 2600. There’s no story mode, nothing to liven up the action; just a lot of little balls on the screen. (There is a 3D targeting display on the bottom, but it’s tiny and of limited use.) The audiovisual atmosphere is there, from the sepia-toned competitor portraits — most wearing the all-important white shirt and vest that apparently identifies you as a cool billiards guy — to the lounge music that tends to permeate this genre of game.
This is one of the few pool games to include a carom game — yotsudama, a Japanese varient on 4-ball pictured on the left above — but you really don’t care, trust me.
Break In would be a very obscure release were it not for its worldwide Virtual Console relaunch in 2008 as part of the Kaga Create package. It tended to score very poorly, although judging by IGN’s review (which whines about how there’s no way to determine the numbers on each ball, a feature you activate by pressing the Select button), very few outlets cared enough about virtual billiards to give the game much of a chance. And neither would I. Pool is something to play with strangers, on vacation, drinking beer. Everyone knows that.