Side Pocket

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Side Pocket
Side Pocket NES cover.jpg
Arcade flyer
Genre(s)Cue sports
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Side Pocket (Japanese: サイドポケット, Hepburn: Saido Poketto) is a pocket billiards video game originally released into arcades by Data East in 1986. The arcade version was eventually ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System and Game Boy, while an enhanced remake was later released on the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and the Sega Game Gear. The game also spawned two sequels, as well as arcade spin-off series titled Pocket Gal.

G-Mode currently owns the intellectual property rights to the Side Pocket series, and licenses these games globally.


Side Pocket during play (Mega Drive/Genesis version), showing a lit-up pocket.

The primary play mode, called "Pocket Game", is a straight pool game set within a limited number of lives; the player must achieve a predetermined score to advance through four or five levels, each with increasing number of balls. The player earns points by potting balls, potting balls on consecutive shots, and potting balls in numerical order. On occasion, a flashing star appear in a pocket, and if the player pots a ball into that pocket in the same shot, a bonus will be awarded in the form of points, extra lives or a bonus round. One life is lost if the player scratches or fails to pot a ball in two consecutive shots.

In the two-player mode, the player can choose between Pocket Game or 9-Ball Game. In two-player Pocket Game, the game plays similarly, except the two players take turns and there are no lives; if one player misses or scratches, control of the ball simply changes to the other player. In 9-Ball Game, each player have three lives and one life is lost if a foul is committed. However, the lives will be restored if the player pots a ball on the next turn.

In the Game Boy and Game Gear version, there is also an additional practice mode, which is essentially a single-player version of 9-Ball Game.

A variety of trick shot challenges are also available to the player(s), to earn additional points or extra life, requiring the player pot all balls into select pockets using a single shot. The player may put various spins on the ball, such as left and right english, and perform massés and jump shots.

North American SNES Cover art.

The Genesis and SNES versions features a photo-realistic representation of the player characters. The characters are a homage to the 1986 film The Color of Money; with both players bear resemblance to characters Vincent Lauria (played by Tom Cruise) and Fast Eddie (played by Paul Newman) from the film.

Version differences[edit]


The original Side Pocket on the arcade was ported to the NES and Game Boy with several alterations. The NES version plays almost identical to the arcade version, but the Pocket Game mode features 4 levels and the player starts by possessing 5 lives, as opposed to 2. The NES version also introduce four different rack configuration that become standard in later versions, whereas the arcade version only feature six-ball and nine-ball racks.

The Game Boy version of Side Pocket is significantly different from the NES version, featuring a smaller playing field (to compensate with Game Boy's screen), simplified physics and a different screen layout. Like in NES version, the Pocket Game mode features 4 levels and the player starts with 5 lives. One unique addition to the Game Boy version is the ability to play single-player nine-ball mode, while in other versions this mode is limited only to two players.

Enhanced remake[edit]

An enhanced remake was released for the Sega Genesis, and ported to the SNES and Game Gear.

This version features a completely different contents compared to the original, including revamped graphics, new smooth jazz-oriented soundtrack, new sound effects and photo-realistic background sceneries during gameplay. The main game modes remain identical to the original, with several alteration on the Pocket Game mode. This mode now features 5 levels represented as "cities" (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York, and Atlantic City) and the player starts with 8 lives. In addition, a new "trick shot" mode is featured, in which the player can try one of the 19 trick shot levels, each with increasing difficulty.

The SNES port is otherwise identical with the Genesis version, apart from different soundtrack set and brighter graphics.

The Game Gear version, despite being part of the enhanced remake, it plays more akin to the original rendition, more specifically the NES version. However, most elements from the Genesis version are retained, such as the background images (scaled down to 8-bit), soundtrack, and the trick shot levels.


In reviewing the NES version, Computer Gaming World declared it "far and away the best billiards simulation ever published for any system". The features that went beyond realistic pool were especially praised as enhancing the game's play.[2]

Reviewing the SNES version, GamePro praised the variety of modes, the audio and graphical improvements over the NES version, and the realistic details. They recommended the game "for pool enthusiasts and casual video game pool players alike. There are plenty of great options and genuine pool strategies to keep serious players interested, and yet it's simple enough to play without the manual."[3] They gave the Game Gear version a more mixed review, commenting that the representation of the player's stick as a stream of balls is needlessly cumbersome, and that the graphics and sound are poor. However, they summarized, "Determining the precise angle and power for a shot can be harder than taking a geometry test, but it's definitely more fun."[4] Electronic Gaming Monthly also complained of poor sounds but were more impressed with the graphics, describing them as exceptional for a portable system. They praised the game for its trick shots and generally strategic gameplay and gave it a 6.25 out of 10.[5]

Entertainment Weekly gave the game a B- and wrote that "Insipid electronic lounge sounds are an integral component of Side Pocket (for Genesis), which presents American pool halls as a series of squeaky-clean (no beer stains on the felt here), nonconfrontational venues where your sole objective is to play pool — and not, say, impress your date with how many shots of tequila you can down in five minutes. Embodying this utilitarian approach is the game's hyper-realistic, overhead-angle table display — not as realistic, unfortunately, is its follow-the-dotted-line aiming system, which allows you to hit the cue ball in only about half a dozen places. An extensive trick-shot menu — apparently meant to compensate for this glaring limitation — is intriguing, but completely superfluous."[6]

Italian magazine Consolmania, however, gave the Gensis version 80.[7]

Pocket Gal[edit]

Pocket Gal arcade video game.
Pocket Gal Deluxe arcade video game.

Pocket Gal is the arcade adaptation of the NES version of Side Pocket released exclusively for Japan in 1987. Gameplay remains similar to the NES game, although the lesser number of lives makes the game more challenging. It also has different music and sound effects. An English version was also released under the name Pocket Gal 2. There is also another version of the game called Super Pool III which removes the stripping. This version was published by I-Vics in North America.[8][9] In 1992, a sequel called Pocket Gal Deluxe was released in Japan and Europe. While the gameplay remains the same, Pocket Gal Deluxe features revamped graphics, more levels and includes a MIDI-based jazz music. Furthermore, Pocket Gal Deluxe also serve as the basis for the Genesis and SNES versions of Side Pocket.


The game has two sequels, Side Pocket 2 and Side Pocket 3. Side Pocket 2 expands greatly upon the original game by adding various pool games (including eight-ball, straight pool, and one-pocket) and the ability to play against AI-controlled players. Side Pocket 3 introduces a first-person three dimensional graphics.


  1. ^ "Side Pocket trademark". U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. 1988-07-05. Retrieved 2015-05-31.
  2. ^ Kunkell, Bill (July 1988), "Video Gaming World: Side Pocket", Computer Gaming World, p. 45
  3. ^ "ProReview: Side Pocket". GamePro (55). IDG. February 1994. p. 121.
  4. ^ "Side Pocket". GamePro (60). IDG. July 1994. p. 134.
  5. ^ "Review Crew: Side Pocket". Electronic Gaming Monthly (59). EGM Media, LLC. June 1994. p. 40.
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Super Pool III title screen".
  9. ^ "Super Pool III cabinet".

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