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CONSOLE: Virtual Boy DEVELOPER: Nintendo PUBLISHER: Nintendo
RELEASE DATE (NA): February 26, 1996 GENRE: Sports
// review by Jeff

Bowl with your favourite early-90s magazine comic strip star!

Bowling, the sport of Philadelphian kings. Well, kings who don't mind paying a questionable fee for shoe rental, all the while running the risk of obtaining some sort of unwanted foot fungus from swarthy players of the past. Thankfully, if you have a Virtual Boy just laying around collecting dust, you can avoid all the pitfalls of bacterial assaults, as well as the inadvertent but seemingly inevitable taking of the heavy bowling ball to the abdomen. Nester's Funky Bowling is an opportunity for you to show off your impressive electronic bowling skills... if other people could see the screen while you play.

Nester's Funky Bowling stars none other than Nester, Nintendo's pseudo-mascot nestled within the pages of Nintendo Power from 1989 to 1993 in the comic strip "Howard & Nester". He would often appear along with an illustrated Howard Phillips, the famed Nintendo spokesperson, as they encounter a variety of difficult situations from various games for Nintendo systems. (When Phillips left the company in 1991, the strip was retitled "Nester's Adventures".) It's interesting that it took until 1996 for Nester to appear in a game; weirder still, why bring back the character three years after his final farewell in the magazine? Either way, the spiky-haired ginger is back, and he's ready to bowl!

Upon starting up the game, you get to set the options for your bowling experience du jour. You have the option of playing bowling alone (which secures your position as the winner) or with a second player. Unfortunately, because the planned cable for linking two Virtual Boys together was never released, you're forced to pass the Boy back and forth. There are three modes of play to choose from. "Bowl" is pretty obvious (perhaps TOO obvious). It's playing for points, just like an actual game of bowling. "Practice" lets you do exactly that: practice your bowling skills. And "Challenge" presents you with a set of predetermined goals you have to reach for each round, such as knocking down specific pins. That's about as much variety as you can get from a bowling game. And, naturally, you get to choose between three rockin' chiptunes.


Nester, go see if Howard will play with you.

Once in the bowling alley itself, your screen is split between the lane in the lower pane and a close-up view of the ever-intent Nester above. Your focus is the bottom first. You can move Nester the bowling cham-peen from left to right; a pointer moves back and forth on the lane as well, requiring you to set up the preferred ball angle. Once you've made your choices, another arrow appears to determine the force you'll use to swish that ball down the lane. Depending on how well you do, the upper pane will show off an animation reflective of your performance. Doing well results in some cute celebratory animations, while poor bowling skills will easily lead to Nester going ballistic in a number of humorous ways. The graphics at this point are actually more entertaining that those of most other Virtual Boy titles.

In the end, however, it's a bowling game. I hardly see those flying off the shelves. Once you've played one, you've pretty much played them all (a concept not yet fully realized by those who continue to purchase yearly installations of FIFA, Madden NFL, NBA 2Kxx, etc.). To make things even stranger, within the petite folds of the Virtual Boy library, there are not one but TWO bowling games. You have your choice between Nester's Funky Bowling and Virtual Bowling, though the former will be far easier to find and far less depressing for your savings account. It's safe to say that if you're a bowling fan and a Virtual Boy fan (a crossover rarely seen amongst living humans), your bowling needs will definitely be met.


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