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Box artwork for Side Pocket.
Side Pocket
Developer(s)Data East
Publisher(s)Data East, Namco
Year released1986
System(s)Arcade, NES, Game Boy, Sega Genesis, SNES, Sega Game Gear
Followed bySide Pocket 2
ModesSingle player, Multiplayer
LinksSide Pocket ChannelSearchSearch

Side Pocket is a multi-platform series of pocket billiards (pool) simulator games produced principally by Data East beginning in 1986. Originally released as an arcade game, Side Pocket was later ported to the Sega Genesis, NES, Super Nintendo, Game Boy, and Game Gear. A version was also released for the WonderSwan under the title Side Pocket for WonderSwan. The arcade version was also included in the 2010 release of Data East Arcade Classics for the Wii.

The unusual single player mode, called "pocket", requires that the player clear all the balls off the table in a limited number of shots, as well as achieve a predetermined score. The player earns points by sinking balls, sinking balls on consecutive shots, and sinking balls in numerical order. On occasion, a pocket will light up, and if the player sinks a ball into that pocket on that shot, a bonus will be earned in the form of points or extra shots. In the two-player "pocket" mode, the game plays similarly, except the two players take turns; if one player does not pocket a ball or scratches, control of the ball changes to the other player.

A variety of trick shot challenges are also available to the player(s), to earn additional points or extra shots, requiring the player sink 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.


Arcade-Button-Joystick.png / Neutral dpad
At the start of each turn, an animated dotted line will extend from the cue ball indicating the current direction that the cue ball will be shot. Before shooting the cue ball, use the joystick or direction pad to line up your shot. Pushing in one particular direction will cause the dotted line to rotate around the cue ball towards the direction being pressed. In this way, players can finesse the direction that the dotted line points in by quickly tapping the joystick so that the dotted line moves clockwise or counter-clockwise in the smallest increment possible.
Arcade-NeoGeo-A.png / A button
Press the first button to initiate taking your shot. A meter will be shown with a bar or an object sliding back and forth, from the left to the right, and back to the left. The meter represents the power with which you will hit the ball, the left side representing minimum power and the right side representing maximum power. You must press the first button a second time to stop the meter when it represents the amount of power that you would like to hit the cue ball with. Generally speaking, maximum power is usually a safe call, but there are occasions that call for less power in order to be successful.
Arcade-NeoGeo-B.png / B button
Press the second button to indicate whether you would like to put spin on the cue ball as you hit it. In the original arcade game, you are limited to the following five options: no spin (straight, default selection), top spin (follow), bottom spin (draw), left spin and right spin (referred to as english). Choosing top spin will cause the cue ball to progress a little farther after it hits an object, while choosing back spin will cause the ball to retreat after a while. Choosing left or right spin will cause the balls trajectory to bend in either direction as the ball travels across the table.

Game play[edit]

Break shot

In the original arcade game, play continues until one or both players runs out of "balls" or lives. The number of balls remaining to a player is shown in the upper right corner of the screen. A ball is lost whenever a player fails to sink at least one of the colored billiard balls into a pocket on a turn, or if the player scratches by sinking the cue ball (regardless of whether or not the player also pocketed a billiard ball.)

At the start of the game, the player is given three balls (by default, configurable by operator), including the ball that will be used on the break. The first stage presents the player with a six ball pyramid. The object of the game is to sink all six of the balls without "wasting" a shot by failing to sink a ball in on each turn. The balls can be pocketed in any order that the player likes, although the game provides players with a point bonus for successfully pocketing balls in numerical order. Similarly, the game also awards bonus points for the number of balls that a player pockets consecutively (regardless of order). A perfect game is one where all six balls are pocketed in numerical order, and done so consecutively. A timer is shown in the upper left side of the screen below the current score. The game will immediately end if the timer counts down to 0.

Bonus screen

After a player successfully clears the table of all six billiard balls, the player's score and bonuses are tallied, and two cocktail waitresses standing on either side of the player's avatar get respond with excitement or disappointment depending on the player's performance. Then the player is given an opportunity to attempt a challenge shot. During this shot, a bonus counts down, and the player is awarded the bonus which is shown at the moment the player hits the cue ball if he successfully sinks a ball in the indicated safe pocket. This may also provide players with an extra life. Then the next round starts with nine balls arranged in the traditional 9-ball diamond configuration. Play continues exactly as before, only with three extra balls. If the player is successful on this table, the score is tabulated again, and the player starts over again from the beginning on a six ball table.

Throughout play, a flashing star may randomly appear in one of the pockets during a particular turn. If the player is successful at sinking any billiard ball into a pocket containing a flashing star, the player is awarded a bonus, either in the form of bonus points, extra time, or an extra life.

Home conversions[edit]


Rank requirements

Originally released in 1987, with the Japanese version published by Namco. While the original arcade game was a straight pool game which simply kept track of score, the NES conversion of the game introduced a new concept which would be kept and expanded upon in subsequent releases of the game. The player was challenged to become the champion of ever expanding regions, first of the city, then the state, then the country, and finally the world.

Championships: In order to achieve these championships, the player was required to reach particular point minimums. If the player succeeded, he would graduate the to next level where the minimum score would increase. If the player failed, play would continue and the player would have to attempt to reach the required score again. To graduate from the state level and beyond, a particularly difficult trick shot had to be successfully accomplished as well. These shots are displayed below.

State Country World
Side Pocket NES shot1.png Side Pocket NES shot2.png Side Pocket NES shot3.png
Set the direction of your strike straight to the left, and hit the ball with maximum power. You must aim the cue ball for the lower portion of the blue 2 ball, and set the spin to the lowest setting (draw), then hit the ball with maximum power. Aim the ball just below the yellow 1 ball and hit the ball with maximum power. The cue ball must sink the 1 ball, bounce between the sticks, and then slide down the left stick to knock the 2 ball in.

More lives: Play begins with the player possessing five "balls" or lives. While scratching (sinking the cue ball in a pocket) results in the removal of one entire ball, failing to sink a billiard ball on a fair turn only results in the loss of "half" of a ball. The time limit present in the original arcade version has been removed from the game.

More tables: The number of table configurations was increased by two. In addition to the six ball pyramid and the 9 ball diamond, the player may also be presented with a loosely arranged six ball pyramid where the balls do not start out next to each other, but with some space in between, and a ten ball pyramid arrangement. While the increased number of balls meant that clearing the table would generally take longer, they often presented the player with more opportunity to collect bonus point which would push them over the required score minimum.

Game screen

Super balls: Additionally, in the nine and ten ball variations, the highest value ball may blink for one turn, and one turn only. This is known as a Super ball. If the player successfully strikes the Super ball before any other balls, the cue ball will magically gain a tremendous amount of momentum which is not easily reduced. The ball will fly around the table and ricochet off the sides and other balls for a substantial period of time. This will come to an end when the cue ball ends up in a pocket (which does not count as a penalty) or the cue ball naturally comes to a stop.

More spin: This conversion further expands upon your control over the cue ball by offering multiple variations of spin. Instead of only one choice of top, bottom, left or right spin, you can choose from among several levels and even select combinations of vertical and horizontal spin. In addition to these extra degrees of spin control, you may also perform massé shots, though they are difficult to apply correctly. Additionally, pressing B button also serves as a toggle between seeing the balls' colors and their numbers.

Zone star: In addition to the star bonus which appears from time to time in random pockets, the last ball will always create a "zone" star in one of the side pockets. Even if the zone star is missed, it will switch to the opposite side pocket. Successfully pocketing the last ball in a zone pocket results in bonus points. However, if you opt to sacrifice one of your lives by sinking the cue ball in a zone pocket, the table will enter a different mode, where stars appear in all four pockets, and the friction on the table is greatly reduced. Sinking the last ball in this mode generally results in multiple extra lives.

Secret code: 256 balls

To enter a special cheat mode where you are given 256 balls at the start of the game, begin a new game. On a the ranking screen, enter the following code:

Left dpad Right dpad Right dpad B button Right dpad Left dpad B button Left dpad B button Right dpad Left dpad B button

If you enter the code correctly, you will only see six balls visible in your ball count, but you will actually have far more chances to play with.

Game Boy[edit]

The Game Boy conversion of Side Pocket, released in 1990, is a very faithful adaptation of the NES conversion, with obvious graphics modifications. When shooting the cue ball, the default view is to see the balls as numbers, although this can still be toggled with B button. The same ranking modes exist, although the challenge shots are modified (the final challenge shot with the sticks is absent). And rather than portraying the characters pseudo-realistically, they are presented as "cute" super-deformed characters. The game features a 2 player vs. mode, which requires two Game Boys (each containing a copy of the cartridge) to be linked together.

Sega Genesis[edit]

The Sega Mega Drive and Genesis conversion, published in 1992, represents the first release of the 2nd generation of Side Pocket conversions, which include the Super Nintendo and Game Gear conversions. Featuring a slick new title screen, a more lifelike representation of the pool table, and photo-realistic representations of the pool player and a "glamorous model" who you are apparently trying to impress with your pool playing ability. Game play wise, it is exactly the same as the earlier conversions, although their are five levels in the ranking mode, and they involve the player traveling to various tournament destinations across the United States. There is an added trick shot mode which challenges the player to complete all 19 trick shots available in the game.

Super Nintendo[edit]

The Super Nintendo conversion was released in 1993. Aside from featuring smoother and slightly more colorful graphics, it is virtually identical to the Sega Genesis release.

Sega Game Gear[edit]

The Sega Game Gear was the final conversion of the first Side Pocket (excluding the afore mentioned Side Pocket for Wonderswan) and it was released exclusively in the United States in 1994. Aside from having to squeeze the game's graphics onto a smaller screen, the Game Gear version is nearly identical to the Sega Genesis release, including the photos of the women presented in the game.