100 Days of MEGASHOCK! #12 League Bowling

League Bowling

SNK keeps the ball rolling (heh) with more sports games. This time SNK adapts the sport of bowling with League Bowling. Bowling may not be the most kinetic or athletic kind of sport but it can make for a fun simple video game.

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In League Bowling, you can play solo or against up to 3 other players in 3 different modes. Regulation is your standard Bowling 10-frame game. Flash adds additional points to your score on strike or on spare based on a moving flashing cursor. And Strike 90 is the same as Regulation except that a Strike will add 90 points to the next two shots, a spare would add 60 to the next shot. And getting anywhere between 7 to 10 pins will earn you 30 points.

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Just look at that expression. And the excited audience. Who knew bowling could be so intense.

Before you get on the lane and start your set, you first choose whether to play left-handed or right-handed. Then you choose the weight of the bowling ball. I couldn’t clearly discern the differences between different ball weights. I think heavier balls are harder to center and tend to veer more. But they obviously pack a bigger punch.

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Flash mode replaces the “reaction cam” with a score board. Top line is the added score on strike. Bottom is for spare.

Once you’re on the lane, you choose the spin angle of the ball, then the power. You can also move the bowler whilst all that choosing is happening right until you throw the ball at the last moment. I found that to be very helpful since I can readjust the bowler’s position to account for spin variations. For example, if I wanted to bowl a straight ball but the spin meter veered a bit left, then I have a second or so before the bowler throws the ball to adjust the bowler to the right and let the ball hit dead center, salvaging the throw. This doesn’t make sense in terms of how real bowling works but it does make for an interesting comeback mechanic.

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DARN IT!

The game itself is a fine recreation of bowling. The pins fall in a predictable pattern. But recreating the same throw requires very strict timing. Making a strike is easy but striking over and over consecutively is hard. So I suppose SNK succeeded in recreating the simple but much nuanced sports of bowling (this conclusion coming from a man whose only concern with any bowling alley is “what arcade games do they have?”).

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But that’s really not the main appeal of League Bowling to me. Instead, it’s the lavish presentation that’s most interesting about League Bowling. Bowling is obviously not the most visually interesting of sports. But SNK managed to make it exciting to watch. The audience is cheering for you. Your bowler is a big, smoothly animated sprite. And when he’s doing the backswing, the ball sprite zooms in an exaggerated fashion, taking advantage of the Neo Geo’s scaling capabilities. While the ball is rolling its way to the pins, your bowler gradually opens his mouth in suspense and anticipation. And depending on whether it’s a strike, a spare, or a miss, you get to see a bunch of different funny animations. It’s like watching a cartoon short (a shame that Flash mode replaces the funny reaction top screen with the flash score). It really gives League Bowling so much character in addition to the solid bowling game basis.

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As the great Ricky Bobby once said: If you ain’t first, you’re last.

And that’s pretty much it for League Bowling. Well mostly. There’re a few little interesting tidbits that I couldn’t form into separate comprehensible paragraphs or combine into a singular cohesive paragraph. So I’m doing it in lazy lists. I heard that that’s how the internet works these days. So here are 7 interesting tidbits about League Bowling that you may or may not know:

1- The red bowling ball mascot looks a lot like 7UP’s Cool Spot but with different shades:

COOL SPOT vs League Bowling

No sightings or mentions of Fido Dido in League Bowling as of yet.

 Cool spot would eventually get his/her/its own game.

2- Michael Beard returns as the announcer: Still great as ever.

3- Nadia from Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water is in the audience cheering for you:

Nadia vs nadia

It seems some in SNK are fans of her. The show would have been airing during League Bowling’s release and probably during development too.

4- It has self-promoting trucker hats:

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When playing 4 players. You get 4 different colored sprite-copies of the standard bowler guy. But even so, the player on the right gets a trucker hat with SNK written on it (Oddly it disappears in the “choose left/right hand + choose ball weight” screen and at the result screen). This could be the start of SNK’s infatuation with self promoting trucker hats.

5- Note the “KING OF LANES” sign on the floor:

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I guess SNK loved naming things KING OF THIS and KING OF THAT.

6- 8 player League Bowling on four linked Neo Geos is pretty rad.

Just look at this magnificent creation. So cool.

7- League Bowling was ported to Newgrounds in 2002Wikipedia says it’s by Newgrounds’ founder Tom Fulp. But the League Bowling Newgrounds page credits “CarrotClock” as the author who may or may not be Tom Fulp. For a 2002 flash game, it looks pretty authentic. But the ball-sprite is different. It’s bigger and moves way slower even at full power. And there’re some newgrounds logos plastered at the result screen. Also the pin physics kind of suck. You’ll get the weirdest splits. And striking is harder than it should be. So I didn’t like it.

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