LEAGUE BOWLING / SNK / Arcade
League Bowling is fast, simple and easy to play, which is simultaneously part of its appeal and also what holds it back from greatness.
The game was really designed for multiple players. You can go solo, but your quarter doesn't get you much other than ten frames of button-pushing and a guaranteed victory since you have no opponents. Without the competitive edge of having at least one other person there, the game loses quite a bit of its charm.
It is certainly a game with charm to spare, though. It's very colorful and relies on a ton of goofy animations and sound effects to keep your interest in spite of the extremely simple gameplay. You begin each match by selecting the type of game - standard, flash (which randomizes the amount of points you get for each pin each time you roll), or strike 90 (in which bonuses for strikes are doled out differently.) You then select a ball color, and ball weight from 8 to 15. The weight of the ball determines how it responds to the amount of power and direction you give it - a heavy ball requires more power but less direction to steer, while a light ball requires a lighter touch on the power if you want to send it anywhere other than right down the middle or into the gutter.
You and up to three other players then hit the lanes with your manic avatars, who dance frantically and cram down snacks while waiting for you to input your commands. The game simply boils down to stopping two sliding meters at the right time - the first for power, the second for direction. You can also move the bowler left and right along the lane. If that sounds like it would get boring and predictable pretty fast, well ... I guess it can, but between selecting the different ball weights and the random scattering of the pins there's actually quite a bit of variation here, enough to even make the game mildly addicting. The game is further enhanced by cute animations for strikes, spares, scratches, outright whiffs, and dreaded scenarios like the 7-10 split.
The game would make for a great Virtual Console release, provided it was at a budget price and not the usual cranked-up amount for Neo-Geo games.
* Gameplay Video