There are a lot of pool games out there and frankly, it can be difficult for some to find a place for themselves. Especially in the case of the Game Boy and Game Boy Color. You have games with generic titles like Billiard Club, Championship Pool, Pocket Color Billiard, Pro Pool and Side Pocket. The lone exception was a strange little game called Pocket Billiard: Funk the 9-Ball. In a world where lots of games tried to sell themselves by just showing billiard balls on the cover, this one gave us a dog boy named Break and a frog girl named Rack.
In Pocket Billiard: Funk the 9-Ball, players pick either Break or Rack as their avatar. (Rack is essentially an easy ode, while Break is for people who know what they are doing.) They then enter Club Nine Ball, a pool hall where they can attempt to rack up rounds and become the best player possible. As you do better, you improve your class and become a stronger player. Also, you can unlock additional music from doing well in games, find t-shirts, gather trading cards, have figures and get comics. Most importantly, you can collect more Tamappii, essentially spirits inside the pool balls, to create special effects during matches. The more you play, the more people you will see as possible opponents.
Pocket Billiard: Funk the 9-Ball is essentially a game that keeps growing. As you play pool and improve, you get more options. Maybe you will find more fake noses. Perhaps new people with incredibly eccentric looks could appear at Club Nine Ball. When you are going through rounds, you might find new Tamappii who will do things like block holes, make your ball jump to a pocket, increase speeds or slow things down. To make things even better, all of this looks incredibly distinctive and unique. People look more like they would belong in the world of PaRappa the Rapper or Jet Set Radio, rather than some generic pool game. The Tamappii you find look like characters from a wannabe Pokemon title.
This carries over to the text. If you manage to find a copy of Pocket Billiard: Funk the 9-Ball and have a RetroN 5, you can actually play it in English! A fan translation patch was released that makes it easier to understand and appreciate. While the general pool gameplay is fairly easy to grasp without a localization, knowing what is going on will help people out a lot when it comes to the Tamappii! Also, the fan translation is very well done and capitalizes on the character. People have unique verbal tics. Some have accents or dialects. It is very silly in a very good way.
Then, there’s the soundtrack. Pocket Billiard: Funk the 9-Ball has a funky sort of soundtrack that has a poppy beat to it. It is very jazzy and fun to listen to in the actual pool hall area. While these songs are not as majestic or memorable as tracks from The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening or Kirby’s Dream Land, they does stand out and attempt to give the building a Top-40 ambiance. (As an aside, you only hear music when in Club Nine Ball and not playing against an opponent.)
Pocket Billiard: Funk the 9-Ball standards out. It makes pool more interesting and appealing by giving us a cast of heavily stylized and cartoonish characters, Tamappii pool spirits that can help change the course of a game, all kinds of collectables and a soundtrack with different sorts of songs. It has personality, which is welcome in a genre where developers may take a more serious approach.