PBA Pro Bowling 2023 | Review | Switch - TheFamicast.com: Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Thursday, September 29, 2022

PBA Pro Bowling 2023 | Review | Switch

Simulation bowling is back on the Nintendo Switch with PBA Pro Bowling 2023. A lot has changed since the series originally released on the system back in 2019, especially for Switch owners. The inclusion of bowling in Nintendo Switch Sports has been fun, however, it still might not scratch that itch for those looking for a bowling game with a bit more depth. Today, we’re going to take a look at PBA 2023 to let you know if it’s worth taking the plunge into the latest PBA offering from FarSight Studios. Let’s get into it. 

There are a few different options when it comes to control in PBA 2023 - arcade, simulation and motion control. For most of my time with the game so far, I have played in the “Arcade Mode” style. To bowl, you first line up where to stand, (optionally) choose an angle and then roll the ball by tilting the right stick back and then forward. When the ball begins to roll down the lane, you can add spin by pressing either left or right on either joystick. It might sound kind of cheap having the ability to change the spin on the way down the lane, but the ball reacts realistically to your prompts. For example, even if you hammer on the stick for hook when the ball is almost to the pins, you won’t get much spin. Things in this play style feel pretty solid and are, most importantly, fun. 
The simulation mode differs in the sense that it requires you to choose how much spin you add before you release the ball. There’s also a power meter as well, giving the gameplay a bit more of a realistic feel. Although I tend to like more simulation style of play in sports titles, this felt like a little tricky. The spin adjustment felt a little bit too touchy, especially while playing the game in handheld mode - it’s a bit more difficult to get the precision you would normally find with the larger stick on the Pro Controller. If you’re a patient person or want a more true to life bowling experience, this might be the way to go for you. I would recommend trying out both styles of play to see which suits you best.

Motion controls are back in PBA 2023, but set your expectations. This is not a full blown solution like what’s found in Nintendo’s motion bowling offerings. Set up is the same as the physical controls (pick your spot, angle), but pulling back the Joy Con with the ZR button held initiates the throw. Swinging your arm forward determines the speed, however hook is still relegated to the sticks. Essentially, the throwing motion takes place of the stick. It works, but I preferred the standard physical control set up. 
Tickets are on offer in PBA 2023 that can be earned in a variety of different ways. First and foremost, there are 160 different challenges on offer. Things like getting multiple strikes in a row, picking up specific splits, defeating pro bowlers, nabbing wins at specific venues and more are all into play here. The system also feels pretty generous as you can pick these up consistently, especially early on. Tickets can be used to purchase and upgrade over 150 bowling balls. Not only that, but a leveling system is also present. As you rise in the ranks, you’ll get access to better balls. I didn’t go to crazy with purchasing new bowling balls as I found my groove with one of the earlier models I picked up. Still, upgrading does give you access to balls that have higher statistics for your speed, hook and control. An additional plus for many, there are no in-game purchases here for upgrades, which is kind of nice. 
The bowling physics in PBA 2023 are very realistic. Not only that but a variety of oil patterns are implemented into the game on the alleys. With the 2019 iteration of PBA Pro Bowling, I found this feature to make the game a bit too realistic - almost to the point where I felt like I was fighting the game just to have fun. While the oil patterns do require you to change your approach to each venue somewhat, it seems a bit less pronounced and easier to get used to in PBA 2023.

Several modes are on offer in PBA Pro Bowling 2023 - Quickplay, Career Mode, Local Multiplayer, Online tournaments and Online multiplayer. Quickplay offers just what you would expect - an easy way to get in and out of a game of bowling. You can choose to bowl by yourself, practice with a new ball or generally hone your skills. You can also put yourself up against another bowler to see where you stack up in a non-pressure situation.

Career Mode is the main focus of the game. For this year, developer FarSight Studios has added an extra dose of realism with the addition of events that simulate the actual PBA circuit over multiple years. You’ll go through qualifiers, match play, head-to-head matches and stepladder formats on your way to nab trophies. I’m not going to pretend that I know the ins and outs of the actual PBA (living in Japan makes it a bit tough to follow), but it seems pretty legit. It should be noted that the CPU holds nothing back here. Until you get your groove with the gameplay or upgrade to a ball that suits your style of play, you’ll likely get bashed pretty badly by the competition. Just as in real bowling, though, some of the pros can have off games, so you’ll have to make the most of every opportunity. The mode is deep and I found it to be pretty fun. A variety of stats are also tracked throughout your career, such as your overall bowling average, highest score, the number of spares you’ve gotten and more. It’s pretty robust and great for stat nerds. 
Although there is no create-a-bowler in the game, you do have the ability to choose an avatar from a small number of preset builds. These bowlers can be used in any mode in the game. It’s great to see more inclusion here with different races, but I would love to see a true creation suite added to the game.

In terms of online, the tournaments are pretty passive - you simply pay some in-game tickets to participate, bowl and hope that others can’t top your high score. It’s a good way to nab some tickets if you’re finding that you’ve already reached your limit from the challengers or are having a tough time in Career Mode. Online head-to-head competition is also available, though I was unable to find a match in my time leading up to finishing this review. 
Visuals, Audio & Performance
Visually, PBA 2023 isn’t going to knock your socks off, but it gets the job done. I have no frame of reference for the real professional bowlers on offer here, but everyone appears believable and look decent. The alleys on offer are a bit similar, but give enough of a different vibe to give you the feeling of playing at different venues. This Switch version of the game performs pretty smoothly, running around 30 frames per second. The animations here are true to the real life bowlers, too, with a high level of detail coming through with the motion capture. 
The new addition of over 1,500 lines of dialog from the broadcasters Rob Stone and Randy Pedersen makes the game feel quite fresh. Sure, you will hear some repeated dialogue here and there, but I think it’s fine. Additionally, the television-like presentation also adds a level of realism that can’t really be found in other bowling games on the market. 

I did notice a few issues with the game visually. Shadows can appear to be a little bit odd, character models will sometimes clip through their own bodies and there’s a weird issue with the screen flickering briefly from time to time. That might sound horrible, and to be fair, this is just me nitpicking, but these issues don’t take away from the gameplay at all. 
PBA Pro Bowling 2023 is an improvement over the original release that I played back in 2019. FarSight Studios seems to have listened to criticisms from past entries and worked on making the game an overall better experience for players. With that said, there are a few visual hiccups in the Switch version and the game can be quite difficult if you’re just starting out or are unfamiliar with real life bowling strategies. If you’re looking for a more casual, motion control focused experience, this isn’t the game for you. If you’re looking for some pretty pure simulation bowling that offers a challenge, you should check this game out.

*Review code provided by publisher*

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