If there were ever a film franchise that was seemingly custom-built for a fantasy pinball adaptation, it would have to be the one that was born, “a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away.” For those of you that don’t know the quote made famous by the Star Wars franchise, just stop reading now because the nerdery that follows will probably end up being borderline repulsive. That said, you should still absolutely download the tables, because they are fantastic. But more on that later…
As a fan that has so much invested in the Star Wars mythos, I was ecstatic to learn that my beloved Force-wielding universe was about to become the subject of a 10-table collection from the flipper masters over at Zen Studios. The initial offering consists of three tables spanning the eras including one dedicated to arguably the best film in the entire series, The Empire Strikes Back. This is complemented well by a table revolving around the galaxy’s most storied bounty hunter, Boba Fett. Rounding out the trifecta is a playspace set in the simpler times of the Clone Wars animated series. No matter the era of fan, it seems like there is a little something to cater to every diehard’s particular tastes.
Through a process of taking on increasingly more ambitious projects over the span of this console generation through partnerships with the likes of industry heavy hitters like Popcap, Capcom, Atari, and Marvel, Zen Studios has managed to outdo itself with every release. The first three Star Wars Pinball tables certainly don’t stray far from this successful formula. This time around the emphasis seems to be on storytelling above all else. When working with a franchise that has this much content to draw upon, it would only make sense that this was the case.
The studios’ last release Marvel Pinball: Civil War ventured deeply into the storytelling realm, only changing the focus from heroes to flippers. The pack’s lead table, The Empire Strikes Back, takes this a step further by making many of the film’s critical sections playable in pinball form. Have you ever wanted to take out a Stormtrooper, deke and dive through an asteroid field in the Millennium Falcon, or down an AT-AT? All of these fantasies now can become a reality, thanks to a multitude of different fully-articulated environmental changes that fundamentally shift the way the table can be played. Missions can actually take so long that there have been checkpoints inserted at the end of critical scenes. There is even a sequence where players get to face down a training droid in lightsaber practice sessions. Cap that all off with a throw down against Darth Vader, and this table may just possess every element that an old-school fanatic could ever desire.
What is it about a masked man that intrigues us so? Boba Fett was nothing more than a badass in a mask for two films, yet he somehow inspired a fan following that would put the likes of his father, Jango Fett, to shame. In an another perfect example of how well the developers know the lore and fanbase, the collection’s Boba Fett table is nothing short of a fanboy’s wet dream. Initially set on Tatooine, the layout of the table includes a Sarlacc pit, a carbonite-frozen Han Solo spinner, and 3D rendered models of Darth Vader and Jabba the Hutt. Players are tasked with taking on bounty missions for either the Empire or Hutts, both of which have their own difficulty settings. Depending on the confidence of the player, they can choose their level of challenge, which in turn changes the number of ramps and targets that need to be hit, within an amount of time that decreases given the difficulty chosen as well. As one might expect, the higher the inconvenience, the larger the payout. So choose wisely. Vader doesn’t take too kindly to failures.
Probably my personal favorite of the batch would have to be the Clone Wars table. The ramp-heavy layout favors the fast flippers among the population, banking on successive combo shots to send the point values rocketing skyward. In addition to the wicked fast ramp play, there are a series of successive missions, multiballs, and lock rewards that continue to drive up scores. Make no mistake, this is the table for high-score freaks. A second set of playfields can also be unlocked, taking the form of military training missions. The name of the game is precision in these challenging sets of obstacles. Without it, failure will soon follow.
As always, the attention to detail and nuance is evident throughout the collection. It appears that they have not ventured away from the canonical stories that have already been told, instead utilizing plenty of multimedia assets to further flush out brand authenticity. Sound effects from all of the films have been yanked straight off the screen, as well as whole chunks of spoken dialog. For those wondering when Yoda ever uttered “Multiball” in the films, don’t worry — you didn’t miss it. Sound-alikes were used in order to get certain key pieces of speech clearly into the tables. Mix these fantastic mood setters with the unquestionably stellar soundtracks composed by the legend that is John Williams and the stage has been set for some of the most epic adventures ever to meet a steel ball.
Calling the production of the first Star Wars Pinball pack ambitious doesn’t really do it enough justice. For fans with feet in both worlds, it is a dream come true. Never has a franchise lent itself so well to pinball-ification, featuring amazing characters, fantastic dialog, a tremendous back catalog of available artwork, all set to a sweeping space opera score. Zen Studios has done such a great job with this initial adaptation that it will assuredly be difficult to top in future installments. So to make a long story short, just download it, whether you are a Star Wars fan or not. They will lure you in with the universe, but keep you playing for weeks afterwards with the enormously rewarding gameplay. “The Force is strong with this one.”
A review copy of the game was provided by the publisher.