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Pinball

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Submitted By news005
Words 1779
Pages 8
I wish Stern would string together games that have engaging gameplay, innovation, amusing quotes, and (dare I say it) clever and polished code. They can do it! They have had flashes of greatness and have made a handful of games that can stand side by side unashamed with the B/W greats. But unless LFS was involved in the game in a major way as of late, you can just about forget about the game being enjoyable. And maybe move forward of the 90s with the overall presentation of the pin. It used to be that I was very excited to see what new features the next pin would have. From the late eighties (when I started playing a good amount of pin) to the late nineties, most Williams and B/W games brought something new and fun to the table. The system 11 games were enjoyable for the most part - I played tons of PinBot and Cyclone, and we loved it when ES, Taxi and especially Whirlwind (with the great Millions Plus) came out. Nothing deep, but solid, fun games with nice use of sound, ramps, displays, flippers and rules. And a huge step forward from games in the 70s/early 80s like Wizard, CF, Flash, EBD, Fathom, Xenon, BH, etc. Then WPC games came out and B/W was on fire. Wizard modes, stacking, DMD animations, diamond plate to keep the playfield beautiful, the divine, responsive, fliptronics flippers, way improved audio (especially with DCS). Dummy heads that interacted with you, balls magically swept across the playfield on their own by ingenious use of underplayfield magnets, guns that fired balls, crazy flow and screaming loops, games played lightning fast, games had humor and character.... It seemed like they could do anything with a pin. I would drive long distances to play these masterpieces on location. HUGE steps forward from HS, PB, ES, Whirlwind, BR, etc. Then B/W exited the scene and left us with rebranded Data East games. It seemed like there was no hope for new pins. Were we supposed to get excited about SX and Monopoly after being treated to MM, Shadow, WW, and TZ? HRC's rules weren't bad (KEF's never are), but the layout and mechanics (and non-registering standups) left a lot to be desired. Then lightning struck! TSPP's rules blew me away and made me reconsider my thoughts about Stern. The game was/is very engaging despite its buzzing subpar flippers and its sounds-about-as-good-as-a-system-11 sound system. And then LoTR showed up. Despite all of its problems - sword lock issues, flippers that gave out way before the code did, the impossibility of destroying the ring on many examples, Balrog not registering, PoTD switches not working, Gollum being the worst shot in pinball in the last thirty years- this game earned a spot among the all time greats of pinball. The music is excellent, the quotes mesh perfectly with the game, and the rules are inspired. The flipper feel, audio quality, and fit and finish of the pin was not up to B/W standards by any means, and it played clunky, but the rules/quoted/music worked so well together that all of that could be overlooked. There was no doubt. TSPP was not a fluke. Stern had put out two great games just a few years after B/W closed shop. Stern went on to make some cool mechs (PoTC ship, TDK ball on a chain) and KEF and LFS would grace games with their spectacular code. Nordman made some interesting layouts as usual and the SAM system vastly improved the flippers, but overall the main improvement that Stern brought to the world of pinball was the occasional ultra deep, clever rulset by Keith or creative Lyman rules. Stern continued to produce 90s style games of lesser quality than the real 90s style games. Audio quality was worse than DCS (and certainly worse than P2K), flippers are not as responsive as fliptronics, photoshopped playfields, cabinet art quality is poor.... And that is where we are now. Stern will put out the occasional fun 90s style game (SM, ACDC), but aside from rules, where is the innovation??? Why do games from 2012 look just like games from 1991???? This never happened even over a ten year period from the 60s forward (probably could say from much further in the past but I'm not too familiar with games earlier than the 60s). Games from the 70s do not look like or play like games from the 60s. The switch from EM to SS was huge and allowed the games to score properly, have soundtracks and quotes, and improved the flippers. Flippers and bumpers were stronger and gameplay was faster. SS games just plain made the EMs look, sound, and feel outdated. 80s games do not look or play like games from the 70s. There were jackpots, vastly improved sound quality, fun upper and lower playfields, the flippers were better than before, the games had a storyline, and we were treated to the first wizard modes. Steve Ritchie and Pat Lawlor raised the bar on playfield design and LED laid down the sweet code. Alpha numeric displays and crazy light shows. Games from the 80s were obviously more modern than 70s games. This was obvious by their look, play and sound. 90s games do not look or play like games from the 80s. DMD, baby! Super Jackpot!! In fact, this whole decade is a super jackpot. Rules got deep, seemingly overnight. The wizard mode evolved and became refined and polished - a work of art. Tour the Mansion was awesome for its time (as were all of the music/rules/humor/multiball intro lightshow in TAF). Toppers! Then the next year LITZ, Vacation JP!!!! Mist multiball!! Stacking multiballs!! Powerball!! Battle the power! Combos, demo jp, final battle, RTU, casino run, outer space, token multiball, royal madness, BFTK, the list goes on and on. The games were flat out fun. People played on location. Pins made money. WMS was unstoppable. The level of attention to detail attained by WPC games has not been achieved since. Look at those playfields compared to what is produced now. Look at the glossy, clear cabinet art. The feel of the flippers. The very way that the games feel and play. All are superior to 80s, 00s and 2010s pins. Pins took playfield toys to a new level in the 90s. Rudy head, supercharger, shooting stars, cannons, phurba diverters, bash toys, and the list goes on. Games were faster, coils were stronger and the overall product was slick and very fun to play. And so in 2012 what do we have? X Men is the latest game on location. A spinning magnetic disc. That was cool when Twister did it in 1996. Bars that can hold and release a ball. That was fun back in 2006 when WPT came out with it. And I won't even harp on the rules. Yes, someday the code might make the game fun, but first impressions are pretty important. I want to like Stern games. They have made , by far, the deepest games ever made. I am thankful and appreciative of that. They have put out some games that I really do like to play. Lyman and Keith have the magic touch and Stern has been wise to employ them. But on Stern's watch, pinball evolution, which used to surge forward like a runaway train, has braked hard to an almost standstill. Did B/W reach the mountaintop of pin manufacturing? I don't want to believe that. I decided to purchase WOZ when I heard that JJP was going to build something new and different with a talented team. So far, it looks to be well built and of high quality. But will it be fun to play? Who knows. I do have faith in KEF to make the pin come together. At the least it will be a new look for pinball. And a new look is long, long overdue. Like a said a few pages ago, I used to get excited to see a new pin. When I went to PAPA, I did not even go over and look at the XMen. And that kind of makes me sad. It just seemed like more of the same from Stern. Also, I had heard that the rules were half-assed and incomplete and did not want to have a bad first impression of the pin. And what's up with the humongous figures on the game?!? How is that a good idea? And do Sterns still have a fluorescent light in the backbox? And a lunchbox style latch to secure the lockdown bar? So the whole LE business is unappealing to me. I don't equate a pinball machine to a collectible piece of sculpture that I want to go up in value because there was only a small run made. Its a game. I don't want dress it up with mods, I don't care about having a version of it that is slightly different and therefore more rare and valuable. Pinball is a game that is made to be fun to play, first and foremost. A game whose very platform, appearance, and feel was constantly being upgraded in times past. A flashy game that dazzles you with things that you have never experienced in earlier games. If you have all of this down and still have some time left over, then sure, dork around with a limited edition here and there. But to put out 90s style pins in December 2012, I'm less than impressed. I'm not saying that Stern sucks. I'm just saying, Stern show me something. I'm rooting for you. I believe that you can put out a product that will dazzle the public. But just stringing together popular themes on a 20 year old platform is not getting the job done. Pin 2K was a good idea. It was something new. Casual players dug it. We need something new. Or else pinball won't become popular again. Where's the wow factor in these games? Sure the hardcore players will play and the collectors will buy pins and want the rare LEs, but it has been a long time since pinball has been a good earner on location. And if pins are not on location then how will the general population come into contact with pins? I'm sure there are many reasons why pins aren't on location much anymore, but I think that it is possible that if a new style, flashy pin was made that was attractive and interesting, that pinball might attract some younger players.

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