Zen Studios continues to release the greatest arcade pinball games to this day. The tables always look stellar, and virtually feel smoother than any other pinball experience outside of them. In the latest pinball set we are given the opportunity to nab with our hard earned money some of the best Star Wars themed pinball tables yet. Just when I thought Zen Studios could not outdo what they've already done they go, and prove me wrong again. This latest set known as 'Star Wars Pinball - Heroes Within" contains four distinctly new tables that each take on some fan favorite subjects. You have a table dedicated to the rough, and tough Han Solo. you have a table dedicated to the Jedi Masters, and Sith Lords. You have a table designed after everyone's favorite droids, and you even have a table themed after the fourth episode in the original Star Wars Trilogy. Each table comes jam packed with intricate detail designs, 3D interactive objects/models, a ton of on-table mini-games as well as plenty of scoring opportunities. It's truly Star Wars pinball at it's finest!
While each console has the tables listed in a different order accordingly you'll find that the "Han Solo" table will be the first listed on some. It is also a table that's near, and dear to my own heart for a couple of reasons. Growing up, and watching the original Star Wars Trilogy at an early age I grew fond of the storyline, and the interesting characters contained within it. Out of all the characters shown though it has always been Harrison Ford's 'Han Solo' character that has been my favorite. I personally have always thought of him as the Indiana Jones of outer space seeing as it was the "Indiana Jones Trilogy" I watched first. The fact that he won over the princess, and helped to save the galaxy for the threat of the darkside made him all the more appealing to me, and his many admiring fans. His rough, no care attitude also made me personally admire his character even more. Regardless of his second place seat amongst the stars of the cast there's no denying that Han Solo was the favorite of many diehard fans, and that he still is to this day. As Han Solo so rightfully said (in some form, or fashion) "Who needs a lightsaber, and hokey religions when you have a guy with a blaster by your side?".
The Han Solo table in the "Heroes Within Set" captures perfectly the nature of the heroic Han Solo, and in doing so includes many details that pay tribute to his roles within the classic Star Wars trilogy. On the cramped playing field you'll find what looks to be like old Star Wars poster art featuring Han Solo at the front, and center as well as Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Chewbacca by his side. The large image of Han Solo is in an action pose with his blaster aimed, and ready to fire. Han Solo himself sits to the right side of the table in all his 3D animated glory spouting out lines from the original trilogy as the table comes into focus. Chewbacca's 3D sits to the opposite left side trying desperately to repair the Millenium Falcon as he did in the movie. C-3P0 who was also a part of the Millenium Falcon escape scene is positioned in his mangled condition just below the bottom flippers. Each 3D model representation will often times chime in with quotes from the movie as well as sound effects associated with said film. Even the large scale 3D model of the Millenium Falcon at the back of the playing field comes to life via animations to contribute the the tables overall greatness.
In the way of ramps, flippers, jackpots, mini-games there's plenty to take advantage of as you begin your table playthrough. In total there are four flippers included in the tables playing field. Two of the flippers are your standard main ones while the other two that are strategically placed at the mid-center, and mid-right of the playing field are there to gain you access to areas/objects of interest. As far as the ramps go they are a virtual spaghetti junction with five different access points. Each ramp access ties in with certain scoring opportunities as well. Three of the ramps will allow you to score a jackpot so long as you enter each of the three ramps to spell out the associated word (Probe, Smuggle, Courage).
In the way of mini-games you'll find that the table affords you some rather unique mini-games worth millions of bonus points upon completion. There's the Millenium Falcon asteroid field mini-game in which your goal is to dodge asteroids while causing the tailing tie-fighters to crash into them. There's also a Millenium Falcon crane mini-game in which you must drop a previously trapped pinball into a certain hole. For those of looking to score that skill shot bonus you'll find that it can be tricky in that just the right amount of pressure must be applied at launch in order to land the pinball inside the asteroid wurm's tail. Seeing as Han Solo was a frequenter to the local Mos Eisley Cantina you will also find a blaster mini-game in which patrons of the bar are lined up as targets, and must be downed in order to take advantage of the additional scoring. These are some of the was to ensure that high score at the end of your playthrough.
After spending some time on the 'Han Solo' table I found myself loving it's appearance, and applied details. It had a Scifi steampunk theme going on that was attractive, and it definitely did the characters, and features involved justice. As far as scoring goes this is one of those medium difficulty tables that will require some getting used to. In my early playthroughs I did manage to hit the 10 million point mark, but not much past it. The ramps aren't made for easy, or speedy access, and will require perfected timing for successful ramp entires. The same goes for hitting the mini-game triggers. As far as the Millenium Falcon asteroid dodging mini-game goes it's more like a video game than an actual on-table feature, but will only require the use of the flipper triggers just as everything else does.
Masters of the Force
As the title of this table suggests you will be living out the epic battles, and ongoing conflicts with both the Jedi, and Sith masters of the Star Wars universe. At the rear end of the table you'll find the eldest masters of the force in the form of Yoda, and the Emperor (Darth Sidious). Yoda resides in his home at the Dagobah swamp, and the Emperor sits on his throne amidst an intergalactic space station. Just below these two all powerful teachers of the force you'll also find the Jedi, and Sith Holocrons. The Jedi Holocron is a glowing blue cube while the Sith version is a glowing red pyramid. As you continue gaze upon the table's many details you'll find that it is divided in both color, and theme. On the right side of the table lies all things associated with the Jedi, and on the left side lies all the things associated with the Sith. As far as table art goes the art is also divided accordingly, and depicts each of the Jedi, and Sith masters from both trilogies. Among them are Darth Maul, Darth Sidious, Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Yoda. Like the other Star Wars art featured on the Star Wars pinball tables this art reflects a movie poster style that is more like a painting than an actual photographed likeness.
To add further flair to the table you'll also find a mini-video screen that shows frame-by-frame footage of various "Jedi vs Sith" fights. Of course this unique video motion feature ties in with the tables special fight events which are triggered by hitting certain targets on the playing field. Once the correct objects/targets are hit 2D images of the fighting Jedi, and Sith Lord will appear in the middle of the playing field, and will move as if actually fighting amongst themselves. With each hit of the character targets you will score points. If you hit a Jedi you will score lower point values, but if you hit the Sith Lord you can score a million points with each landed hit. This is a quick way to rack up the big points, and the fact that the trigger event lasts for a while will give you ample time to take full advantage of it's offerings.
As far as the table interactions go you'll find that this table only has a couple of small ramp access points, and that the targets, spinners, and additional playing fields that come into play after being activated are the main focal point of the table instead. Only a minute amount of scoring, and scoring opportunities come from accessing the ramps. Other points of interest mainly include bumpers, targets as well as the Jedi, and Sith Holocron that I mentioned earlier. By landing enough hits on these included tabletop features you will activate corresponding events including that of multipliers, jackpots, multiballs, and high scoring opportunities. This table with it's applied simplicity still remains to be this set's master class table. You will find scoring high on it to be a truly challenging task. It will take as much dedication as a Jedi in training would have to give in order to master the skills of the force.
With each new pinball set comes a series of tables that range in difficulty from hard to easy. In the grand scale of things I'd say that the "Droids" table definitely takes the spot as this set's easy table. Unlike the two tables before it the roundabout ramp system that was put into place makes for easy, and quick scoring capabilities. While there's less in the way of 3D models, or access blocking targets you will find that this particular Star Wars table was built for the purpose of high scoring. On the table's playing field you will find an assortment of artistically represented Star Wars droids along with their Jawa captors, and an image of the traveling salvage factory known as the 'Sandcrawler'. Like the other artistic images used throughout the Star Wars Pinball table sets you will find the same familiar movie poster art style that's associated with the true Star Wars namesake, and merchandise.
The curvy, and roundabout ramps which cover a good portion of the playing field, and lie in wait just above the artistic display have three main access points built for initiating jackpots, and accessing other target opportunities. Visually the ramps each have a resemblance to the tread-like conveyor belts located within the Sandcrawler. By continuously shooting the pinball up each conveyor belt inspired ramp, and hitting the appropriate targets you will spell out the names of several different droids that are along for the same doom ridden ride as 'R2-D2-, and 'C-3P0'. In doing so you will free these scrapped droids, and initiate special scoring events in the process. The main events come in the form of Sandcrawler themed activities/goals, and require well placed pinball shots, and ramp entries to complete. Everything from rebuilding C-3P0 to overloading the Sandcrawler are among the point affording tasks that you will take on.
Aside from the events, and scoring objects/targets you will find that one playing field object in particular known as the 'sinkhole' can afford you some extra perks that will aid you in your high score goals, and even gain you some extra balls. This 'sinkhole' which is literally a hole/ball trap will allow you to increase your multiplier, earn bonus points, and extra balls just by landing the pinball into it. The 'sinkhole' is an easily accessible target just like the ramps. As such your scoring opportunities are amplified greatly the longer you stay alive (have a pinball). One thing I forgot to mention is that there are also four flippers on the playing field. Two of them are the main flippers that you'll be working with at the bottom of the playing field, and the other two are placed midways just before the ramp structure. One of the extra flippers in particular is right at the edge of a ramp access point making for some easy ramp combos if timed correctly.
Another thing I need to touch base on is that there are three different 3D character models located around the playing field, all of which are just out of view. These 3D character models include 'R2-D2', 'C-3P0', and a single 'Jawa' at the back of the playing field. All of the 3D character models are animated, and act according to what is taking place event-wise. It should also be noted that 'C-3P0' often times banters on just as he did in the movies, constantly complaining about his situation, and calling 'R2-D2' names. R2-D2 will also chime in with his digital chirps, and on occasion you'll also hear the Jawas chatter about amongst themselves. In the "rebuild C-3P0" event the droid's body will be torn asunder, and his pieces will be tossed across the playing area. During this mini-game event you must pass the now copper colored pinball over the dismembered droid pieces to collect them. Once all the pieces are collected R2-D2 will reassemble his mechanical friend, and reward your your hefty bonus points. As I said earlier on this is the table that will be for novice players, and for players seeking that noteworthy high score. It's a table that's all about the ease of access.
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
As the title of this table suggests you'll find features related to episode four of the original Star Wars trilogy. It's a mixture of features from previous tables in a way, but also looks unique in comparison to the other tables that have been offered. At the front, and center of the playing field you'll find an artistic depiction of various Star Wars characters including Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, and even Princess Leia. It mirrors the other art styles used in the creation of the other table images. The table also has a couple of prominent 3D character models including Luke Skywalker with his lightsaber drawn, Obi-Wan Kenobi who also stands firmly in the background before a digital board displaying the the activation of the seven main game modes. These seven main game modes which coincide with various scenes from the movie each have their own event triggers that include the hitting of certain targets, ramp access, and center platform interactions. Just below Obi-Wan you'll find a morphing, and rotating platform filled with three different Star Wars bumpers. Each bumpers reacts in a different way when hit, and will require access from different angles to trigger.
Aside from the 3D models of Luke, and Obi-Wan there's also a Tusken Raider 3D model in the back left corner that acts as a mini-game for bonus scoring. The aim of the Tusken Raider mini-game is to dodge the creatures staff by moving the pinball to the right, or left just before the staff strikes. Failure to do so will abruptly end the mini-game. Other features included in the playing field that are more hidden include the Sandcrawler, Trash Compactor, and Trench Run playing fields. These playing fields are hidden out of site until the event is activated. It should also be noted that the Trash Compactor lies just underneath the main playing field in a see-through playing area. As with everything else it requires that you hit the proper access point, and meet the trigger requirements set for it.
The remaining two objects of interest include a Landspeeder target which is basically the floating vehicle that Luke, and Obi-Wan drove into Mos Eisley while looking for a pilot to get them to where they were going. It's one of the smaller targets, and is located just out side the horse shoe oriented ramps. Before I forget to mention it the ramps on this table come in two curved pairs one of which is a larger outer arch, and the other which is a smaller, and inner boomerang style arch that will send the pinball flying right back at the main flippers. Accessing these ramps is a fairly simple task, but you always have to mind the pinball when it's coming back at you. Aside from the Landspeeder there's also a Death Star toy that is a mini-game in itself. It is both moveable, and shootable.
When it came to table favorites this table definitely ranked at the bottom of the list for me due to it's slightly less than epic appearance (not that it was bad though). Even so it still had a medium difficulty challenge about it that won't be too trying for those looking to score big though, and plenty of different scoring opportunities tied into it as well. Even with my lack of interest in it I'm sure Star Wars Fans will have a blast reliving the events of the fourth Star Wars episode on this very table. Overall, with all four tables considered this is definitely one of the best Star Wars tribute sets that has been released by Zen Studios yet. As usual I'm impressed by the work, and genius that was poured into each table creation. It's not easy to create a digital pinball table that plays as well as the ones Zen Studios has to offer.
A Console Comparison ...
Oddly enough all Playstation consoles are not created equal when it comes to a Zen Studios pinball experience. In the case of these latest Star Wars Pinball tables you'll find a split in both playability, and visual quality. Since the tables are so graphically detailed this time around the PS Vita doesn't really provide the best imagery possible. On the plus side though the Vita does offer the more fluid playing experience out of the three Playstation consoles in that the triggers used to flip the flippers require only a slight press. In the case of the PS3, and PS4 versions the back controller triggers that are used for the flipper functions need to be pressed in significantly before the flippers will react.
The only true plus sides to the PS3, and PS4 versions of the tables is that you get a much larger, and clearer view of the details included. As such it's a mixed bag this time around in regards to which console offers the better experience. If I had to choose according to best playing experience I would pick the PS Vita version, because it makes for easier scoring. Not only that but the PS Vita, and PS3 versions have a separate game outside of "Zen Pinball 2" titled "Star Wars Pinball" in which you can add to the growing conflict between the Jedi, and the Sith with your purchased, and played Star Wars Pinball sets. By continually improving upon your score in "Star Wars Pinball" you will add favor through points to your chosen side preference (Dark Side ...). This is a feature that PS4 is unfortunately lacking.
In PS4's defense you will gain the most stunning visuals possible in regards to the available "Zen Pinball 2" tables. Everything on PS4 "Star Wars Pinball: Heroes Within" set looks absolutely stunning. The color is vivid, and truly clear. Even the sound quality is worlds better than that of the previous to console versions. Thankfully Star Wars Pinball tables, like all Zen Pinball 2 tables are a cross buy purchase. There is a catch though. In order to be able to use the tables across all three consoles you must first purchase them on the PS Vita, or PS3. If you purchase them on the PS4 first you will not be able to import them to the Vita, or the PS3. It's just the way it works. If you purchase right though you will be able to enjoy the latest Star Wars Pinball experiences on three different consoles so long as you own said consoles. In the end the set is worth it any way you look at it, especially if you are a diehard Star Wars fanatic!
Verdict: Must Have!!!