Friday, May 1, 2015

Zen Pinball 2 - "Star Wars Rebels" (PS3/PS4/PS VITA)

Taking place right after the events of the final episode of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, and five years before the classic trilogy that most of us grew up loving this tie-in tale of the Star Wars universe known as "Star Wars Rebels" focuses mainly on a ragtag group of rebels, and their fight against the overpowering Galactic Empire. Among the main characters in this story about an uprising you'll find a young Jedi in training known as Ezra, and his youthful Jedi instructor Kanan. Aiding these two main roleplayers in their adventure are Hera the Twi'lek owner/pilot of the starship "Ghost", Sabine Wren who is a Mandalorian graffiti artist, and Zeb who is a Lasat honor guard. Together they use their powers, and unique abilities to fight off the Sith threat that is the "Inquisitor", and his loyal allies in arms. As far as the series goes it is not unlike the before mentioned prequel trilogy, and is shown in a more lighthearted animation style that is indicative of previous Star Wars animated series spin-offs. According to my sources it was designed around the style/look of the prequel trilogy, and not so much the more serious classic trilogy.

Zen Studio's rendition of "Star Wars Rebels" in pinball form is a noteworthy tribute with a multitude of features that work together in a truly complimentary way. Like the 'Han Solo' Star Wars tribute table this particular one has an animated, and moving ship that is one of the main focal points on the playing field. As the story suggests this ship is none other than the rebel crew's 'Ghost'. Aside from sitting stationary at the back of the table, and looking quite impressive this modest mode of intergalactic transportation will take off when a certain set of target requirements are hit. Upon meeting the event activation requirements the 'Ghost' ship will reveal a base just underneath it that doubles as a sort of pong-like mechanism in which the loyal droid 'Chopper' takes the pinball, drops it off, and repels it into the surrounding illuminated targets that line the interior of the octagonal structure.

Other 3D models of interest that look very much like their animated series counterparts include Ezra, and Kanan who stand at the top right-hand side of the playing field atop a clear platform that house pegged lanes (which spell out EZRA & double as a skillshot), and three themed bumpers. Ezra, and Kanan's 3D models will move, and react when certain events are triggered, and selected through the usual lane/ramp passes, target strikes, and pitfall entries. At times the 3D model of the "Inquisitor" will take their place with his gyroscopic dual-bladed light sabre as will a Storm Trooper done up in a more traditional appearance.

Other unique features worth noting include a thruster engine propeller that is located just underneath Ezra, and Kanan's platform. The thruster will spin when the pinball enters it's small opened entrance, and will glow as if it is starting up for lift off. As the ball spins inside it glows orange as well, and will continue a countdown in floating digital digits until they reach zero at which point it will capture the following entered pinball, be covered by a ramp afterwards, and gather up any other pinballs that should pass up the small ramp until the multi-ball event is triggered. As far as ramps go they follow the usual serpentine formula with twists, and turns constructed in factory-like half-pipes, and wire cuppings that keep the industrial theme of the table's airspace building structure in mind. The two main ramps that link up the the Ghost's launch pad however have a more concrete like appearance that is typical of something you's see in a real world airport docking station. Speaking of the building structure the table which is heavily inspired by the desert worn machinations of the Star Wars civilizations houses a continued half-pipe ramp lane that extends outside of the right-hand side of the table, and curves back in through the metallic structure before continuing on to the main flipper area. It's definitely a unique feature in that it takes the gameplay outside of the table's boundaries.

As far as targets that appear on-table go you will find some reappearing Storm Trooper cutouts that slide back, and forth rewarding the player handsomely when hit. This of course happens during the event in which the Storm Trooper takes Ezra's, and Kanan's place on the back platform. I should also mention that there are events tied to each of the main character's names (Zeb, Ezra & Kanan, Hera, Chopper ...) each of which are triggered by the appropriate pinball passes, and target strikes. Some of these I have mentioned, and others are simply multi-ball events, and jackpot opportunities that are made available for additional scoring. The only other "different" event that I can recall out of memory is the looting of the Imperial cargo. This event is a lot like the Cartman event on the 'South Park' table in that cargo containers will appear in the middle of the playing field, and once hit you'll get over a million points for each collected one. It's a quick way to rack up the big score. As far as the launcher goes it is a shuttle that is a lot like the ones you see in the prequel movie trilogy. The small shuttle craft will fly to, and land on the launcher lane just before you can launch the pinball onto the playing field. When it comes to getting that skillshot you'll have to apply the appropriate amount of pressure to the "X" button in order to get it to pass through the lit up letter in the pegged "EZRA" lanes that are just underneath the upper right platform. Each time the required letter changes you will have to apply the pressured buttons press correctly in order to reach it. Of course doing so in succession will award you over one million points instantly.

The Verdict ...

I may not be a fan of the animated series, in all honesty, but Zen Studios rendition of 'Star Wars Rebels' in pinball table form really looks nice, and plays very well. Compared to the 'Age of Ultron' table this one is much easier to score on, and has many more accessible tabletop features that make it more user friendly. I love the target variety, and the various design choices that were implemented. I almost forgot to mention that Sabine's artistic nature was also a huge roleplayer in scoring on the table as once her graffiti is sprayed on the wall through the appropriate event it will award the player a sort of slot machine bonus that ranges from an extra ball to score multipliers, and other significant extras. This artistic touch really did something that no other Star Wars video games ever have, and being an artist myself I really liked that aspect of it. With everything considered the table was an overall well thought out design in which every contributing part was made complimentary ... If you are a Star Wars fan, and don't mind the animated series tie-ins I highly suggest you adding this one to your Zen Pinball 2 collection. Even if you do like the animated series, but love Star Wars still pick it up for yourself as it is a viable part of the growing Star Wars lore.

For those of you worried about my console preference keep in mind that it is cross-buy DLC, meaning that once it's bought on the PS3, or PS Vita that it can be downloaded on the PS4. I will say that the PS4 version still looks, and plays the best though. Everything is more visible on it, and is easier to score on. My only problem with the PS Vita version was that the "EZRA" pegged lanes above the bumpers were not as visible as they should have been, making the skillshot even more difficult to pull off. That is my only complaint. It is still a noteworthy table regardless.

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