Star Wars Pinball

As a man who loves pinball quite a lot, the worst part about it is just how chunky the whole thing is. Pinball tables are huge, and I’m not always home or at a place where I can HAVE a pinball table. And even then, it’s a bulky and expensive thing that requires a lot of work to deal with (you have to actually wax the board and keep the friction low- but don’t OVER wax it!). Most of my favorite pinball experiences have thus been portable. I can take them wherever and, being virtual, I don’t have to worry about keeping it fancy and fresh. That’s pretty awesome.

Now Star Wars Pinball has come to the 3DS, not the first pinball game from Zen Studio to hit system, but probably the most high profile. Its time is still in the sun, with the DLC coming out for the main console versions, but alas you third class citizens on the 3DS don’t get that, stuck with the vanilla package of the original three tables it shipped with instead.

I’ve written about those at length over here in my WiiU review, and it all pretty much stays the same. I still love the Empire table despite its weird way of running multiple goals at once, which is a pretty dumb thing. The Clone Wars table is pretty good, especially since I don’t have any real appreciation for the series. The Boba Fett table continues to be pretty bad, exacerbated by the smallness of the screen and the somewhat different physics on the 3DS.

That’s right, ladies and gents, the 3DS has different physics from the home consoles and PC. The ball, already light, too easily influenced and very quick to fly around the board as if it doesn’t have the weight and actual physical existence of a real pinball, is now even worse. This ball might as well be a marble, not a metal sphere, for how quickly and easily it moves. It can actually get pretty overwhelming, what with Empire having a magnetized loop, Clone Wars being super colorful and sort of distracting, and the Boba Fett table just being boring and the worst (including a loop that sends the ball straight through the center at approximately light speed). I felt my ball going down side lanes a lot more often than it used to, mostly because physics wouldn’t have knocked it there before on the other ones. It’s interesting that these changes happen, but I guess with a different processor, you get different types of physics processing you can deal with.

As well comes a noticeable dip in effects and graphical fidelity. Vader Frenzy no longer has him grabbing the balls in midair and force smashing them, with them instead being automatically smashed and then carried away. The tables usually look pretty good, though there are a couple of jaggies on the usually crisp graphics, a general lower resolution,  and a bit more faded on the colors. The one or two physical models are probably the worst things: the zoom over to Vader and Boba Fett during the “No disintegrations” is a little painful, what with them having such bad GTA III style fingers and their once round heads now veritable polyhedrons.

Oh and every now and then the game skips a couple of frames. It doesn't happen often, though it is still pretty terrible, and when it does its almost always in a space where it doesn’t affect your need to react. I’ve been really impressed by this, actually, and it’s almost like there’s some weird algorithm that manages to, I don’t know, push frame skips until it won’t mess things up. It doesn’t make any sense (if they could do that they could also just get rid of frame skips) and it’s still a bad technical thing that has persisted since the much-less-good Marvel Pinball they also released, but it’s not as intrusive as something like that could have been to a fast-paced pinball game.

All that said, these are still pretty good tables and having them on the go is actually a pretty big plus. You and I, people who aren’t pinball champions, most of our games usually last 5 to 10 minutes, meaning that unless you want to keep retrying and retrying tables to improve your score, it makes a lot more sense to be able to whip open your 3DS, play those quick couple of rounds, and close it. I find myself saying this about a lot of games on handhelds, but well, it is a huge plus for the system. It’s why so many console-style games don’t work so wellon a handheld, but games like this, with a pick-up, play, and then close and go mentality, really do help a lot to make the games enjoyable.

I’ve really loved playing this game on my 3DS and it’s actually been in pretty constant rotation, not just as a game to review, but also as a game to just enjoy. Because pinball is awesome. Pinball on the go is awesome. In this package you get two great and jam-packed tables (and you might like Boba Fett if you’re that kind of person who likes things that are terrible) and it’s really a pretty good experience. Despite some technical hiccups, I actually think handheld is a better version of the game than a console experience, and if you have the system for it, definitely get this one on the go.