I remember having a fascination for computer pinball games for a while. In high school there was the Pinball Construction Set on the Apple IIc. Then in college there was Epic Pinball and Eight Ball Deluxe. The best pinball game I remember playing was Pinball Fantasies. I wasted more time playing that game in college than any other game that I remember. Other video pinball games have come and gone, and real pinball machines have gotten more complicated, but there was always some charm with those original pinball games.
Zen Pinball was released on the PS3 in May. It came with four tables, but the great thing about Zen Pinball is that it could be expanded to more tables. The first of those tables is the Street Fighter II Tribute table.
The first thing that is easy to notice is the art of Street Fighter II all over the board. The main board shows Ryu, Chun-Li, and Guile striking a pose. That’s not all though, as you can see Zangief and E. Honda over the bumpers. Dhalsim is by the ball drain. Blanka shows up over a ball chute and sparks fly just like his Lighting Attack. They even have the car from the bonus round as part of the table. The only real head-scratcher is the fact that Akuma is standing over a ramp entrance since he didn’t make his first appearance until Street Fighter II Turbo as a hidden character. The LED display does show some of the characters at times, and they are done as well as you can expect with a display that only shows different shades of the same color.
If you have ever played Street Fighter II, then you know the audio cues as well. Zen has put a lot of fan service into the table, and the sound effects are taken straight from the original arcade game. Ryu’s Hadoken, Chun-Li’s Spinning Bird kick, and Zangief’s Spinning Clothesline all sound familiar instantly.
One of the biggest issues with pinball games is the view of the pinball table. Do you give the player an angle where they can see the entire table at once, or do you scroll the table up and down following the ball? Zen handles this by giving you several different camera angles. If you want to follow the ball and have the camera scroll along the table, you can do that. If you want see the entire table at once, there are a few camera angles for that too. I personally liked the camera where I could see the entire table, but it prevented me from seeing the ball when it was hitting the bumpers in the upper-left portion of the table. In most of the camera angles you can see the Street Fighter II arcade machines next to it. It is a nice detail that should please fans. About the only complaint I have is that I wish there was a
To have a good video pinball game you need to have two things: realistic pinball physics and an interesting pinball table. The physics of Zen Pinball are very well done. The ball feels like it has the right amount of weight to it. You can hit the ball to try to get it up, or in certain situations you can
The Street Fighter II table follows a typical layout for a pinball table. The lower half of the table has a large amount of space with a few targets on the side. The upper half has more activity with bumpers and ramps, and there is a flipper on the right side that you can use to hit the ball in that area. The ramp on the left has Akuma over it, while the right side has the ramp that goes past a shocking Blanka. In the middle of the table there is an area that has the car from the old bonus stage, and hitting the targets underneath rocks the car. Other obstacles and jumps are available, and eventually you learn the tricks to creating a multiball and scoring other bonuses based on the moves of the Street Fighter II characters, like the Sumo Torpedo.
When you start each ball, the Play Again light is lit, so it feels like you get six balls every game instead of three. Lighting the YOGA above the lower lanes does relight it again, so that’s one objective that is always useful to achieve if possible.