Friday, December 16, 2011
I've decided to start posting up superplay videos as I come across good stuff in my travels through space, time and the internet. This is a great run of Same! Same! Same! and although he uses autofire, it still has some of the core patterns. It's a great game and a good run through. If it doesn't get you stoked to play some old school Toaplan titles, there's something wrong with you!
Friday, December 9, 2011
Funny thing this high score - I set it while waiting to play Ketsui at work on the Astro City right next to the DK3. I was kind of chilling while playing and all of a sudden I realized I was on level 33 with a 500K score. I freaked out for a second and then chilled out, kept as calm as I could and plowed on. I think I have the later enemies down pretty good. It is totally satisfying to hammer away at guys and dive in and out of tight spots in this game. At times, it feels like a maniac shmup with all the focus you have to pay to it, but really, its a lot like nothing else.
Super happy with this high score - I feel like there is very little to learn here before I can start knocking off an hour at a shot. It had been sometime since I played this one and this was my first game of the night and even then, I got a significant improvement over my last high score at 691,400.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
So I have determined that I have a sickness. I told myself I would stop at three. I lied. I got a fourth game, Special Force Girls by Bally, and almost as quicjkly as I got it, fell in love with Big Guns and started a search for a trade.
Luckily, I found one close by for trade + cash from none other than John Dayhuff, a stellar guy and collector of the highest standard. Check out this video of his basement and be careful not to drool:
Yup, 70+ pins in the basement. John told me he has bought and sold 362 pins over the years. Amazing.
Zespy (owner of Logan Hardware and friend) and I headed up on a Saturday to swap and played in the arcade all day, chilling out with John and talking pins as well as looking at spares (I also bought a used but in excellent shape Paragon playfield for $40) and generally feeling like we were in pinball heaven.
While I was there and before we did the swap, I played his restored Big Guns to check it against the one I would be trading for and even though mine was not fully shopped (John just did the electrics and switches and stuff, no rubbers, needs no plastics), it played just the same.
It's a fun and fast paced game with a cool space-medieval theme and great music by Chris Granner. It was a co-designed game with Python Angelo and Mark Richie. The gameplay requires you to lock two balls in the large cannons on the playfield and then shoot the center shot to start multiball. When you start multiball, the two locked balls get shot out of the cannons and fly through the air, ending up in the wire form ramps that feed down to your flippers. I was wary at first about this kind of feature, but from everything I read, I heard they were reliable and sure as hell, they haven't missed a beat.
It has a simple rule set but a lot of challenging gameplay. It's one of those "just one more ball" pins, which I love. It always feels like you only needed one more shot...
It also has the tallest backbox of any pinball that I know of that also houses a bagatelle style mini-game, much like the plunger roll-over lanes at the top of most games, but one that fires a ball into the bagatelle and ramdomly bounces around to light the lanes, though you do have a lane change flipper button.
There's a great video by blkdog7 on youtube that goes over the game he owns and he's also a great commentator:
Right now, its at Zespy's in the warehouse before I bring it home and it needs some playfield cleanup, some bulbs and some locks installed, which we have already started to do. I swear, this one is the last for a while! I also have a new shmup pcb on its way which will need some love soon...
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Bram Stoker's Dracula is the pin I have probably plyed the most in my lifetime. Working at a video store in the mid-nineties, we had a Mortal Kombat machine (later a MK2) and a Bram Stoker's Dracula pin. I played the hell out of MK and got very, very good at it as well as very, very good at MK2 to the point where I could head over to the local arcade and play on a quarter for the afternoon, playing the locals and chilling hard.
When I had no one to play against or got sick of playing through the game on one player, I would plays games of Dracula. It seemed to me to be a really hard game, very dark and lacked any sort of humour, unlike MK2 with its Friendships and Babalitys.
I never was any good at it back in the day, eschweing rulesets for adreneline rushes of constantly firing flippers, but I did really like it and played a bunch of it.
While I was watching the tutorials by Bowen on Tilt Warning, a tutorial came up for this and I watched the whole thing a few times in a row and saw almost everything that could be done in the game and just flipped. I started looking into what BSD's sold for and luckily, they tended to go rather cheap for 1990's DMD games - $1,500 being about average.
I kept my eyes open for one locally and found one in Watertown, WI, about 2 1/2 hours away. I immediately jumped on it and started putting the money together. I picked it up a week after getting my Firepower and Paragon.
When I went to go see it, the seller was right up front with a bunch of small issues - like the playfield sliding rails being disconnected under the playfield and the touch-ups on the cabinet, which were actually very nicely done. The playfield is immaculate for the most part with no significant wear anywhere that I can find. It has either been cleaned and waxed super regularly when on location or has a new playfield installed at some point. All the ramps are in perfect shape, with only two small guide plastics (one for the coffin ramp and one for the plunger) missing - which I have already cut out of acrylic and installed. The DMD is in perfect shape, the backbox is stellar and the GI - which I initially thought was dim - is totally fine.
I took it home, set her up after having to call a friend in to help me get it up the stairs and checked it out in detail. After playing a bunch of games, I found that the 10 opto board is probably on its way out and ordered a new one as it was firing the loop switch when I would plunge a ball. I tried cleaning the opto's for the Castle Lock and it didn't seem to change a thing, so I ordered a new opto board for it. One of the bumpers was a bit lethargic, so I made a few adjustments and its back to normal, but will probably need to be rebuilt at some point in the future. The rest of it is perfect.
The gameplay is excellent and very rewarding with triple multi-ball being the goal to earn killer jackpots after locking two of the four balls and shooting the Jackpot scoop. It also has the Mist multiball - a ball that travels across the playfield by a magnet underneath - which may be the coolest feature of any pin I have seen.
The Coffin multiball is also stellar and features the best and most impressive animation in the game. After starting Coffin multiball, you need to shoot the Coffin ramp enough times to spell DRACULA, with one letter awarded in single multiball play, two in double multiball play and three for triple multiball play. One you spell DRACULA, you actually kill him on the DMD, standing over his body, driving a stake through his heart and watching his face turn to a skull. The game volume gets louder when in multiball and the lightshow when you take out Dracula is amazing. I actually drained a ball the first time I did it because I was watching the animation so intently.
The backbox and cabinet art is also amazing, though the backglass is just ok. The cabinet and backbox ahave a screen of Dracula's castle with the Williams logo on the top of it - just killer stuff.
The speech and DMD is very cool and it uses tons of speech samples from the game, featuring all of the main characters from the Francis Ford Copola movie, including Anthony Hopkins, Gary Oldman, Tom Waits, Winona Ryder and Neo. There's a lot of great quotes from Gary Oldman, including "Iam the monster that breathing men would kill" and "They say you are a man of good...taste." There's also a great quote from Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing, which in the movie is somewhat humorous but comes off as super dark in the game, which is "I just want to cut off her head and take out her heart." Awesome stuff.
I have been playing a ton of pinball at home for the last five days as Zespy is out of town and loving the selection I have put together. Officially, I now have a pin from each decade of the best years (in my mind) of pinball - 1970's, 1980's and 1990's.
Monday, October 31, 2011
Paragon is one of the hardest of the late 1970's/early 1980's pins, one that probably scares more people away from it than endears them to it. It's a widebody, which means it plays somewhat slower than a regular pin, but it requires extremely fast reflexes and a great amout of skill and touch on the flippers to make any sort of a descent score. Which is probably why I love it as I do.
I wanted to get a pin that was equal parts hard and rewarding with fast ball times and old school play. Even though its only the year before Firepower, it feels like its from another age of pinball and quite possibly the best example of that style of play.
Thanks to Bowen Kerins, I got a chance to learn a lot about this game and just how difficult it is before ever buying it. His tutorials on the PAPA blog, Tilt Warning, are exceptional and a lot of fun to watch.
I found one locally in amazing shape for a stellar price and snatched it up the same week I got the Firepower. It's a very hard and super rewarding game, one that requires a lot of patience and determination. It doesn't hand you jackpots or multiballs every five seconds. If there was such a thing as a 'Pro' machine, this might be it. I'm really dedicated to learning this machine and getting to the 5x multiplier frequently - out of the hundred or so games I have played I have maybe gotten it five times.
It also got some of the most bitchin' artwork I have ever seen on a pinball machine, courtesy of Paul Faris. The backglass, playfield and ever cabinet side art is stellar.
This is definitely one of my favorite machines of all time, maybe only second to my most recent acquisition...
Sunday, October 30, 2011
I knew that I was going to be getting a few machines - based on my rule of threes (three of any one thing is the minimum number you should have) - and I knew I dug early 1980's games, being that is when I grew up. What better way to get started than 1980's Firepower by Williams.
After 1979's Flash, Williams needed another game that pushed the envelope and got Flash's creator, Steve Richie ( The King Of Flow) and their best programer, Eugene Jarvis, to make one of the best pins of all-time.
1980's Firepower was a return to multiball, but that may be the only old idea on the machine. The sounds are stellar, early electro gun sounds, explosions, bleeps and bloops and just awesome. The art package is very cool - sci-fi, slightly comic book style and even has a bit of a story - you are in a fire fight and need to take down the enemy ship, or ships.
For the first time, the displays did something besides just display score - they counted down 9 to 1 when you locked the third ball for multiball. Which seems like a small thing now, but back in the day, even people inside at Williams were worried that when the display showed something besides the score, that the score might forever disappear. It didn't and its an awesome bit of showyness that makes getting multiball just so much fun.
It's a really tough game, but super fun, fast and challenging. It's a great one to turn the volume up on and play for an hour and just immerse yourself in. So awesome.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
For some reason, arcade people and pinball people seem to be pretty seperate groups of people. Not a lot of arcade guys collect or play pinball much and vice-versa. But strangely, it seems like a good amount of my fellow shmuppers have gotten into pinball in the last few years. Having played a bunch when I was younger in the second golden age of pinball in the early 1980's, I thought maybe I would have some fun getting into and playing older machines.
Like most things with me, if I get into it, I have to know everything about it, like who was the best designer, what are the best titles, what are the hardest games, what games are the hardest to find, etc. I learned and read what felt like the entire internet's worth of pinball information - and then realized I was heading out to Vegas on business - right where the Pinball Hall Of Fame is located.
Normally, I do a lot of reading and chilling out in Vegas, preferring scotch and a good cigar from one of the many Davidoff stands in the Venetian where we usually stay rather than nights of drinking and gambling and strip clubs - not that I don't enjoy naked girls and alchohol, but Vegas is pretty much overkill on all fronts.
The second night I was there I got a chance to check it out and took a cab out there, past the airport, way off the strip and arrived in a little strip mall where the Pinball HoF lies. The sign is almost an afterthought, a vinyl banner about 5'x3', hung up about 25 feet off the ground, so you need to crane your neck up and squint to see it. I was a bit put off by this, but hey, the Libarace Museum is right across the street, so the HoF is in good company, it should be great right?...
And it was. There are a ton of games - way too many to play on three successive nights of aggressive playing. Most were in good shape, with a couple of small problems, some were in excellent shape and some were completely shut off. A lot of the games I had come to play were in good working order, like Firepower, Eight Ball Deluxe, Funhouse, Mata Hari, Whitewater, Space Shuttle, Medieval Madness, Centigrade 37, Cyclone and Black Knight.
I played the hell out of Firepower and dug the sounds, very early 1980's Williams, like playing Defender and Robotron together. Centigrade 37 is an early Gottleib EM machine and is incredible amounts of fun, with its Jack Kirby-inspired backglass and art. It's not very difficult and I did roll the counter while I was there. I played Eight Ball Deluxe and enjoyed the hell out of it, Black Knight for two nights pretty intently, had a killer game of Medieval Madness rolling until they turned off the games on me while they were closing. I was so into the game, I didn't even notice they had shut down!
It think it was at the time that I realized that I was hopelessly and happily addicted. I pretty much knew I was going to buy a few machines very soon and that I probably had the beginnings of a new hobby on my hands.
When I got back to Chicago, I started looking through Craigslist and every pinball forum I could find, contacting owners and getting some good deep knowledge aout the games through my own research. And because I am a bit of a competitive guy, I started to learn about competitive players and their techniques and found Bowen's tutorials on the PAPA (Professiona and Amateur Pinball Association) blog, Tilt Warning. I have now watched every tutorial on there about 5-10 each. No bullshit.
I've learned about post-transfers, drop catches, live catches and 'Shatzing the Inlane' and am loving every moment of playing. It helps that I have made fast friends with Zespy - a fellow video game/pinball and record guy and the owner of Logan Hardware - a used record and arcade room with a bunch of pinballs and tons of arcades. It is now my favorite store in Chicago. I play there at least three nights a week, getting in games of Pinbot and Doctor Who and Johnny Mnemonic while buying Weather Report and Hawkwind records. Awesome.
This past week, I picked up two new pinballs, classics from two different decades (update post soon to follow) and I am hopefully going to have a third on its way soon. I am also headed out to the Pinball Expo in Wheeling tonight to play as long as I continue to stand up as the room is open all night for free play, some 100+ games being present.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
After a week in Las Vegas for the Interbike trade show (the bike industries big trade show), I flew out from Vegas to Philly to head over to the 2011 CAGDC Tourney. I hadn't played in a tourney since 2008 and was hoping for a great weekend of playing games and chilling.
The arcade is stellar - Richie Knucklez's place is packed with some fantastic titles, all kept up and near tip-top condition. The selection ranges from the familiar (Galaga, Star Wars, Frogger) to the player's titles (DK3, Gorf, Crystal Castles, Food Fight) to massive amounts of old school racing games (Pole Position 2, Stocker, Monaco GP) and then some rare classics (Crossbow, Bosconian, Hunchback, Swimmer). There were even a few pinballs - Stargate abnd Roller Disco, the former being a lot of fun with good ramp shots and a pretty deep ruleset and the later being just ok, but mostly missable, except for the theme, which is dope.
I showed up Friday night after flying all day and drove right from the airport to the arcade to practice Friday night. I started in on DK3 and Crystal, but also on Bosconian, Satan's Hollow, Stocker and some other titles. I also played a ton of Stargate, because, hell, it's my entry fee and I wanted to play some pinball too.
I had a good night and played more than talked to others. I fell inlove with Sega's Monaco GP, a mini-cabaret style driving game with frantic pace and good controls. I also got really into Bosconian, but could never seem to get a good game going. I left that night feeling a bit sore and very tired and but excited for Saturday's competition.
I woke up Saturday and felt like shit. I was super exhausted and felt lightheaded, but I headed out after some breakfast and played until 2 pm. I knew something was up when I stopped playing for a short bit. I went back to the hotel thinking I just needed some rest and paseed out on the bed and woke up 6 hours later with a raging fever. Now, I run a fever very rarely, even when I have been pretty sick. Last time I did was about 15 years ago when I got Scarlet Fever, so I was pretty freaked out.
I packed my self in ice and stayed on the hotel bed for a few hours, trying to eat and relax and I just felt like I was getting worse. I ended up taking an ice cold shower, which sucked major, but it did break the fever. I crashed out again at about 11 pm and woke in the morning feeling pretty good. Fever was gone and I got the chance to talk with Mark Alpiger, my roommate briefly before I left.
He did tell me I was doing great on the titles I manage to put scores up for - a 560K score on DK3 and a weak completed game of CC at 761K, along with some good scores on other machines like Crossbow, Monaco GP and Food Fight. I was bummed about not being about to finish the competition, but very relieved that I wasn't in a hospital, so it was kind of a trade off.
Thanks to Mark for sharing a hotel room with me and getting me coffee and a sweet roll Sunday morning and to Richie for hosting such a great tourney - at least for the time I was there.
Friday, September 9, 2011
This will probably be the last high score until the tourney next week. I think I have a great game rolling here and can take down a top spot on this and maybe Crystal, though I haven't been practicing that. I'd like to take the top spot on DK3 and chill for the rest of the tourney, play some pinball and take a lot of photos. I will have Linda's flip cam, so I will be taking some video and uploading that as well.
This 598,100 score was just 900 shy of my 600K goal for the night and I feel pretty good about setting a 600K game for the tourney. I'm hoping for an hour marathon game, but that would be the best possible result.
I also really want to place in the tourney, but unless I can take down top scores on two of my games and then finish high on the rest, I don't think that is gonna happen. Who knows though, really anything cabn happen. This tourney should be a lot of fun.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Not a bad first 1CC of this game, no real point pressing here and a pretty average run back up to the top. It was extremely satisfying to finish this game though. The last few floors were pretty easy and I ran most of them quickly, taking out the guards and moving to the exit, just working on the clear.
I have a good plan for the floors up to 33, using the floor 7 warp, and a pretty good idea of how to run the floors on the back, but - according to the rules on Twin Galaxies:
Special Note: player cannot start from a floor lower than nine (9).
Which makes me a little wary of John McAlister's WR score on there as I a few of his MARP runs which are about the same score and he does use the 7th floor warp. I did send an email to TG asking for clarification and have not heard back, but I will try and see what patterns can be built from starting on 9 and working up without warps. I don't think there is a cave level until the 20's and I would need to search for a warp there. It may be advantageous to play every floor and rack up some points by killing guards and collecting boxes, but those express bonuses you can get from skipping floors may be where its at.
All of that aside, I am super stoked on this game still. I'm so excited to own it and super excited to play it each and everytime.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
They don't come much rarer than this 1986 machine by Bally/Midway - Zwackery. I never saw one in person until two weeks ago and my interest in the machine sparked a trade deal and a week after that, here we are!
It's a strange game with controls similar to Discs of Tron. But where the Discs of Tron controls are somewhat intuitive, Zwackery's are not. You control your character with a flight stick and a spinner, which can be pushed down and pulled up. The flight stick also has a thumb button and a trigger, making it pretty difficult to get use to the controls. The game even has a tutorial right off the bat to get you familiar, but it will take more time than that to get good.
I played about a dozen games the second night I got it and at that point, I had a pretty good feel for the controls and what they do. I could even slay the enemies I wanted to instead of flailing about, but I hadn't even started in on the spells, of which there are a few. It's pretty intimidating, but a very unique and eventually, a very rewarding game.
The graphics are just stellar and very advanced - I believe this was the very first 32 bit game in the arcades. It's fantasy themed, a swords and sorcery side-scrolling adventure. I haven't really got that far in the game, mostly due to playing a lot of C&D right now, but its an interesting game and one I will have to play a bit more when I can pry my fingers off the C&D. I may not get the chance though as it is up for sale currently at KLOV and there is an offer pending and a few interested parties, so we shall see. I was really on the fence about this being a keeper or not, but I think I will be happier with a pinball machine in the collection as I seem to be gripped by late 1970's/early 1980's pins at the moment.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Progress is happing very quick here. I have been practicing it a bit every time I can, getting a bit further and trying to figure out what the best path through the game is to max out points. I'll post this up as my first high score, a 1,090,165 score that got me to level 22 going back up. There is a lot of point pressing opportunities here and some interesting places to score and I am just loving the gameplay and time I am spending on this machine.
I added castors to the bottom and dialed it in a bit more monitor wise and its as good as its gonna be. I will start recording runs shortly as I am getting closer and closer to the clear. I have been trying new things on every run - using the 'express' elevator in different places, suiciding on high scoring floors, looking for the fastest path through the maze levels and seeing if spawning more than one superguard per floor is possible (I haven't done it yet).
I will be submitting a high score to Twin Galaxies at some point here as I feel the need to get some TG world record scores under my belt. Whenever I play in these vintage arcade tourneys, everyone else either has 'WR Holder in ...' or 'Former WR Holder...' titles and mine is always 'Good player at...'. My turn for a WR.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
I first knew about this game through watching KET play via his UStream channel and I was always intrigued by it. It's a combination platformer and RPG, which is a weird combination for an arcade title, but it definitely works. It's a fantasy themed game with a Mage, Priestess, Warrior and a Ninja as playable characters. Ninjas were big in '89.
Like most RPG's, you kill stuff for experience and do some dungeon crawling for items and boss fights. The sprites are well drawn, like a grown up Rastan with equally as good music. There are hidden pathways in the game and it is satisfying to find them and strangely, pretty easy to do so.
It does require some planning on your part, so you really have to learn the stages and layouts to know what items to get and what level you should be at before tackling certain parts of the dungeon. It feels weird to level grind in an arcade title, but its always enjoyable.
I have made it a bout three levels into the game and I'm not really sure how many there are but its awesome fun. Got it off KLOV for cheap and I'm stoked that I own this piece of Taito history.
Making some serious progress here. Went from some 200K games, to 300K to 400K to this high score, 523,700. It was plagued with stupid moves, but I am still learning alot of the patterns. I am making some progress on the later enemies and getting use to their movements. I'm right at about the point where the game does not get any harder. A few more levels should do it. There are no enemies remaining that I haven't seen, so I should be able to do pretty well here.
My games are lasting about a half hour in the upper 400K range to 500K, so, even with my limited math skills, I think if I can hit a mill, I should be good for the competition.
This game really is a shmup and super fun - fluid and satisfying and demanding on the later levels.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Finally! After looking for this game pretty seriously for the last ten years, I have finally found one! Cloak & Dagger is my holy grail of cabs, having become obsessed with it a few times over the years. Words cannot really do justice to my happiness and excitement, especially after playing it for the first time last night, on a dedicated cab and not through emulation. It's very similar to Robotron: 2084 in that it is a two-stick shooter, but differs in that there is an end to the game and warps to later levels and way more interesting floors and layouts.
You start out on the first floor, going down into Dr. Boom's Bomb Factory complex to find him and there are 33 levels downward. Once you hit the bottom, you get a chance to fight Dr. Boom, recover the stolen USAF plans and head back to the surface, now with harder floors. Each floor on the way down has a bomb in the center of the floor with a burning fuse, so you enter the floor, kill the guards, get pieces to a map to get out of a minefield map every 4 floors or so, sometimes grab an extra life in a box and head to the exit. You also have an igniter button, so that if you want to rack up some good points, you can ignite the fuse at a way shorter point to set the bomb off sooner. If you can time the bomb explosion - which engulfs the screen when it detonates - getting you into the elevator at the end of the level just before the blast reaches the door, you'll get a ton of points and flames will lick out from the cracks between the elevator doors in the cut scene. Awesome, just awesome fun.
I got into it at first as a child after watching the Disney movie of the same name and thinking how amazing the game looked, how cool the elevator cut scenes were, how awesome the music sounded. Later, when I started buying arcade games in the mid to late 1990's, I started looking for one again, reconnection with the interest in it of my youth, but I could not find one anywhere at any price. And these were the days when op's were dying to sell you stuff out of the backroom, before nostalgia hit on arcade cabs and where you could walk out with original Star Wars and Tron's for $150 a piece.
I kept looking around for years, finding a few for sale from time to time, but I was either too late or the price was waaaaaaaay to high. Finally, I found a local collector who had a B, B+ machine for sale for $1250 and as I was hemming and hawing, out of the blue came an email from someone on VAPS with a Cloak & Dagger, A- condition with a spare original marquee, a spare Agent X board (prototype version of C&D) and a spare C&D board too for $650. Holy. Shit.
I completely flipped out. He sent pictures and video's of the machine, its full sideart, its nearly pristine control panel and I just exploded with happiness. I immediately accepted his offer without any haggling and agreed to make the trip up from Chicago to Minneapolis, MN that following weekend and 15 1/2 hours later, here we are.
I installed it into the SRAM arcade for the time being and need to get some castors on it and tweak the monitor a bit too, but the rest of it is tip top. The joysticks are even tight and the CP is so clean underneath, it looks like it just came out of the factory, as does the coin box and all of the boards inside the cab. Just crazy nice.
I got in a few credits on it and posted a 900K score on it the first night, ending at level 30 on the way back up, using the warp on level 7 to head to level 30. There are a number of warps in the game and I will work on the short path first to get a good score and then maybe other longer paths to maximize the score if possible. The WR is 1,497,744 and I think I can give it some serious competition. My 900k score puts me in 3rd place for the game on Twin Galaxies with over 25 submitted scores, so I feel pretty good about that.
I'm super happy to own this and it came at a time when I had spare cash and time, like fate stepped in a decreed it was my time to own one. Thanks, fate. I'm f*^king happy as hell.