Wednesday, November 30, 2011

New Pinball: Big Guns, Williams - 1987

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

New Pinball: Bram Stoker's Dracula - Williams, 1993

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.