Zen Studios bring Star Wars Pinball to the Nintendo Switch but does it achieve a high score?
The new Star Wars game for Nintendo Switch isn’t actually a new game at all. Every one of Zen Studios’ Star Wars tables has been available on other devices for some time, be it piecemeal through Star Wars Pinball on mobile, or as DLC for the various favours of Pinball FX on PC and console.
The Nintendo Switch version of the game is also the most expensive out of the gate (although cheaper overall) and comes with several new features. The most obvious selling point is that it includes all 19 Star Wars tables that Zen Studios has produced without the need for additional purchases. These range from tables based on the original trilogy, right through to Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Solo. There are also tables based on specific characters, as well as The Clone Wars and Rebels spin-offs. Sadly, the prequel trilogy only gets cursory representation through the Masters of the Force table.
The Switch edition of Star Wars Pinball also includes a suite of new modes that help pull everything into a cohesive whole, including an overarching online Galactic Struggle based on players’ chosen affiliation to the Light or Dark Side of the Force.
The quality of the tables is excellent throughout. Zen has long since made a name for itself with the quality of its table design, with Pinball FX favourites like Wild West Rampage and Secrets of the Deep being highlights. The high standard is maintained here with The Empire Strikes Back, Droids, and Battle of Mimban right up there with the studio’s best efforts. Each one would be enjoyable even if it was shorn from its Star Wars trappings.
Fortunately, they’re not. And it’s the evident love for George Lucas’s universe that elevates this release. The Darth Vader table, for example, features beautifully rendered elements taken from the sets of the Death Star and the bowels of Cloud City. Ahch-To Island is populated by Lanai Caretakers. Rathtar tentacles flail among the channels of The Force Awakens. And the Lando Calrissian table includes the infamous Millennium Falcon cloakroom.
Each table also includes occasional cameos from various fan-favourite characters. The animation can sometimes be a little stiff but the tottering of C-3PO, the swagger of Han Solo, and the scampering of the adorable Porgs adds life to each game.
The attention to detail also extends to a suite of authentic sound-effects which whirr and fizz to snippets of John Williams’ iconic film scores. The only disappointment is the voice acting. With the original actors presumably out of budget, a decidedly mixed bag of impersonators takes their place.
The biggest addition to the Switch version of Star War Pinball is a new Career Mode which assembles every table into a series of objective-based challenges. Some have time limits, some will ask you to reach a score within a number of flips, and others will turn the tables’ mini-games into one-shot missions. Along the way, Holocron shards can be earned and redeemed for Force Powers and Talents which can to boost multipliers, slow down time, and provide longer ball saves. It’s simple stuff for sure but it provides a sense of progression and encourages the learning of new techniques and methods.
The rules of pinball tables are often obtuse at the best of times, so Zen should also receive credit for the excellent in-game table guides. Each one offers a detailed and illustrated breakdown of each stage’s shooting options, jackpots, and multiplier requirements.
Elsewhere you can play tables in single-player or hot-seat multiplayer, and there is a range of online leagues and tournaments to compete in. Other features include a Cantina jukebox and multiple HUD options to configure.
In terms of performance, there’s no evidence of the issues that affected Pinball FX 3’s Switch debut. The game looks pin-sharp and runs without any hiccups. It also makes excellent use of HD rumble and include the welcome option to change the display to Tate mode.
In most respects Star Wars Pinball is a known quantity, much like the films that inspired it, but this particular special edition includes worthwhile enhancements and is recommended.
Game: Star Wars Pinball
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Zen Studios
Publisher: Zen Studios
Release Date: September 12, 2019