(Note to Fargoalians waiting for a Fargoal update – you will be served. Yes, you will. You just wait.)
In the meantime, I ran across this thing called Pinball Arcade.
Now, I had never been a big fan of pinball. Every time I played a pinball game it was over within moments, the balls caroming randomly off everything. I felt like I had no control and that the ball was attracted to the outlanes like they were magnetized or something. I never got it.
Then, while YouTubeing, I ran across this video of a guy absolutely owning a pinball game called The Machine: Bride of Pin*Bot.
It became clear as I watched this video that this game was complex and subtle, with many objectives to fulfill and many different ways to score. It also wasn’t nearly as random as I thought pinball games were and definitely rewarded skill.
It was also emulated, which appealed to me. Anyone reading this site should already know about emulators. Right? There’s tons of them. NES, SNES, Game Boy (Color) and Game Boy Advance, classic arcade games, the original PlayStation – all these platforms have been solved, with emulators providing experiences indistinguishable from the originals. If you’ve got a super-hot computer, you can even get near-perfect experiences with GameCube and PlayStation 2 emulators.
But unlike an electronic platform where you just emulate the CPU and memory and all the games suddenly start working, each pinball game must be emulated individually. The guys at Farsight Studios have to get a working machine (or a non-working machine and restore it to working order) and then spend months translating the machine’s internal workings, LED display and programming into their system. And of course they desire to be as accurate as possible.
This is more than emulation – it’s preservation. There are millions of working SNES machines in existence; you don’t need an emulator to play SNES games. By contrast, a very popular pinball machine would sell about five thousand units. And when all five thousand of those machines are gone – either sold for scrap or junked or just left to rust in a storage unit – then the game ceases to exist.
Unless it’s been emulated.
So I looked up Pinball Arcade and discovered that you can play it on practically any electronic device known to man. There’s a PC version (through Steam), PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, and versions for iPhone, iPod, iPad and Android devices. And they all play practically identically.
At this point, Farsight Studios has emulated almost thirty pinball machines through Pinball Arcade. They are living up to their name, doing the work of the gaming gods and making sure that these games do not die when the machines that contain them do.
You can download a version of Pinball Arcade on whatever you happen to have and it comes with a free board – Tales of the Arabian Nights. You can then buy boards in two-packs or buy whole seasons of boards for a lower price.
Give it a try; it may just change your mind about pinball like it did mine.