On electronic games’ history and culture

This post is a collection of related subject, combined into easier access

A game is an interaction between at least two individuals under certain rules to achieve some sort of goal or achievement. These rules can be shared between the parties and can contradict one side. This idea has not changed with electronic games, and they are not the first ones to have a non-living party. Just like card games have a card deck as the opposing party alongside other human players, electronic games use their device as the party to oppose the human player. In the end, modern video and computer games use the same rules and point calculation methods used past games and plays, be it sports or card games. After all, Super Mario Bros. is just a continuation of our play culture.

Steve Russel’s famous By gosh, it’s a Pinball! is a good contrast how not even the first computer game was, in the end, nothing new. After the Second World War, game parlors had become the cradle of youth culture, and pinball game parlors (or game arcades) became the place where young men and their girlfriends could escape to from the world, essentially becoming their own little separate worlds from the oppressing reality. This world was from the reach of mainstream culture and its moral guardsmen, allowing the youths to let their suppressed side to blow out.

Originally released 1969, this song is iconic representation of the time

Pinball Wizard is an anti-hero, an abused young man who is shunned by the larger world. However, in the game parlors he is able to convey himself to his peers, becoming one with the machine.

As such, it should be no surprise that parents would be worried about these parlors. After all, penny arcades before had been seen as place of vagabonds and men with beaten past. A place where people with less fortune could come together and entertain themselves with cheap coin operated machines, while possibly making connections to the criminal world. Different leagues and mafias controlled these penny arcades at during the 1930’s America, and as such it’s understandable to see people shunning arcades well up to the 1980’s. That shadow never left these places where men could get together and play games. It could be argued that even the games we have nowadays are suffering from similar complains, where moral guardians blame games for ruining whatever they deem valuable. In this light it is interesting to note that it is more than probable that many parents bought computers and game consoles to keep their children out of the arcades later down the line to keep them away from entering the wayside paths of life.

While my text is largely based on American culture, it’s not to say that the rest of the world saw these parlors in any better light. In France, Jean-Claude Baudot banned all coin operated machines in 1937 to prevent the disease penny arcades were seen as. According to Baudot, this law was still in effect up to the early 1980’s, though the law had been eased and circumvented in all ways and manners. In 1981 Ferdinand Marcos, the president of Philippines,  banned all arcade video games. To enforce his rule he smashed arcade machines in public. This is the same man who banned Voltes V  and other similarly themed cartoons just before the series’ final episode. Both of these men echo events that had taken place during world history time and time again, and events like these would be repeated after them, like how Pokémon was seen as the tool of the Devil by some religious forces. In Colorado Springs, 1999, pastor Mark Juvera took a 30-inch sword to a Pikachu toy in front of 85 children and calling Pokémon poison, not to mention the claims of video and computer games causing players to be more violent. Neither of these points are anything special, they’re just continuing  the same backlash games and other media forms have experienced throughout the ages.

It is somewhat ironic to note that television was seen as one of the remedies to keep these rebelling young people at home, as the 1950’s saw it entering mass markets despite not many having the money to buy one. Television didn’t give solution to the problems parents saw game parlors to be, as the problem was social and parlors were not the originator. Turned out that these young people watched television and took themselves to play pinball with their mates. Basically everything that was seen a solution to a problem would later be deemed a problem in itself as well, as seen with books, movies, amateur radio and maybe some day with games too. The problems were real to an extent, they are always more about the stereotypical view the mass culture takes at them. Books, amateur radio, television and games share the same blame that they keep people, children and adults alike, inside rather than “allowing” them to go outside and play, or do something more worthwhile.

Arcades, as we now remember them, didn’t come from nowhere during the 1970’s. They are just those game parlors with a new name and new machines, just like penny arcades before them. We can trace these places back to the game events held before mechanical games existed. In Herrad von Landsberg’s manuscript from the 1100’s we can see a pair of knights fighting each other through controlled marionettes. While it would be easy to compare this to modern era Vs. fighting  game, that would be far too direct. We do not know whether this was a common event or not, nor whether or not this is a real depiction as intended.

Artikel_45890_bilder_value_1_augsburger_puppenkiste1[1]Street Fighter with dolls?

Nevertheless, the core idea of contest and games are still present, even in the physical games. In the same extension, cock-fighting has been compared to Pokémon and other similar games. This is not rare in any way, as all games have their roots in some form of other plays and games. Majority of first person shooters are based on war games, strategy games are war board games, platformers are adventures children have in forest and elsewhere and imitates jumping form rock to rock, fighting games are rooted in physical combat and so on. Plays and games the adults play do stem from the childhood games, and to certain extent adulthood work and politics are just grander, more serious form of these games. It should be noted that video games especially have stemmed from boy’s play culture (and still reside there due to the competitive nature of it), thou arcade games like Pac-Man and Breakout are more or less neutral in their approach.

But what are the original electronic or mechanic games that can be called as the firs physical grandfathers of modern computer and video games? Perhaps the first ancestral machines are the automata, with machines offering entertainment and awe to the audience. However, games require interactivity, and one of the first proto-interactive machines that allowed the user to dictate some elements of the entertainment was the mutoscope from the late 1800’s. It was deemed to cause moral decay and was blamed to corrupt the youths for the pennies they cost. Pornography was a thing, and mutoscope is most remembered for those kinds of movies. We shouldn’t forget shooting galleries and the like as one of the proto-interactive game machines, as Nintendo’s Zapper and the games it used are pretty much a straight continuation.

Perhaps the mutoscope’s history is closer to films overall. However, it’s slightly more interactive nature does make it a relative of playing

1900’s saw all these machines to become everyday objects, and despite the bad rap they got, they spread like wildfire throughout the world. UK created their own machines alongside Americans (a lot of mutoscope’s UK had were either destroyed or exported to the Denmark during coin change in 1971), France and Germany had their own similar history with coin operated machines and Japan had adult-only pachinko parlors in 1930’s Nagoya. It’s not a large step from these mechanical devices towards electronic games, and through that, into computer and video games.


While many of the fears from the late 1800’s and early-to-mid 1900’s still persist when it comes to electronic games, those who play games and are most enthralled by them has not changed too much since then. Things changed with the advent of Golden Era of games, especially with Pac-Man, a game that attracted both men and women to play. Pac-Man as a character was largely a non-descriptive blob despite the game’s and character’s name.

I’ve talked about Industrial revolution being the main dividing point between arts, crafts and design, but when it comes to games it also created a cultural point with boys’ and girls’ cultures. According to E. Anthony Rotundo (1994), the industrial revolution separated boys from their father’s work environment, leaving them for their mothers’ to take care of. Boys moved outside from there, as motherly care usually emphasised good morals, pampering and kindness. Boys’ games and plays often were almost the opposite of this with physical contact with surprising aggressive attitudes. Going against mother’s command was a way to show that you weren’t a momma’s boy, and building from that onwards is a sort of step towards independent manhood. Regardless of how wild these games were, boys would return home to their mothers. One could say that unlike the Freudian Oedipus complex, boys’ fight against their mothers’ culture.

Rotundo contrasts this against girls’ culture, which is tied to their mothers, which have lived in a sort of symbiosis with each other. While he boys’ “adventure island” had a confrontational setting, girls’ had their own place within the “secret gardens.” While girls tend to favour for more socially interactive game with less or not emphasize on competition and physical contact, the concept of secret garden, a secret place reserved only for them and their fantasies. It should be noted that a lot of books for girls are the opposite of this thinking, where their normal lives are broken by a fantastic individual of sorts and their lives see a change, often at the cost of that secluded place. The differences between classic boys’ and girls’ literature is that boys had the heroes travel far away, while the girls’ literature tended to emphasize on staying home. Through that the stakes were different; for boys the adventures were physical like their games, whereas girls’ adventures were more about the psychology and emotions.

It’s not hard to see why electronic games would end up seen as a boys’ hobby. It is far easier to create a game that’s based on competition and rules rather than a game that requires methodical interaction between characters. A game is easy to program to offer a direct challenge the player needs to achieve, like destroying alien invaders than it is to program to reply to inquiries in a naturalistic and sophisticated way to counter the player’s emotional state.

The question whether or not there is a difference between boys’ and girls’ is cultural at its core. American game developer Purple Moon was known for developing games aimed at girls of age 8-14, and their Secret Paths series could be used as an archetypical example of what is generally seen as a girls’ game.

Secret Path games showcases some traditional symbols and images associated with girls. The cursor in the example above is a heart or a ladybug, there is no physical conflict in itself, and whatever action there is leans on metaphysical than physical. Interestingly, despite Purple Moon’s games tend to be simplified in how things are presented, they still manage to make better use of progressive values than most games we have nowadays.

While Purple Moon’s games were designed to be more about places of relaxation, where girls could pour out their stress and observe things with their hearts, so to speak. Each character has their own secret, and it is up to the player to find the secret paths that are laden with gemstones and other artefacts that give social, emotional and psychological strength. These visuals and pathways are representative of the characters’ plight, and the stories these physical environments contain encourage the player to try things out in their own social life. It’s not hard to see why the founder Brenda Laurel called their games as friendship adventures.

Similarly, Theresa Duncan’s Zero Zero is another example of a game that ties to girls’ culture.

While Secret Paths can be regarded as a continuation to the secret garden idea, Louise Fitzhugh’s 1964 novel Harriet the Spy, is about another sort of play space for girls; the city. Within the book, Harriet observes her city’s, her microworld’s she creates, citizens and their complex interactions and how she changed them as she sees fit. This idea of creating a world and having total control over it is similar to SimCity. The difference between the two is how SimCity is more about playing god and micro-manage everything. To Harriet, creating this world is just the first step, and moves towards spying on the individuals to the point of breaking in real world buildings to understand adult interactions. The same contrast repeats here; there is no physical confrontation like there would be in boys’ novel, all the challenge comes from the human interactions and gaining information on the interactions.

It wouldn’t be too hard to see Harriet the Spy as a stealth game that has no combat. Zero Zero is essentially a computer adventure game version of the novel, where the player goes through the city and similarly seeks people’s’ stories. Despite this innocent sounding setting, Zero Zero and other games from Theresa Duncan do not try to be sleek and pat down the reality. On the contrary, Zero Zero‘s French are bored and tend to insult the player in a stereotypical fashion, as do the flowers. Women with strong make-up smoke freely and tend to flash themselves, promising an event in the Red Lights district.  The Sims has a considerable female fanbase, and in a way can be seen as a modern example of a game that allows the player not only play dollhouse, but also play god and decide the interactions.

Secret Path games and Zero Zero are good examples of two strong sides of traditional girls’ games. Secret Path games are very balanced and encourages the player to feel, so to speak. Zero Zero is an example of a game that shows the misshapen world in a very caricature fashion and encourages the player to seek knowledge and information that is hidden from them. Both are about exploring a physical space, but in the end both are about the players’ inner worlds.

Games like Pac-Man and Nights into Dreams are in neither space as such. Pac-Man‘s design as a character and game had no points to either direction, and as such I personally consider Ms. Pac-Man a needles exercise in hindsight despite it becoming extremely popular. Nights into Dreams on the other hand was designed to be androgynous from the get go, both in gameplay and character designs. It even has a boy and a girl character, Elliot and Claris, who have very different dreams for their life.

As games have evolved, contact between the two cultures have become more frequent. One could argue that open world games that contain as much non-physical social confrontation as they do physical are mixing these cultures. MMORPG’s and other games that offer larger interaction with real life people also supports the idea of supportive interaction between girls while offering brotherly confrontation and rivalry boys’ culture has. This sort of neutral space in gaming requires both sides giving something in, and in real life this can cause some argumentation and fighting between children.

Stereotypical girls’ games tend not to be remembered. Purple Moon folded in 1999 and merged with Mattel, and their games were not without criticism. Their games were called to be called sexist, stereotyping the characters and themes, a thing that can be extended to a lot of other girls’ games, especially Barbie games. The space where these games were set in was another major factor.

Space is a keyword here. The pinball culture if the mid-1900’s was very masculine and based on long-standing tradition of penny arcades. When these games began to appear outside their initially designated areas, e.g. pinballs in restaurants and shopping centres, it was seen as a positive progress as anyone, women included, could now access these machines. As games moved away from spaces that were largely seen as dominated by men like universities’ IT-departments and penny arcades, the view on them changed. Pinball is not associated with violent rebels any more, but as a classic game everybody can play. Similarly, the advent of Japanese games in arcades and the renaissance of electronic gaming after the second Video game Crash introduced further colourful and fantastic creatures to the electronic game culture. Pac-Man, Mario Bros., and their like, despite being competitive, offered visuals that weren’t all about blowing shit up, but also attractive colours and challenges that weren’t just about the abstract.

It should be noted that games like Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog and Abe’s Odyssey garnered players from both sexes, and both games shows that in the end, the player character doesn’t really matter as people don’t tend to see themselves in the character. If there is a character creation, sometimes people make themselves, but often it’s an admired, a fantasy version of themselves. They create a fantasy persona, and similarly each player character out there is a fantasy persona that the player doesn’t exactly identify with. After all, the player character is largely unimportant, the game world is what matters.

Perhaps the only truly neutral game between the spaces and cultures is Tetris. Tetris wasn’t just a game that can be described a perfect game and neutral, but a game that was everywhere. It was on home computer where anyone could play it and it was on the Game Boy where everyone could carry it with them. There is no true confrontation in the game, and despite the having a competitive goal in form of scoring, the gameplay is from neither side particularly.

Monthly Three; Boys, girls and electronic games

While many of the fears from the late 1800’s and early-to-mid 1900’s still persist when it comes to electronic games, those who play games and are most enthralled by them has not changed too much since then. Things changed with the advent of Golden Era of games, especially with Pac-Man, a game that attracted both men and women to play. Pac-Man as a character was largely a non-descriptive blob despite the game’s and character’s name.

I’ve talked about Industrial revolution being the main dividing point between arts, crafts and design, but when it comes to games it also created a cultural point with boys’ and girls’ cultures. According to E. Anthony Rotundo (1994), the industrial revolution separated boys from their father’s work environment, leaving them for their mothers’ to take care of. Boys moved outside from there, as motherly care usually emphasised good morals, pampering and kindness. Boys’ games and plays often were almost the opposite of this with physical contact with surprising aggressive attitudes. Going against mother’s command was a way to show that you weren’t a momma’s boy, and building from that onwards is a sort of step towards independent manhood. Regardless of how wild these games were, boys would return home to their mothers. One could say that unlike the Freudian Oedipus complex, boys’ fight against their mothers’ culture.

Rotundo contrasts this against girls’ culture, which is tied to their mothers, which have lived in a sort of symbiosis with each other. While he boys’ “adventure island” had a confrontational setting, girls’ had their own place within the “secret gardens.” While girls tend to favour for more socially interactive game with less or not emphasize on competition and physical contact, the concept of secret garden, a secret place reserved only for them and their fantasies. It should be noted that a lot of books for girls are the opposite of this thinking, where their normal lives are broken by a fantastic individual of sorts and their lives see a change, often at the cost of that secluded place. The differences between classic boys’ and girls’ literature is that boys had the heroes travel far away, while the girls’ literature tended to emphasize on staying home. Through that the stakes were different; for boys the adventures were physical like their games, whereas girls’ adventures were more about the psychology and emotions.

It’s not hard to see why electronic games would end up seen as a boys’ hobby. It is far easier to create a game that’s based on competition and rules rather than a game that requires methodical interaction between characters. A game is easy to program to offer a direct challenge the player needs to achieve, like destroying alien invaders than it is to program to reply to inquiries in a naturalistic and sophisticated way to counter the player’s emotional state.

The question whether or not there is a difference between boys’ and girls’ is cultural at its core. American game developer Purple Moon was known for developing games aimed at girls of age 8-14, and their Secret Paths series could be used as an archetypical example of what is generally seen as a girls’ game.

Secret Path games showcases some traditional symbols and images associated with girls. The cursor in the example above is a heart or a ladybug, there is no physical conflict in itself, and whatever action there is leans on metaphysical than physical. Interestingly, despite Purple Moon’s games tend to be simplified in how things are presented, they still manage to make better use of progressive values than most games we have nowadays.

While Purple Moon’s games were designed to be more about places of relaxation, where girls could pour out their stress and observe things with their hearts, so to speak. Each character has their own secret, and it is up to the player to find the secret paths that are laden with gemstones and other artefacts that give social, emotional and psychological strength. These visuals and pathways are representative of the characters’ plight, and the stories these physical environments contain encourage the player to try things out in their own social life. It’s not hard to see why the founder Brenda Laurel called their games as friendship adventures.

Similarly, Theresa Duncan’s Zero Zero is another example of a game that ties to girls’ culture.

While Secret Paths can be regarded as a continuation to the secret garden idea, Louise Fitzhugh’s 1964 novel Harriet the Spy, is about another sort of play space for girls; the city. Within the book, Harriet observes her city’s, her microworld’s she creates, citizens and their complex interactions and how she changed them as she sees fit. This idea of creating a world and having total control over it is similar to SimCity. The difference between the two is how SimCity is more about playing god and micro-manage everything. To Harriet, creating this world is just the first step, and moves towards spying on the individuals to the point of breaking in real world buildings to understand adult interactions. The same contrast repeats here; there is no physical confrontation like there would be in boys’ novel, all the challenge comes from the human interactions and gaining information on the interactions.

It wouldn’t be too hard to see Harriet the Spy as a stealth game that has no combat. Zero Zero is essentially a computer adventure game version of the novel, where the player goes through the city and similarly seeks people’s’ stories. Despite this innocent sounding setting, Zero Zero and other games from Theresa Duncan do not try to be sleek and pat down the reality. On the contrary, Zero Zero‘s French are bored and tend to insult the player in a stereotypical fashion, as do the flowers. Women with strong make-up smoke freely and tend to flash themselves, promising an event in the Red Lights district.  The Sims has a considerable female fanbase, and in a way can be seen as a modern example of a game that allows the player not only play dollhouse, but also play god and decide the interactions.

Secret Path games and Zero Zero are good examples of two strong sides of traditional girls’ games. Secret Path games are very balanced and encourages the player to feel, so to speak. Zero Zero is an example of a game that shows the misshapen world in a very caricature fashion and encourages the player to seek knowledge and information that is hidden from them. Both are about exploring a physical space, but in the end both are about the players’ inner worlds.

Games like Pac-Man and Nights into Dreams are in neither space as such. Pac-Man‘s design as a character and game had no points to either direction, and as such I personally consider Ms. Pac-Man a needles exercise in hindsight despite it becoming extremely popular. Nights into Dreams on the other hand was designed to be androgynous from the get go, both in gameplay and character designs. It even has a boy and a girl character, Elliot and Claris, who have very different dreams for their life.

As games have evolved, contact between the two cultures have become more frequent. One could argue that open world games that contain as much non-physical social confrontation as they do physical are mixing these cultures. MMORPG’s and other games that offer larger interaction with real life people also supports the idea of supportive interaction between girls while offering brotherly confrontation and rivalry boys’ culture has. This sort of neutral space in gaming requires both sides giving something in, and in real life this can cause some argumentation and fighting between children.

Stereotypical girls’ games tend not to be remembered. Purple Moon folded in 1999 and merged with Mattel, and their games were not without criticism. Their games were called to be called sexist, stereotyping the characters and themes, a thing that can be extended to a lot of other girls’ games, especially Barbie games. The space where these games were set in was another major factor.

Space is a keyword here. The pinball culture if the mid-1900’s was very masculine and based on long-standing tradition of penny arcades. When these games began to appear outside their initially designated areas, e.g. pinballs in restaurants and shopping centres, it was seen as a positive progress as anyone, women included, could now access these machines. As games moved away from spaces that were largely seen as dominated by men like universities’ IT-departments and penny arcades, the view on them changed. Pinball is not associated with violent rebels any more, but as a classic game everybody can play. Similarly, the advent of Japanese games in arcades and the renaissance of electronic gaming after the second Video game Crash introduced further colourful and fantastic creatures to the electronic game culture. Pac-Man, Mario Bros., and their like, despite being competitive, offered visuals that weren’t all about blowing shit up, but also attractive colours and challenges that weren’t just about the abstract.

It should be noted that games like Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog and Abe’s Odyssey garnered players from both sexes, and both games shows that in the end, the player character doesn’t really matter as people don’t tend to see themselves in the character. If there is a character creation, sometimes people make themselves, but often it’s an admired, a fantasy version of themselves. They create a fantasy persona, and similarly each player character out there is a fantasy persona that the player doesn’t exactly identify with. After all, the player character is largely unimportant, the game world is what matters.

Perhaps the only truly neutral game between the spaces and cultures is Tetris. Tetris wasn’t just a game that can be described a perfect game and neutral, but a game that was everywhere. It was on home computer where anyone could play it and it was on the Game Boy where everyone could carry it with them. There is no true confrontation in the game, and despite the having a competitive goal in form of scoring, the gameplay is from neither world particularly.

Review; Jupiter Game Boy Pinball games with pocket monsters and giant robots

Video pinball is a genre that doesn’t have all that many actually good entries. For every decent one you have a handful of awful games, and the reasons vary between bad field design to awful physics. Often both. Some of them aim to emulate the real pinball games to meticulous degree, while some take more freedom to explore what is impossible to do with a physical steel ball, even thou what some of the pinball makers have been able to achieve is nothing short of amazing. For example, Gottlieb’s Black Hole managed to create two-field layout back in the day and was the priciest pinball machine when it came out, and the machine demands high amount of maintenance if Internet is to be believed. Then you have the likes of Bally’s Elektra with three fields, which is one of my personal favourites with its awesome subdued colours and atmosphere. To think a ‘simple’ thing like a pinball table is able to create a very  moody atmosphere. Of course, who could forget the Orbitor 1 with its wildly behaving ball and breaks the damn laws of physics just for the fun of it. All these broke some levels of limitations what a pinball machine can do, and I am committing some sort of crime against humanity by not mentioning numerous, more important machines.

Things that video pinball can never replicate are things like the sound of the machine and the sounds while playing a pinball machine on-site, the illustrations on the backglass and the feeling of holding the sides of the machine in your hands, feeling the buttons just touching your fingertips. This is arcade at its best, and there’s nothing that can replace that. While pinballs have changed very little, there has been some video pinballs in arcades as well, where the table screen basically emulates an existing real pinball machine’s layout. While it’s nice to have a selection of tables in one machine, digital version of a real machine never can stand up to the challenge. A screen just won’t cut if it if  the game hasn’t been designed for it. A lot of video pinball games suck ass as they try to emulate the real angle of the machines, but rarely that works, as you can weave back and forth, up and down with the real machine. A screen doesn’t allow you to do that.

I love pinball machines and I have a huge bias in their favour, even thou I am rather bad at them. That can be faulted due to the lack of proper machines in my home town, but there’s a nice collection of few machines near my current whereabouts. For that exact reason I have tried variety of video pinball games, and one of the NES games I used to play to death was Nintendo’s own Pinball. I agree with a lot of people that NAXAT Soft’s pinball games are the prime examples how a video pinball should be done, especially with Devil’s Crash/ MD, which not only has excellent physics and field designs, but one of most rocking main theme out there.

The edge video pinball has over the real machines is how approachable they are.  It’s not just about the coins you’d lose into the real money as you try to figure what the hell is going on, but also the fact that you can get all comfortable in your favourite position and just play the game at your own pace without any worries or outside pressure. As such, it’s not too common for people who can’t get into pinball in the arcades may find the likes of Pokémon Pinball enjoyable.

Did you expect anything else? The post title kinda gave it away
Did you expect anything else? The post title kinda gave it away

Jupiter is a company that has handled a lot of different Nintendo games and were the ones to develop the Game Boy Camera. They are perhaps the most known for their Pokémon Pinball games.

I can’t really become to imagine who came up with making a Pokémon pinball game. Then again, everything can be turned into a pinball game so there. Describing the gameplay would be slightly redundant as everybody and their mother know the basics of pinball, but the Pokémon aspect give it a twist; by hitting certain pointers the player can enter either Catching mode or Evolving move, where they catch and evolve their Pokémon. Kinda obvious, but both of these play pinball’s strengths in where and how this is accomplished. In the Catching mode the ball needs to hit the bumpers six times to reveal the Pokémon, which the requires numbers of hits in order to be caught. Evolving mode requires the player to hit point markers to reveal EXP or Evolution stones, which need to be collected in order to either get big points or evolve selected Pokémon.

There’s two tables to choose from, both having their own gimmick. The Red Board is very traditional in design and plays like any other stock board out there, whereas the Blue Board has sort of magnetic pull gimmick in the middle of the table and requires the player to hit certain pointers to change the direction where the ball is going at times. The tables themselves are rather plain in appearance, with solid colours and very little to catch your attention. While this means that your eyes will be fixated on the ball more, it also means that game is rather lacklustre when it comes to visuals. It’s rather standard looking for a Game Boy Game, and thou the Pokémon do look neat and the few animations they have give them more than enough charm.

Manual scans? In this day and age? Why yes!
Manual scans? In this day and age? Why yes!

A double-edged strength for Pokémon Pinball is that you have all those Generation I Pokémon the catch, which is more or less hair pulling. On the other hand this means you will have a lot of different monsters to catch, but there’s a lot of chance here. What Pokémon comes out is determined by a random number generation based on what field you are in, which is selected through a slot machine. This means that you need to hit areas you haven’t gone through before and get monsters you haven’t caught yet, which might make you reset your game because you got that damn Pidgey for the seventh time in a row. There’s very little feeling of progress and at some point I found myself resetting the game every time a monster I already had caught appeared. I didn’t feel like wasting any more time with it.

As the fields’ layouts are higher than the Game Boy Colour’s screen, Jupiter opted a transition between the two halves of the stage. Generally speaking, there’s a split between developers where some have preferred this transition over scrolling field. To some the transition keeps the table steady and takes away unnecessary movement from the game. It emulates the non-moving nature of the table, or so I’ve heard it being described. Whether or not you like this up to you. The layouts work with this transition as they’re designed not put in any bullshit objects in the way, but the aiming can be tricky as you have to “remember” where the targets are.

The catching and evolving wouldn’t be anything to scoff at, but there’s two things Jupiter really didn’t manage to master at this point and it was the physics and field layouts. First and foremost the ball doesn’t behave like you’d expect it to, and it is entirely possible to cheat the ball out from the gutter by mashing the nudge buttons. Nudging isn’t essential either, and there’s three damn buttons for it, thou abusing them does make a difference. Far too often the ball doesn’t go where it is aimed at, and there are times when the ball is visibly hit upwards by the underside of the flippers, a thing I also has started abusing because it yields better and more accurate results. In the Red Table using a traditional layout, the game becomes rather dull chore as the non-realistic physic clashes with the layout. The flow isn’t really there and the smallness of both of the tables is a disservice. Blue Table on the other hand actually has an advantage due to its main gimmick, and the Blue Table seems attract more of my attention due to this. Also, it has superior Catching and Evolving modes’ music with a neat render of Mesaze Pokémon Master.

Of course, with each new caught and evolved Pokémon a new entry in your Pokédex opens, which can make people with obsessions go mad in trying to unlock all entries. I won’t even attempt to do that, I gave up on catching all the Pokémon during the third generation and haven’t regretted that decision. Goddamn battery dying on 100% save in my Silver…

The music in Pokémon Pinball is good and fitting. All the sound effects have found their home and Jupiter managed to replicate the feeling of the Pokémon games very well. There’s very little to say outside that they did their job well.

Pokémon Pinball is a rough on the edges and shows that Jupiter knew what they were doing and had some clear aims, but didn’t manage to achieve everything they wanted to do. Mediocre layout coupled with flawed physics make this a decent pinball game at best. Outside the catching and evolving, there’s very little do in Pokémon Pinball. However, this makes Pokémon very concentrated on the pure pinball experience with very little bells and whistles attached.

A year later Jupiter had finished their spiritual sequel to Pokémon Pinball in form of Super Robot Pinball. We can assume that this game runs on a modified engine of sorts from Pokémon Pinball, and soon it becomes clear that all that Pokémon Pinball lacked is found in here.

When will this get in SRW OG? I want the ball to be a playable unit
When will this get in SRW OG? I want the ball to be a playable unit

Super Robot Pinball takes the same idea of Pokémon Pinball and gives it a bit more spin. If you’ve played Pokémon Pinball, you’ll find yourself at home with this title.

The table layout has been improved in every aspect. While the initial layout has some similarities with the Red Table, it is more a training stage with gutters being a saving element and pointers easier to hit. The second table on the other hand gives few new twists and is more dangerous table and feels more mechanical due to the chosen colours and shapes. It is more challenging due to the smaller room to play in. of course, there’s more than two fields to play as, and as you progress to higher levels, the more challenging the fields and enemy robots will become. On the other hand, the selection of your robots also changes for the stronger. The layouts complexity also is upped a notch, but aiming is easier due to the improved physics and scrolling screen.

Looks familiar, doesn't it? Plays a bit different thou
Looks familiar, doesn’t it? Plays a bit different thou
Jagged gimmick lanes! by hitting your ball into either jagged lane, the ball is automatically thrown to the upper field in high speed
Jagged gimmick lanes! By hitting your ball into either jagged lane, the ball is automatically thrown to the upper field in high speed

The basic gameplay remains relatively similar to Pokémon Pinball; fulfil  a requirement to engage a battle and shoot your ball up the Scramble lane, in which you choose from randomly chosen robot. After this you can power it up on the main table or send the ball up the Battle lane, where a separate table for battling resides. The battling is far more involved than catching or evolving your Pokémon. With each hit the ball makes to the enemy unit, your robot attacks. Attacks are determined how many times you have lit attack counter by hitting the ball up the rightmost lane, while the leftmost lane is reserved for charging Spirit Commands. You activate a Spirit Command by hitting a bumper either side of the enemy unit. If your robot’s HP gets too low, the left lane open a new door to change the unit you have on the field.

Now only if Raideen had some other theme than its opening...
Now only if Raideen had some other theme other than its opening…

All of the attacks the robots make have few frames of animation, and Level 3 attacks are modelled after traditional Super Robot Wars attack animations in look. These attacks also do huge amount of damage, so sometimes it’s better to hit the ball up the right lane and use Lv3 attacks in row. Other times you might want to juggle the ball on top of the enemy and use the Lv1 attack constantly to do minor damage, but keep the enemy from attacking. It’s actually pretty awesome.

The battles also have slight strategic element to them, as every robot has its own stats. Some have higher HP, some have higher dodge and so forth. This makes the selection of of your robot a bit more important than you’d initially expect, as you want to have something that can dish huge damage against an Angel from Evangelion, whereas you might want to use something more agile with mobile suits. Or do what I do most of the time and throw Dancouga on the field and spam the Lv.3 attack with high hopes I don’t screw around, as you can spin the ball around the field insanely fast.

You also have proper main boss battles, which you enter automatically after defeating a number of enemy units. These boss battles are played with your ball only, and every hit to the boss damages it a little but, but the damage can be jacked up by Powering Up the ball. The boss is able to freeze your flipper for a moment, and here the nudging becomes imperative, as the layout allows you to jump the ball over the gap between the flippers. Of course, the bosses have their own ball mode and roam around.

Jupiter took away one of the useless nudging buttons, and they’re far less abusable here, but strategically more important overall. I find myself controlling the overall path of the ball with nudging, rather than controlling the whole damn game just by mashing the buttons.

There’s also a neat scene when you launch the ball; there’s a race timer with three light ticks, and if you time the launch just as the light hits green, the ball will be powered up and launch with greater speed.

The game gets very hectic and has higher pace than Pokémon Pinball. It is not easier, but it is easier to get your ball where it needs to go thanks to the revamped ball physics and layout. It’s not a night and day difference in the physics, but it is highly notable. Because of this the game feels far more fair, and as the battling is more involved than than just hitting the enemy, it’s more enjoyable. The physics alone make this a better game over Pokémon Pinball.

One problem with Super Robot Spirits is the Missions. You gain a new mission by hitting the ball into a Mission pointer, where you are given one random mission out of around twenty. The thing is that these missions are described in the manual and there’s no real indications in the game itself what they require you to hit. Without the manual you’re kinda screwed, but the Missions aren’t really there to add anything but the bread and butter of real pinball machines; scoring.

However, with all the good there’s some bad. In traditional Super Robot Wars spirit, every unit has their respective series’ theme playing in the background. Some of these are fitting, while some make you turn the volume down. Actually, the devs managed to insert so much sound in the game that you’d might want to do that anyway. Every target makes their own sound, and you’ll notice that the game is just as noisy as a real pinball machine, just more irritating. The music itself is not bad, but the constant barrage of blings and blongs makes me want to punch an otter. Too bad Dancouga doesn’t have Ai yo Faraway, that would have made everything acceptable. If you’re wondering if I’m one of those bastards that want Rhythm Emotion and Just Communication for every Gundam Wing iteration, you’d be right, thou I enjoy other themes too.

As such, God Bless the Library mode, the Pokédex of this game. In he Library you can check an entry for the robot, as well as listen to its theme and check its attack animations. There’s 41 Super Robots unlock, whereas the Enemy side has 61. These entries are unlocked as you use your a new robot from the random selection wheel, and when you defeat and enemy unit. Simple and effective.

However, due to the pace of the game and higher chances of getting new units as you advance in the game, there’s a genuine feeling of progress in Super Robot Pinball. This above all is what makes this game stand out over Pokémon Pinball, where it was an OK game at best, Super Robot Pinball is a damn good portable pinball game, perhaps one of the best there is. Super Robot Pinball is very balanced game overall and it’s a shame that it never could see a Western release. I hope for a 3DS eShop release at some point, but I’m not having my hopes up.

The comparison between the two pinball games is rather huge, in the end. In comparison to Super Robot Pinball, Pokémon Pinball may end up look like a bare bones release. There was just one year between the two, and that one year shows. I’ve yet to try my hands on Pokémon Pinball Ruby & Sapphire, but perhaps sometime in the future I’ll visit it. However, due to the simplicity and methodical approach Pokémon Pinball has, I can see it more approachable pinball game than Super Robot Pinball, but making the step from there is very easy to make. Whether or not these games will lead anyone into the arcades and give the actual machines a go is another matter, especially with Pokémon Pinball and its questionable physics.

I recognize that Pokémon Pinball is well loved game and some will take an issue me panning on it to the extent  have, and that there is just many people turned off because of giant robots as there people who don’t really want to play a Pokémon game. Then there’s those who will play a good game regardless of what theme it carries.

Would I recommend one of the two over the other? Yes, from purely quality standpoint Super Robot Pinball is the superior game from the two.  I also do not doubt that people will get enjoyment from either game, and Pokémon Pinball is more readily available than Super Robot Pinball, unless you want to resort in emulation. SRPinball works a good replacement for Pokémon Pinball, but the same can’t be said vice versa. Both have their unique points that the other lacks, but SRPinball has more going for it and is ultimately the more satisfying product. I would go as far as saying that whatever Pokémon Pinball did, Super Robo Pinball made it better; it made Pokémon Pinball obsolete.