The Top Ten Video Pinball Games in the History of the Universe (Part 4 of 10)

By: Krooze L-Roy

Click HERE for the Rest of the List

#7 – Sonic Pinball Party

It could be deduced that Sonic has a bit of a thing for pinball. After all, a video game character can’t be fan of video games. Even such a mild breaking of the forth wall would have been simply too much for the children of yesteryear. Thus, most game characters were usually only interested in base activities like eating and sleeping, or, if they were really hip, they could be into things like comic books and wearing sunglasses.

Though it was never explicitly spelled out for you, the astute gamer would realize that Sonic must have been a pretty big fan of the ball and paddle, else why would he always happen to find himself in pinball-oriented locations? Coincidence? Uncle Abner always claimed that it was mere coincidence that you’d always run into him near the cathouses. “Just going out for a drive,” he’d say, with a big grin on his face. Well, Uncle Abner is a goddamn liar, and Sonic the Hedgehog is woven from the same fiber.

First you have the ever-present pinball themed levels in all of his sidescrollers, most notably Sonic 2’s Casino Night Zone, which actually allowed sonic to gamble and play pinball at the same time. Ever notice how Sonic always seemed to lollygag on that level? And doesn’t it seem unlikely that, of all the routes that Sonic could choose to get to Robotnik’s hideout, he literally ALWAYS finds himself in a location filled with springs, bumpers and paddles?

People with gambling addictions always find innocent enough reasons to go inside a casino; they want to cash a check, get a cheap bite to eat, have a quick drink. Sonic isn’t even that clever. Every time he finds himself getting shot three hundred feet in the air by a pinball paddle, it’s the same old excuse; he has to go wreck Robotnik’s brand new wheel-chair, presumably just to be a dick.

 

And then was the great coming out. Just as many celebrities have wrongfully assumed that just because they enjoy listening to music, they would therefore be good at making music, Sonic thought that he could make his own pinball game, starring himself no less (what a pompous asshole). Let’s just say that he was wrong; Sonic Spinball was the result, and it was a disaster.

Sonic did redeem himself somewhat with Sonic Adventure. The game itself wasn’t bad, but the real reason to play it was because once again, by mere “coincidence” of course, Sonic found himself in a casino that just happened to contain, you guessed it, pinball tables. But you really couldn’t blame the Hog in this case, since the two pinball games therein were quite good (one was Sonic themed and the other had a NiGHTS theme). Fans of the steel orb found themselves playing these tables (and the brief platforming segment that occurred when you did shitty) more than the rest of the game combined.

Fast forward a few years, and Sonic is a mere shell of the celebrity he once was. Now he can wallow in his addiction without any pretenses. And wallow he does, with Sonic Pinball Party for the Gameboy Advance.   For the most part,  this collection covers the same teritory as the two tables in Sonic Adventure.   Indeed, the tables once again have Sonic and NiGHTS themes, as well as a “secret” Sambo de Amigo machine that’s gets “unlocked” about half a second after you turn the power on. But these aren’t mere rehashes; these are brand new tables that are pretty stinkin’ brilliant in their own right.

The most noteworthy aspect of the Sonic table is the fact that there are multiple levels. By completing standard pinball-style challenges, you can activate a battle with Robonick, who isn’t even trying to defend himself at this point. Nevertheless, you beat the hell out of him as usual, and then, after a brief opportunity to wrack up some big bonuses, it’s on to the next level. As far as the actual layout of the table, the next level bears a striking resemblance to the level you were just at, but the graphics and music change quite dramatically, and it gives the game a nice feeling of progression.

 

The NiGHTS table has a level progression of it’s own, though the criteria for activating a boss fight is quite a bit more complex and time-consuming. The boss fights are also more elaborate though, so the extra toil is well worth it. The Sambo de Amigo table features a rhythm-based minigame as it’s primary gimmick. I’m not much of a fan of that table personally, though it does have the distinction of being the most difficult of the three, mostly because there is no ball-saver feature.

Finally, there’s the addition of a Story mode, and let me just say that video games have drastically lowered the bar for what can be considered a story. It’s something about Sonic having to conquer pinball challenges given to him by evil versions of his friends (who hurl verbal abuses at Sonic which push the boundaries of what an Everyone rated game can contain). Obviously, completing these challenges will revert them back to their normal selves. *SPOILER ALERT* That wily Dr. Robotnik is behind it all.

You’d think that if the scientist was going to go through all the trouble of hypnotizing Sonic’s friends, he would at least have them do something useful, like, I don’t know, maybe attack Sonic the Hedgehog! But that’s where the player is mislead; Robotnik isn’t the villain, Sonic is. The good Doctor wants nothing more than to use nonviolent means of preventing wild animals from attacking him. Sonic, just like a real life hedgehog, attacks on sight, thus foiling these plans. It says something really sick about the developer that the player is constantly being placed in this clearly anti-human scenario. If you rearrange the letters in “Sonic Team,” you get “nihilist.”

Why Sega would have opted to only sell this game in Target stores (the slightly-less-poor-man’s Walmart) is beyond me. This game is the best thing with Sonic’s name attached to it since Sonic Adventure, yet in typically boneheaded Sega fashion, only shoppers who “expect more, pay less” would even know it existed. There’s also a version that contains the entire Sonic Advance game as a bonus, which only serves to sweeten the deal further. Either way you crack it, this is some sweet pinball action, and should be considered a must for fans of Sonic, pinball, parties or combinations of the three.

Best Table: Sonic’s table, of course

Also check out: Pinball of the Dead, also by Sega for the GBA. It’s notable for being perhaps the only pinball game in history with an interesting sounding title. And it’s pretty good, though not quite in the same league as Sonic’s Pinball Party. Hopefully Sega hasn’t given up on the pinball genre just yet.

Click HERE for the Rest of the List

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~ by Krooze L-Roy on September 23, 2007.

2 Responses to “The Top Ten Video Pinball Games in the History of the Universe (Part 4 of 10)”

  1. […] #7 – Sonic Pinball Party […]

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