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Star Wars Pinball: Balance of the Force review for XBLA, PSN, PS Vita

Platform: XBLA
Also On: PSN, PS Vita, PC
Publisher: Zen Studios
Developer: Zen Studios
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes
ESRB: E

Zen Studios have proven that once they were the student and now they are the master, if I am so bold to borrow a Star Wars quote. Of course I assume I have the right since their latest creation is the 2nd set of 3 tables for their beloved Star Wars Pinball series. While the first set was an achievement in their own right, Star Wars Pinball: Balance of the Force, the new set of tables that were just recently releases, even surpasses the originals in depth, challenge, and fun.

The first table based off the Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader, was inevitable in its creation, and unlike Boba Fett’s table from the last series, this table does not disappoint. The Darth Vader table provides us with the best one-liners from the menacing one, and featuring all the kickbacks, ball saves, multipliers, combos, hurry up goodies you would expect from a solid pinball table. Where Darth’s table really excels are the missions like the Trench Run where you steer your fighter with flippers to take down X-wing fighters, or face off against Obi-Wan, and of course take on the ultimate task of trying to turn your son Luke into a powerful ally, while finally saving him from the wrath of the Emperor. All these missions are perfectly recreated for a pinball machine without losing the thrills and excitement from the greatest moments of easily the most feared and popular character from the Star Wars franchise.

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The next table up is based on the last film in the series (chronologically at least, until 2015) Return of the Jedi. Beyond being a large table with plenty of play room to really boost up your scores, you are treated to a variety of special sequences that only the team at Zen Studios could pull of successfully. The first is a selection of movie scenes to recreate; from a Gift for Jabba, Rescuing Han from Jabba who is still frozen in Carbonite, The Infamous Rancor Pit, Speeder Bike pursuits, The Battle for Endor, another variation on the altercation between Luke and Darth, The Death Star Destruction, and even Admirable Ackbar’s “It’s a Trap!” makes its appearance into this table. Toss in little mini thrills like Jabba’s Bounty and a fun R2-D2 multiball, and this table is jam packed with challenge and excitement as much as any great table to come before it.

The final table is the weakest of the 3, but that doesn’t mean it is unplayable. Titled Starfighter Assault, you would expect this table to really shine considering that pinball is a game of speed and skill, but alas while the meat of the game has its interesting moments, the table itself is too small and confined to really get any enjoyment and timing down to be considered elite in this pinball franchise. Even choosing between Tie and X-wings pre game only changes the game up so much, as both sides feel the same when the final ball is lost. All is not a big stinker however as there are some interesting mini games be found in this table; like the Fighter Confrontation that plays like Galaga, Fighter Assault where you try to take down the enemy fleets by using your bases firepower to diminish oncoming attackers, Able Helmsman has you using taking of the Turbolaser cannons to defend against waves of enemies, and so much more. Honestly this is the most jam packed table of the bunch as far as objectives are concerned though the table play space all seem so cluttered that it will take the longest to master and get your timing down due to its space limitations. I can know there will be some enthusiasts who thrive on this crazy flipper action thinking I am wrong on this point, but in my opinion, like a good pair of boxers, I just need space to breathe, personally.

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Overall, you really must pick up Star Wars Pinball: Balance of the Force since once again Zen proves that they are not only fantastic pinball table makers, but they are the only bunch of creators who are committed to stepping outside the box to bring pinball back to relevance.

Grade: A


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