For several months now, rumors have been flying back and forth about a Godzilla-licensed Stern pinball machine, see King Kong vs Godzilla. The suspense ended in September 2021: it will be Godzilla Pinball! with Keith Elwin as designer and Zombie Yeti for the artworks.
Keith Elwin and Zombie Yeti, a great duo
Keith Elwin is the creator of the Jurassic Park pinball machine, which is particularly appreciated by the community. Nevertheless, the machine is not to be put in all hands because the depth of its code comes at the cost of a certain complexity at first sight. All in all, a good Pinhead flip’ that wants to get its money’s worth with its machine at home.
The bearded designer also imagined The Avengers Infinity Quest. The reception was more mixed, without being catastrophic. All in all, the not very smiling man has good press. His Iron Maiden pinball machine also plays a role.
His partner Zombie Yeti has already collaborated with him on Avengers and Iron Maiden. He is a regular on Stern productions. His visuals are particularly colorful and rich in detail, giving the impression of a “world under glass”, as we say in the Pinheads.
Given that this pinball is based on the 1950s monster world, the artist’s vividly hued creations may surprise. It is to judge the shades by screen, and our impression varied between Stern’s publications. Still, if you love the original license, you probably won’t find the original colors there. But for me, who has absolutely no respect for films with dull and sloppy images, I welcome it.
Godzilla Pinball, an excellent surprise
I won’t hide to you that the Pinball Mag. editorial team was not particularly excited by the theme. The teaser released by Stern, two days before the reveal, confirmed our skepticism: a few images from the original films, supported by a repetitive soundtrack. In short, we were little blasé.
We were wrong: the richness of the set and its coherence with the theme (colorimetry aside) made us swallow our sarcasm. We will come back to that.
The first pinball machine with the Stern insider connected
We have an article for you if you don’t know Stern Insider Connected. Take a detour over there if you want the long version. The short version: it’s about creating an account to save your scores and complete new challenges on the manufacturer’s pinball machines. This is made possible by a module connected to the Internet and inserted in the apron (the lower metal part of the board).
Godzilla is the first pinball game to include this feature by default. We learn two things on this occasion :
- The Pro version (the cheapest one) also benefits from it. Stern’s communication until now suggested that you would have to pay extra to have it (a bit like the anti-reflection lens).
- The module, when included in the design, does not distort the aesthetics of the apron, unlike adding it afterwards on a machine.
Japanese for the occasion
Deadflip streamers, don’t be fooled: the time has not come to have all audio and text content translated into multiple languages.
On the other hand, in the specific context of this Japanese licensed pinball game, the Stern team offers you to choose between a classic English version and another one with subtitles (well integrated, not ugly stuff in white) and some voices in Japanese. Nice to get in the mood, nothing fancy either.
There are people under the ice
Stern’s reveals are always done in two parts: a text and image part published on their website and on This Week in Pinball, and a few days later, a live event hosted by Jack Danger aka Deadflip, along with the tight team that designed the machine. At the first event, we went from “yeah, well” to “it’s not so bad”, and at the second, from “it’s nice” to “they did a good job”.
Several elements of the set made our impassive eyes twitch as columnists returned from everything :
- The building that pretends to collapse by sinking under the board, that holds the balls on its roof and then releases them for the multiball (Premium and LE versions), all connected to the ramps ;
- The collapsing bridge (static in its Pro version);
- The chrome-clad Mechagodzilla, with a magnet on its belly, to be reached with a ramp that makes the marble take off (once again reserved for the Premium and Limited Edition versions);
- The metal ramps crossing the board in all directions, which Keith Elwin likes
- A sensible use of plastic;
- This vicious bumper on the right side, too close to the drummers to do us any good;
- These loops in the platter show much more creativity and mastery in design than the classic semi-circular paths;
- a backpanel decorated with buildings in relief.
That’s not bad, is it ?
The drawbacks of the set
Two Godzilla figurines adorn the board. If the metal version makes its effect and takes part in the game, the green version is purely decorative and as ugly as the monster costume of the time. So if you are a fan of the B-movie franchise and cardboard decorations, this toy will please you. We call it the cucumber 😀
The magna save, this cylindrical magnet placed between two loop exits, left us indifferent at first. It catches the ball in almost every direction, and releases it sluggishly on the third pinball machine most of the time. Not good. But it also happens to recover the ball with all its speed at the end of the loop to send it back to the next one, after an unexpected 180° turn! A real originality for the blow.
Soundtrack and cinematics
I wrote earlier that a repetitive music accompanied the teaser. As expected, it is the main theme. After a few hours of viewing, I already can’t stand it. Fortunately, the rock soundtrack is varied. So I will block my ears only during the first seconds after the ball drop.
On the other hand, I have reservations about the cinematics. I’m not particularly convinced by this juxtaposition of colorized period sequences, animations with varying levels of finish, and black and white score summaries. And sometimes a particularly unsightly white screen. The whole thing seriously lacks unity.
Are you semi-rich? Here is your half pinball
This is a recurrent complaint about Stern productions, but either I don’t get used to it, or it is particularly noticeable on this pinball machine: the Pro version is deprived of half of the positive points mentioned above. The two Godzillas are replaced by plexiglass plates, the building doesn’t collapse and block the balls on its roof, the bridge doesn’t break in two, a building is missing on the backpanel.
Of course, most of the gameplay, especially the interesting flow, should not differ from the more expensive versions. But touching the gameplay, even a little, still seems like sacrilege to me. Take away the cucumber and aesthetic elements if you want, but not the Mechagodzilla and the fact that balls fall from the building roof !
A lot of rules, not to be put in all hands
During the Godzilla Release Party, in Bordeaux, the feedback on the machine was unanimous: the playfield is great, the flow is original… But the rules are complicated!
Don’t expect to play a quiet game and score. You will have to revise the missions very seriously, and spend time standing in front of the beast. This is an ideal configuration for the enthusiast who hopes to “get one’s money’s worth”, not to get bored too quickly with a light code.
For family and friends visiting, however, the experience may be frustrating. Have a fallback machine that is easy to understand, like Deadpool for example.
And all this for the modest sum of… Your kidney !
It takes money to buy a new pinball machine, that’s not a new thing. For this opus, Stern has been particularly careful not to disappoint us on this point: indeed, the prices have seriously gone up during the summer. Where the Pro version of Mandalorian was $6,199, Godzilla is $6,899, or $700 more. The big green monster will cost you $8,999 for its Premium version and $10,499 for the Limited Edition.
The LEs will be produced in 1,000 copies, which is 250 units more than the previous license. We can wonder if the notion of “limited” still has meaning, but let’s congratulate ourselves that the market is doing well, and that its main actor anticipates its sales with optimism. We will always prefer an expensive pinball machine to no pinball machine at all.
Manufacturer: Stern Pinball
Production Date: September 2021
Theme: Science Fiction / B-Series
Type: Solid State Electronic
Processor: Stern Spike 2 System
Abbreviation: uh… Godzilla ?
Units produced: 1000 for the LE, N/C for the others
Launch price: from 6,199$.
Game Design: Keith Elwin
Lead Developer: Rick Naegele
Mechanics: Harrison Drake
Artwork: Zombie Yeti
Animation: Chuck Ernst
Sound: Jerry Thompson