The Pinball FX version of Star Trek: The Next Generation is very nearly flawless recreation of one of the best pinball tables of all time. There’s just this one thing…
|It’s Star Trek: The Next Generation Pinball: One of the best tables of ALL TIME.||Odd intermittent sound issues|
|Seriously, this is one of THE great tables. Play it.||Intermittently odd sound issues|
|Authentic voice samples add a lot of flavour to the game experience||Did I mention the audio issues, which are odd and intermittent yet?.|
There’s only a handful of real world pinball tables that I’d really, truly, like to own. In the modern sense, Stern’s Godzilla pinball, obviously, and it’s pretty much the key single one for “new” tables.
For classic pinball tables there’s quite a few, but Williams Pinball’s classic Star Trek: The Next Generation table is at the very top of the list.
Yes, despite by fandom in sci-fi sitting firmly in the Doctor Who camp — and that’s a great table too, be happy to have one of those — I can’t deny that the Star Trek: The Next Generation table is even better.
So when Zen Pinball announced that the next table coming to its Pinball FX platform, I was indeed quite keen. Yes, I do technically already have a digital version of that table, because it was part of the Pinball Arcade lineup… but the implementation there is a tad shaky and support for issues there is non-existent.
Then again, it wasn’t that long ago that I picked up the Godzilla vs Kong pack for Pinball FX for the Switch… and that didn’t end all that well, all things considered. More on that later, though.
Star Trek: The Next Generation for Pinball FX is a single table recreation of Williams’ 1993 table, including all the voice samples, layout and mission objectives of the classic table, with just a few Pinball FX tweaks.
Space: The Final Frontier. Depending on your fandom,
you just read that in your head in a number of different voices.
For my money, Patrick Stewart every time.
So it’s not just a case of dropping a virtual credit on a table and spinning up that silver ball; there’s also modes for hotseat play, practice play, play with power-ups enabled and specific challenge modes based around limited balls, flips and so on.
It’s a well presented package with plenty of challenge options.
In terms of the actual pinball experience, Star Trek: The Next Generation for Pinball FX nails it.
This is a table I’m really familiar with — basically if I see one in the wild I’m seriously likely to drop a few dollars in it any time at all — and everything feels rock solid and well represented.
Bow before my scoring greatness… OK, I’m not that good really, but I do enjoy this table a lot.
Is it 100% the “same” as a real table? No, but no “virtual” pinball can manage that anyway. What this does is take a seriously heavy (and somewhat expensive; I’m not the only person who wants one) machine and make it beautifully portable on the Switch.
I can deal with the slightly longer load times in return for being able to take Picard et al against the Borg on the go, basically.
Adjust your viewing angle, ready your flipper fingers and… ENGAGE!
So it’s near perfect, excellent and flawless, right?
Not quite. There’s one weird issue that Star Trek: The Next Generation Pinball FX has, and it’s to do with the way that the Switch version (at least — that’s what I’ve tested with and I’d be fascinated to hear from anyone who’s picked up the other versions find) handles the in-game sounds, especially the iconic music themes.
The issue is that every once in a while, they distort their pitch or presentation, just enough to be annoying. It’s like they’re being played on a slightly warped LP, or more likely, a compressed MP3.
It’s an unusual issue too, because if you listen to the theme tune in the game’s attract mode before deciding to play, it’s a touch soft but sounds fine.
Sounds soft here… but accurate in pitch and tone to my ears.
Get into the game, and the same thing might warble, or it might not. The same bug also hits some of the voice samples from the likes of Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner or Jonathan Frakes, which is just as annoying.
At first, because I was playing this portably on a Switch Lite, I wondered if it might just be its speakers, so I tested further on a Switch OLED, both standalone and docked, and I still had the same audio issue.
Just to check, I then fired up the Godzilla table from the Godzilla vs Kong table, and there I got a very pleasant surprise, because it had been updated since I’d reviewed it — and substantially improved. I’ve updated my review as a result — you can read it here.
However, there, the sound was pitch perfect, not a problem. To go that little bit further, I also picked up the Addams Family table for Pinball FX… and it has some of the same pitch and warble weirdness going on as well. So maybe it’s to do with the way that the Switch code works with whatever sound format Williams used back in the day being recreated here?
I’m sure this isn’t just my ears, and given the way that Godzilla’s been patched, I’m hopeful that the folks at Zen Pinball can get onto this and fix it up.
It’s not a killer bug; the game plays fine for a virtual table and it’s an all-time great… but it sure does annoy me when it doesn’t sound quite as good as it should.
This review is based off code I paid my own hard-earned money for. I did mention not being able to pass by a Star Trek: The Next Generation Pinball table without throwing money into it, right?