As someone who loves Star Wars, pinball, and video games, but is not a big fan of playing games on systems with tiny screens, the idea of playing Star Wars Pinball for the 3DS is…well, let’s just say even C-3PO could feel the conflict within me. And he can’t feel anything.
But while Star Wars Pinball for the 3DS has its issues — most of which, admittedly, have more to do with the 3DS than the game itself — it’s still fairly addictive.
The hallmark of all of Zen’s pinball tables is that the balls move and sound like they do in real life. Which is mostly true for the ones included in Star Wars Pinball for the 3DS: Boba Fett, which honors the iconic bounty hunter; The Clone Wars, which is inspired by the ’toon of the same name, and the hopefully self-explanatory Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Mostly. While the balls don’t exactly sound like they’re real metal balls rolling on a real wood table, they do move and bounce off things like they would if these were real pinball machines.
As for the individual tables, all three have Zen’s usual compliment of elaborate ramps and hidden pathways, but seem a bit light on the bumpers. They’re also a bit busy, something they dialed back on the new ones they made for Star Wars Pinball: Balance Of The Force (my review of which you can read here).
The only table that really sticks out, however, is Boba Fett, and not in a good way. While the table itself works well, it has some oddly inappropriate sound effects. The little jingle it deploys when your ball goes out sounds like something from a bad ’70s game show, while there’s this one whoosh effect that’s so cartoony that it sounds like someone accidentally pulled a file from Zen’s Rocky & Bullwinkle table instead of from the “Star Wars sound effects” folder.
Of course, playing this game on a small handheld also comes with its own challenges.
Because the screen is so small, playing Star Wars Pinball for the 3DS from the aerial viewpoint, which I usually prefer, makes the tables so small that it’s difficult to follow the ball. Thankfully, since Zen always include multiple views, I was, after some experimentation, able to find to one that works much better.
Star Wars Pinball for the 3DS also has a rather interesting advantage over its bigger screen cousins. With the table only using the top screen of the 3DS, the bottom one is left for the score and any notifications. Which is great because, when playing the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 versions on a TV, these visuals bits are small and off in the corner of the screen, where they’re either easily missed or pull focus from the table. But on the lower screen of the 3DS, they’re bigger and thus easier to read.
This also has a mechanic you won’t find in the 360 or PS3 edition (though this may be because Star Wars Pinball is a stand-alone game on the 3DS, and not just three tables added to Pinball FX2 or Zen Pinball 2). When you first start playing, you have to chose between The Empire and The Rebels, and as you play the tables, your final tally contributes to your overall score. Play enough, and you’ll be completely aligned with one side or the other.
The thing is, it’s not clear what the point of this is. Regardless of which side you play for — and yes, you can switch sides — the tables play the same.
Star Wars Pinball for the 3DS also has a couple sound problems. At seemingly random moments, some of the dialog got rather scratchy and distorted, like it was coming out of a broken speaker.
More egregiously, some of the voices on the Empire Strikes Back table aren’t from the movie, but are instead lines redone by some bad sound-a-likes. Which wouldn’t be so annoying if The Clone Wars table did feature the real voice actors from the cartoon.
Then there’s the 3D part of Star Wars Pinball for the 3DS. While there are brief moments when it’s used to great effect — such as when the TIE fighter fly over the Empire Strikes Back table — for the most part, it just makes it harder to follow the ball, especially when it’s cranked up to eleven.
These problems are hardly deal breakers, though; more like minor annoyances. Ultimately, with its elaborate tables and real world physics, Star Wars Pinball for the 3DS is a ripping good time for anyone who loves Star Wars, pinball, and video games…even if they usually don’t enjoy playing games on tiny screens.
For more on Zen Studio’s Star Wars Pinball games, you can read my review of the 360/PS3 version here, my review of the new Star Wars: Balance Of The Force tables here, and an interview with Ashley Eckstein, who does the voice of Ahsoka Tano in the Clone Wars table, here.