It was recently announced that, because of the upcoming movies, all of the previous Star Wars video games were no longer cannon. But if you want to play some Star Wars games that will never be disavowed, you can’t go wrong with Star Wars Pinball: Heroes Within, the addictive new tables Zen Studios are bringing to their pinball games on the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, PCs via Steam, Macs, iOS devices, Android smart phones and tablets, and Amazon’s Kindle. (What, no virtual Boy!?!)
Like their previous Star Wars tables, the four included in Heroes Within — Droids, Han Solo, Episode IV: A New Hope, and Masters Of The Force — all play and sound like real pinball tables. Not only do the balls move and bounce like they would on a real pinball table, but they sound like a ball moving and bouncing on a real pinball table as well.
But while the Star Wars Pinball: Heroes Within tables may have authentic physics and noises, many of them have elements that would preclude them from being in your local bar.
Take the table based on Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope. Do it just right, and the bumpers at the back, which spin by a third when hit, will lower down, and a Stormtrooper will rise up to take their place. Or maybe Obi-Wan will appear instead. None of which would ever work in a real pinball machine, since the mechanism to do so would be too elaborate to fit inside a pinball cabinet.
A New Hope isn’t even the most elaborate of the four Heroes Within tables. That distinction belongs to Masters Of The Force, which ranks among the most complex of all Zen’s Star Wars tables. Not only does it have Sith and Jedi holocrons you can hit, causing them to turn, but you can also fling the ball into either Yoda’s summer home on Dagobah or into the Emperor’s throne room on the second Death Star, both of which will prompt smaller pinball tables to emerge.
But while Masters Of The Force ranks among the Zen’s more elaborate tables, the other three in Star Wars Pinball: Heroes Within take the opposite approach.
Droids, for example, not only pays homage to R2-D2 and C-3PO, but also to old school pinball tables, as its mix of ramps and bumpers, and only ramps and bumpers, make it the least elaborate and thus most traditional one of this batch.
The same can be said for the Han Solo table, which is slightly more complicated than Droids, but still has a similarly classic approach. Even the Episode IV table is, relatively speaking, far less complex than most of the previous Star Wars tables Zen have made, especially the early ones.
Such simplicity actually works in Heroes Within’s favor, much the way it did with Zen’s previous bunch, the Balance Of The Force collection. Droids is easily the most fun of this batch, with Han Solo coming in second. Which isn’t to say Masters Of The Force is bad or anything, just that sometimes being simple makes things simply fun.
That said, while all four of the Star Wars Pinball: Heroes Within tables are fun in their own way, this batch still has some of the same problems that plagued the Balance Of The Force ones and Zen’s other Star Wars Pinball tables. As well as a new issue all its own.
Like those previous tables, all of the tables in Star Wars Pinball: Heroes Within use the original movie sound effects. But they also add some of their own, with less than stellar results. For instance, the Masters Of The Force table has a whooshing sound that’ll make you think Yoda just turned on his Mac, as well as a rapid series of bells that would be more appropriate if the table was based on that diner in Episode II: Attack Of The Clones (which, now that I think about it, would be kind of cool).
Similarly, there are also issues with some of the voice acting. Granted, nobody in their right might would think that Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher would do the voices of Han Solo and Princess Leia on the Han Solo table. Heck, I’m shocked they got Tom Kane to be the voice of Yoda like he was on The Clone Wars cartoon. But could they not find anyone who sounds kind of like Ford and Fisher? Even just a little.
As for that new problem I alluded to, well, it’s one that won’t apply to everyone, just those who’ve gotten a lot of Zen’s tables. Because if you have, it makes the main menu kind of messy. On the Xbox 360, where I have all but maybe one or two tables, the icons are now so small that it’s impossible to tell what’s what.
Things are even worse on the Vita. Even for someone like me, who doesn’t have nearly as many tables on the Vita as I do on the 360, the system’s small screen still makes it tough to see which icon is for which table.
Even with the difficulty of finding Droids, Han Solo, Episode IV: A New Hope, and Masters Of The Force in the menu, though, the four Star Wars Pinball: Heroes Within tables still stand out as some of the best pinball machines that Zen have made. And that will always be cannon.
For more on Zen Studio’s pinball games, Star Wars and otherwise, you can read my review of Zen Pinball 2 for the PlayStation 4 here, my review of Star Wars Pinball for the 3DS here, my review of Star Wars Pinball for the 360 and PS3 here, and my review of the Star Wars: Balance Of The Force tables here.