What is perhaps the best license ever applied to a pinball machine? Probably Star Trek: The Next Generation
, which is surprisingly like playing an episode. Williams also released a special ROM of funny quotes from cast members
that people can install into their machines.
Star Trek: The Next Generation came along at a unique time in the history of pinball. Williams was still riding high after the release of Pat Lawlor's incredibly popular Addams Family and gigantic Twilight Zone machines, and it seemed like no license was out of reach. Master designer Steve Ritchie (designer of Firepower, Black Knight, High Speed, Black Knight 2000, Terminator II and The Getaway: High Speed II, among many others) set to work rivalling Twilight Zone and making one of the most complex pinball machines ever made.
The overall object of the game is to complete seven missions, then reach the last mission FINAL FRONTIER, the machine's wizard mode, a six-ball multiball where every major shot on the table is worth a number of points determined by the number of "artifacts" the player has collected up to that point. Artifacts are mostly awarded for doing well on the other missions. Most missions give you up to around 100-150M points if you do well at them, but if you get four artifacts, you begin
Final Frontier with a total award of 1.4 billion points, and then every shot
is worth 100M more.
Final Frontier isn't even particularly difficult to reach, in terms of game length. Twilight Zone's infamous Lost In The Zone needs 15 door panels to achieve, but ST:TNG only needs eight missions, and as an option you can choose to start a mission at the beginning of each ball, getting three out of the way.
The difficulty of the machine is that ST:TNG's outlanes are murderous
. For those who don't know, outlanes
are lanes at the sides near the bottom of most tables, which take a ball that chooses to go down them out of play, instead of to the flippers (which is the job of the inlanes
, the routes beside the outlanes).
o i i o
u n n u
|l|a| \ slingshots / |a|l|
|a|n| \ <--- ---> / |n|a|
|n\e\ \ / /e/n|
\e \ \___\ /___/ / e/
\ \______ flippers______/ /
\ \ / /
Not only does this machine give outlanes a lot of space for balls to use when they decide which lane to go down, there is no rubber post at the top of the outlane/inlane divider, so balls are unlikely to bounce out of the area even with a timely nudge. Most shots that go towards the flippers on a modern table can be saved with timely nudges and flips, but outlanes are a much harder problem to overcome. The best thing you can do is make your shots
, and thus keep the ball from bouncing around randomly. This makes ST:TNG a highly technical table.
While there are only eight missions to start to get to Final Frontier, the player has to be very careful not to miss many shots, as each time a ball ends up at the edge of the table there is a strong change it'll end the ball (assuming black arts like bangbacks
aren't used, of course). Once a mission starts, a good tactic is actually to try to trap the ball and wait out its clock, since you can't start a new mission until the old one expires, although you won't get many artifacts this way so Final Frontier will be pretty anemic.
There are plenty of other ways to earn points, however. There's the primary multiball mode on the machine, Borg Multiball, a good run on which can be worth many hundreds of millions of points. There are Warp Factors, awarded for making the left orbit and left ramp shots, which award a variety of things culminating in a lit extra ball and the nerve wracking "Warp 9 mode," where you have to keep making warp shots every ten seconds to gain high score awards. (Geordi "helpfully" counts down constantly during this mode.) There's "Exploding Millions," where if you keep making ramp shots in a row they're worth more and more points at any time, up to 50M each. There is also Super Spinner, in which each spin is worth 10M on a timer, but so long as you keep hitting it, the timer keeps getting reset.
On the funny quotes from the second link: Williams made available a "special sound ROM" as an option to people who own the game, that they could burn to chips and install in their table to have cast members say funny things at times. (the funny stuff is at the beginning).
The ROM itself can still be downloaded from the Internet Pinball Database's page on the game
. The link is named "Special Sound ROMs LX-7" Here's more details and a listing of added quotes.
(reprise of before-the-fold link, best view of table and sound quality, he reaches Final Frontier, but buys two extra balls, and the video ends before the game does)
(a pretty long game, reaches Final Frontier)
(demonstrates waiting out missions, gets to Warp 9 mode [but doesn't finish it], reaches Final Frontier on ball 2, but no extra balls on this game)
(has a good multiball, and then a GREAT multiball with three super jackpots, earning him a special Picard "Captain's Log Supplemental" quote after the game)
Williams promo tape
(Previously featured here
Some quotes from the game (you might hear some of these in the gameplay videos):
Data: "Captain, the probe has discovered big points?!"
Q (drain quote): "Oh, and you were doing SO well...."
Q (drain quote): "Someday you'll learn to play pinball."
Worf (high score entry): "You are an honorable player."
Picard (Player 1 joins): "Welcome to the Enterprise."
Crusher (Player 2 joins): "Welcome aboard."
Riker (Player 3 joins): "Reporting for duty."
Q (Player 4 joins): "I want to play!"
Data (upon failing a mode): "If you had propelled the ball upon the proper trajectory, you would have been rewarded." (Press both flipper buttons before this gets halfway finished to have Picard interrupt him with "THANK YOU Mr. Data." Worth 10 million points!)
Troi: "Captain, I'm sensing an extra ball."
Worf: "You have no honor."
Borg: "Pinball is irrelevant."
If this sounds awesome to you, you can get a computer recreation of this game for $5 as part of Farsight Studio's "Pinball Arcade," for many platforms. (They also have Twilight Zone available for a similar price!)
(This didn't go into the TNG outtakes thread because I had been considering a pinball FPP for a long while, and decided to go the full distance. This might not be the last one, either....)