Pinball Fantasies (SNES) Review

Click here to view the Pinball Fantasies (SNES) description page for screenshots and more information.

Quick Review 

~Review by tankMage (July 2019)

Score: D

Here’s a short breakdown of Pinball Fantasies’ strengths and weaknesses, scroll down if you wish to read the full review.

Pros

-highly customizable controls.

-Can tilt the machine.

-Possible to change incline for difficulty.

-Pinball machines are fairly intricate.

-Fairly good physics.

Cons

-Crap music.

-Machines lack originally.

-Ugly graphics.

-Only four machines.

-No save feature means scores are lost.

-Players are forced to wait between balls as the game tallies the score.

Full Review

We Heard You Like Pinball, So We Decided to Ruin It

    I’m no expert on pinball. I’ve only played a few actual pinball machines and two video games styled after the pastime, but I know enough to understand that Pinball Fantasies sucks. In fact, after taking a look at the similarly named Pinball Dreams, I was convinced that both games are shovelware. They both use the same engine, were created by the same company, and feature the same lazy design. 

    Pinball is not a huge genre in the video game world, but by the time Pinball Fantasies hit shelves, there were already a few fun and creative titles based on the subject. The developers either were not aware of these games or simply didn’t care, because this title is about as bland as one can imagine. There are only four machines and all of them have a theme such as a haunted house, amusement park, race cars, and a gameshow…it’s all random shit. Additionally, the graphics are hideous and made me want to look away from the screen. Due to its uninspired design and lack of variety, this game gets old after about fifteen minutes, even if you can stomach the loathsome graphics and music.

It bears mentioning that Pinball Fantasies is a port of an Amiga title of the same name. From what I can tell, the Amiga version featured superior graphics and had an overall better feel to it. It was also significantly less expensive.

Good grief this is some ugly bullshit.

Story

    Some Pinball games actually have a story of sorts or at least a theme, which is true for this game. Developers in the genre have been able to come up with some fairly clever ideas for these themes over the years, but Pinball Fantasies just throws a lot of mundane stuff at the player. We’ve all seen amusement parks and one could reasonably expect a pinball machine to turn up in such a place, but Spidersoft still felt the need to include an amusement park themed machine. Then there are the Haunted House and Race Car machines, which were perhaps the more creative choices in this game, though they were still highly generic.* The final one is supposed to be a game show of some sort, but it reminded me more of a casino. At any rate, there’s nothing tying these concepts together and they serve no purpose in the game, so there’s really nothing more to say.

*Note: The games are actually called Party Land, Billion Dollar Game Show, Stones and Bones, and Speed Devils. Somehow I managed to forget their names a mere hour after playing the game.  

Graphics

    If you’re going to make a game about what is essentially one of the predecessors to modern video games, you better make it look damn good, because all of the gameplay takes place on a stationary table that the player has to look at the entire time. Spidersoft, the developers of this failure, didn’t seem to care enough to do this and the graphics are awful. Everything looks flat and made me think of a fifth grader’s art project. The colors also have this mat appearance, since none of the SNES’s layering or shading capabilities were used, let alone parallax scrolling. This is likely the result of the game being a port and there was no time taken to adapt the graphics properly in order to play up to the SNES’s strengths or cover for its weaknesses.

An appropriate scene for a game that’s DOA.

    To add insult to injury, the subject matter is about as trite as it gets. The devs basically slapped a clown on one machine and called it a party. They slapped a couple of race cars on another and called it Speed Devils. Same goes for the other two machines. The HUD is also set up in a way that makes the game uninteresting, since your score is not always visible and it’s in these blocky characters that were unnecessarily cumbersome. There aren’t any of the simple animations or flashing lights one would expect in a pinball game either, since the only things that move are the launcher, ball, and flippers.

Music and Sound Effects

    If little effort was put into the graphics, even less was put into the music. The songs aren’t at all catchy and a few of them manage to be depressing. The Party Land theme was probably the worst of the lot, thanks to its nightmarish clown laugh and repetitive calliope loop. I’m also not sure where they dug up the title song, because it seems like it was made for another game and doesn’t fit the mood of this one at all. At least the sound effects are accurate to what one would expect from pinball, but they also used some god awful samples like aforementioned clown laugh and an engine rev that played every time I lost a ball as if to mock my pathetic pinball skills.

User Interface

    Even the worst games manage to get some things right and this one has a nice controller setup that the player can customize. Of course, that’s where it all ends. The game will make you wait after you lose your ball while it tallies up your score and the title menu is the most ass backwards thing I’ve seen in a video game. Pinball Fantasies could have benefited from a save feature as well, so players could keep their highscores and controller setup, but I know that’s asking way too much.

If you see a start screen like this, RUN!

Gameplay

    First, I have to give this game some credit, because the physics system works pretty well. The ball has a very natural feel to it and tends to go where you expect it at a speed that seems about right for the situation. The machines are also kind of intricate, with a variety of bonuses and even prerequisites that must be fulfilled to get certain prizes. Something tells me this is more thanks to the efforts of the creators of the original Amiga version. Too bad the devs used zero imagination coming up with these systems and they seem like they were merely copied from real pinball machines, though that’s arguably a net positive if you’re looking for classic pinball.

    There’s also a distinct lack of variety, with only four machines to choose from, which is really disappointing. Spidersoft could have included a few more machines that the player could unlock by attaining a predetermined score considering the price of a SNES cartridge. They could have even made the unlockable games more difficult. I won’t go further into the squandered potential of Pinball Fantasies, because there are other titles in the genre that put it to shame, some of which appeared on consoles and PCs that predate the SNES, but I will say that this game is the definition of minimal effort and Nintendo should not have granted it a license.

On a side note, I should probably mention that this game allows up to eight players at once. I can’t imagine a scenario where more than one or two people would ever want to play Pinball Fantasies at once, let alone an eight player tournament and the devs should have put that little bit of extra effort into making a decent product. Maybe eight people trapped in a fallout bunker with nothing else to do may get some mileage out of multiplayer.

Final Thoughts

    Imagine buying Pinball Fantasies back in 1995 and shelling out 40 or 50 USD, only to find out that the product is an ugly, disappointing failure. Today, this game sells for anywhere between 6 and 130 USD depending on its condition. Even 6 bucks is too much to pay for this unless you are a serious collector who wants every SNES title ever released. Everyone else is better off buying one of the Japanese pinball games or the original Amiga version, which is a lot nicer to look at. As for me, I got this game hoping it was a fun title that I could relax with after writing walkthroughs for months. I remembered playing Pin-Bot on the NES with some friends and thought a Super Nintendo pinball game would surely blow one of its 8-Bit out of the water. I was wrong.

Recommendations

Avoid Pinball Fantasies unless you are a hardcore collector. Even then, it might be better to buy something else that’s actually worth playing.

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