Wednesday, January 23, 2013

TRON: Legacy


That seemed to be the main (and maybe only reason) people went to see TRON: Legacy. I know it was a selling point for me because I didn't have a whole heckuva lot of interest in the movie but I did like me some Daft Punk here and there. I've seen the movie but to be quite honest I barely even remember it. NOW the pinball on the other hand is something to get worked up about! A pinball game about a movie about an arcade game... Ya can't go wrong with that.

And let me tell you something, Stern certainly did things right with this table. TRON Legacy came out in 2011, which turned out to be a knock-out year for Stern. Their first rock'n'roll band-themed table, The Rolling Stones, was released, followed by TRON Legacy and, one of my favorite Stern tables, Transformers, rounded out the 2011 line-up.
I remember around the time TRON Legacy was released, I had just gotten back from university and Michigan Pinball Expo 2011 (read about MPE 2012 right here) so my interest in pinball was in full swing. The Playdium Store in Mississauga has an annual auction of some of their old arcade and redemption machines so my dad and I took on the chance to go see the auction as well as check out the pinball machines the Playdium Store had on their showroom floor. I was excited to go because I recently heard that they picked up TRON Legacy and I did not have a chance yet to play it as well as a couple of the other Stern tables they had on display. I did get to play the machine and I really liked what I saw though I didn't get to play too much as I was still a bit inexperienced and lost my games pretty quickly. Later that year though, I did stumble upon TRON Legacy again at Done Right Inn on Queen West. I got a little nudge-happy though and Done Right Inn's TRON table did not tolerate movers'n'shakers like myself all too much. Needless to say, I TILTed... a lot. Since then, Done Right Inn replaced TRON with Transformers and now AC/DC.

TRON Legacy has been one of the more rare machines to see out in the wild. I've seen my fair share of Batman, Iron Man, and Spider-Man (and old man band AC/DC too, holy moley!) but not very often have I seen TRON. I did see it once at The Only Cafe on The Danforth but at the time that I went by, the machine was out of service. It has now been replaced by The Lord of The Rings (Check out my trip to the Danforth right here). In my trip to the Danforth, I noted that I saw two familiar tables. The aforementioned LOTR as well as CSI. I recalled that the two machines used to reside at Pegasus Bar near Church and Wellesley, however, I had not been there for a while so I got the strange feeling that these two tables could be the very same ones... Turns out my hunch may have been right! LOTR and CSI are no longer at Pegasus Bar. TRON Legacy now resides in their place!

This particular TRON machine is in pretty great condition! Everything is working, the table is adequately lit and there is very little grime on the table. It's very visually pleasing... but DAMN IT IS HARD! 

Now, if you've been keeping up with Bright Lights Bumper City, you may remember my preview post about Stern's X-MEN (and if you don't, go check it out here!) and its striking resemblance to TRON's playfield layout. Let's take another look, yeah?

Dang, they are almost like one and the same! Not that I'm harping on the semblance though. TRON is a winning design and X-MEN is just as good as TRON. The reason for the likeness may stem from the fact that both tables were designed by John Borg, whose resume includes playfield designs for Data East's Jurassic Park and Tales From The Crypt and Stern's Striker Xtreme and Big Buck Hunter Pro. TRON Legacy was a well-received table although there were the few complaints about Stern's signature thriftiness (take a look at the little arcade cabinet above Flynn's Arcade eject hole). On the other hand, the playfield design was well thought out and challenging. It's not exactly an entry-level table for novices and beginners of pinball though; this table can and will chew you up and spit you out with a crappy score to boot. It has all the John Borg signatures like...

Bumper Cluster Right Orbit Shot/Eject Hole combo...

Third flipper/right ramp combo...

and five-lane lower playfield.
Waaaaaait a minute, those look awfully familiar... Let's take a look at my review of Monopoly and its designer Pat Lawlor. He too has these as his trademark features! WHAAAT!

I've said it before during Stern's Uncanny Unveiling of X-MEN but I kind of consider Borg like a poor man's Lawlor though I don't mean it in a bad way. Maybe a good analogy would be that I consider Borg to be the Buick to Lawlor's Cadillac. Lawlor gets a lot of praise for designing two of the top-rated tables (take a wild guess) while Borg has made some fantastic tables but never reached the level of popularity that Lawlor did. Having worked for the scrappy underdog Data East while Lawlor was making best-sellers for the big guys, Williams and Bally, Borg had a lot of similar signatures in his table designs. But, hey, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and you can only do so many things with a pinball table. Not to say that Borg completely aped Lawlor's style though; He did have some unique designs like Data East's Star Wars and Last Action Hero. However, when I first tried out TRON Legacy at Playdium Store, a fellow mentioned to me that TRON's playfield looked awfully familiar, and mind you, this was before X-MEN was even considered a table...

It looks a lot like Williams' Funhouse!
No Rudy though...

TRON Legacy's playfield definitely bears a lot of resemblances to Funhouse, though some are not as obvious at first glance. For example, there is a third flipper and an accompanying shot but on TRON, instead of a loop, it is disguised as a ramp. A lot of the loop placements are similar and there is also the inclusion of a five-lane outlane. Rather than having the top center shot as a loop behind the Mystery Mirror, instead there is the Recognizer toy.

In order to light Recognizer Multiball, you must hit the three targets which will drop the barrier and open up the Recognizer "ball lock". Similar to the Centrifuge ball lock on CSI (Hey, another Lawlor table!), it also acts as the main "ball lock", however, instead of a magnet, it is actually a spinning disc, similar to the spinners found on Williams' Whirlwind. What is neat about the Recognizer spinner disc is there is a light around its base that glows and pulses when ball lock is active.

The bumper cluster right orbit shot and eject hole are nearly identical to Funhouse's layout, though the plunger ramp opens up into the area and is actually a part of the skill shot. Can't say it's much of a skill shot though as all you have to do is shoot the ball into the Flynn's Arcade eject hole. In order to make the shot you just gotta give the plunger a little bit of pull and it's pretty easy to make unlike some of the more difficult skill shots like Williams' Taxi and Pin-Bot. Now those are take some hella plunger skills to get the BIG POINTS!

To get the highest Skill Shot points you must get the ball into the very top hole. Care though as too much pressure on the plunger will bounce the ball right off the top wall and all the way back down the spiral.
Although the skill shot is easy that doesn't go for the rest of the table. TRON is one tough contender. The ramps are placed up high on the table and therefore are somewhat steep. You gotta get lotsa momentum to hit those ramps. On the other hand, thanks in part to Borg's playfield design, the loops on TRON are very well thought out so they aren't difficult shots to make. There's a total of four loops and each of them connects in someway to bring the ball back to the flippers with blazing speed. The bumper cluster shot is also very forgiving on TRON; there's plenty of space between each of the bumpers and the entrance of the right orbit so if you need some speed to get up that pesky right ramp, that's your shot of choice. Be careful about that right ramp though; It's long and a bit steep so if you don't nail the shot, the ball won't make it up the ramp and it will come flying back down. This can get unpredictable as the ball can bounce off the lower post at the ramp's entrance and send it any which way but loose. If the ball gets caught in the slingshot bumpers then you're in for a wild ride. I don't know how many balls I lost due to the left slingshot bumper. Take a look at the right side of the lower playfield and that will provide you with an idea why.

There's a LOT of open space right above the lanes there and if the ball finds itself in that area, it gets wicked dangerous, especially on Pegasus Bar's table.

The outlane bumper is set on the hardest mode and makes a gigantic gap which, as I said before, will swallow your ball whole. I don't know how many balls were lost to that damn outlane!

I'm not really sure what most of the modes are for TRON Legacy. It's kinda tough to pay attention to the DMD as the game is so damn fast and you gotta keep your eyes on the playfield. Well... that and I didn't get a whole lot of playtime because of that damn outlane! I believe you just have to light the characters by hitting the loops and ramps to activate their modes. For example, when you light CLU, I think from lighting the CLU letters in the outlanes, you fight CLU. Defeat CLU by hitting the lit shots. Easier said than done. There's also Zuse, which you activate from hitting the ZUSE letter targets spread throughout the table. Beware of the E shot; it's located in that dangerous area near the outlane and the ball can get into some risky behaviour bouncing around that area because of the target. When Zuse is activated, shoot through the bumper cluster loop to hit the Zuse spinner through the right orbit and rack up some points.

At first glance of TRON Legacy, the table is very, very blue... Which is appropriate though! That's pretty much the entire colour scheme of TRON anyways. The artist, John Youssi, did a very good and consistent job for the playfield artwork. He stuck with the blue scheme of the film throughout and utilized a lot of light and dark tones to really make things pop. Complementing the blue are hints of yellow and orange to signify the shots and encompass a lot of the playfield inserts. The playfield art package is really clean and not distracting or ugly at all. There's the usual bunch of character pictures littered throughout the table but it's well done. Notice how the two bright characters, Gem and Zuse are on the left and the darker characters, Quorra, CLU and Flynn are on the right. A little touch that really balances out the table. DAFT PUNK also makes an appearance on the lower jet bumper! NICE!

OK I totally lied about there not being DAFT PUNK. I didn't notice them until I was reviewing the pictures.

The backglass is really neat too. It has Jeff Bridges' mug giving you some serious stinkeye! Haha, seriously though, it's pretty much the movie's poster with Flynn and CLU encompassing Sam and Quorra. The selling feature is it's 3-D... like the movie! The backglass is pretty cool to see in person but unfortunately the light bar in Pegasus' table wasn't working so it wasn't very noticeable.

The lighting on the table is really nice. There's lots of white lights to highlight the darker parts of the artwork with plenty of flashing blue lights. All the lights seemed to be working as TRON was just GLOWING. The upper playfield is littered with lights and does a great job of illuminating the ramps.

Since TRON Legacy was located in a bar, they had their own music playing so it was tough to hear the table's own music. From what I have heard, it is pretty good though and a lot of work was put into it. According to the page for Tron Legacy, David Thiel wrote several levels of background music. The sound effects are pretty good too with custom voice-acting by Carol and David Thiel. There's one really distracting sound effect I ALWAYS hear though. I think it's when you hit one of the ramps you hear this weird digitized WOOOOOOOOAH! You'll know what I mean if you've played TRON Legacy as it's loud as hell!

Even though TRON Legacy and X-MEN are pretty much mirrored duplicates, it doesn't mean that both tables aren't a blast to play. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, ya dig! It's not like Borg was the first pinball designer to be "influenced" by one of his own tables. Two of the highest rated tables, Attack From Mars and Medieval Madness which were designed by Brian Eddy, are pretty much carbon copies! They even have the same guy doing the French character voice! TRON Legacy is a tough but enjoyable table with lots of flowing shots and fast play. It's more well-suited for experienced pinball players as the table can definitely tear you a new one. The right outlane can be one helluva ball eater so play careful. Don't get wild with the nudges (no Whitby Shuffles) as Pegasus Bar's TRON table is strict about rough housing. You gotta nudge with finesse. The art package is one of Stern's best and follows the film's visual style to a T. There's a lot of work put into the sound design so keep an ear out for some neat custom quips and soundtracks. I would consider TRON Legacy to be one of the better Stern table, up there with Transformers, Batman, and The Sopranos. The total packages for these four tables I would have to say are some of the best quality Stern has released thus far. Coming off the previous year where Big Buck Hunter Pro and Iron Man (both are also Borg designs) came out in 2010, (BIG STINKERS P-U) TRON Legacy definitely showed that 2011 was the year Stern was starting to pick up steam and put out some really enjoyable tables.

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