Wednesday, April 8, 2015

F-14 Tom Cat at Junction City Music Hall

The Junction is quickly becoming the place to be when it comes to pinball! 3030 has long been a bastion of pinball with several machines always available for play. Now, Junction City Music Hall has been outfitted with a variety of tables ranging from Gottlieb Wedgeheads to classic Williams System-11's and a hidden gem in the form of Cue Ball Wizard! The Junction may be a little too far west for some but it is actually quite easy to get to. If you're taking the TTC, you can take Line 2 to Keele and take either the 41 Keele or 89 Old Weston north to Dundas West. After that, it's just a short walk westwards to find two of the best places to play pinball in Toronto!

In this post we will be looking at one of the tables from Junction City Music Hall. JCMH is located at 2907 Dundas West, tucked away next to Silk Restaurant.
Keep your eyes peeled because you may just miss the front door! Step in and make your way downstairs to the Music Hall!
To your right is the bar and to the left is a wonderful lineup of pinball machines!
Oh... that Fire! looks awfully familiar...
This table is the very same one that was at Bumper City: A Pinball Exposition!
As nice as Fire! is, I have something else on my mind. For the month of April, I'm dedicating all the posts to the King of Flow, Steve Ritchie! I have encountered a few of his tables in the last couple of months and since I'm a big fan of his work, I want to take a closer look at a few Ritchie classics! JCMH's roster has one particular table, the System-11 classic, Williams' F-14 Tomcat!
Coming hot off the heels of the formative High Speed, Steve Ritchie's follow-up table takes the term "high speed" quite literally! Just like the eponymous fighter jet that the theme is based off of, F-14 Tomcat moves at supersonic speeds. Everything on the table keeps the ball moving, whether it's the four flippers or the loop shots. The layout of the table is really tight and narrow which just adds to the high speed velocity of the table.

The only time you ever get a breather is by hitting the right orbit to lock the ball. However, once the ball is shot up the kicker and into the ball lock area, the table will spit out another ball from the locks to keep the gameplay moving. Be prepared because it happens in the blink of an eye!
F-14 Tomcat is all about Risk Vs. Reward. There is no real safe shot to make; every target has a way of throwing the ball out of control and wrecking your game. There is a specific objective in F-14 Tomcat that should be considered the very definition of Risk Vs. Reward. One of the game's objectives is to kill all 7 targets and defeat General Yagov to earn an Extra Ball. There are two ways to go about scoring kills and making your way to the final boss. If the ball rolls down the inlane to the flipper, it will briefly light the center target bank to earn a Kill.
The target is lit for a split second so you have to pretty much have to shoot and react. Do you want to go for that target and risk draining the ball? Or would you rather go for something a bit safer? Keep in mind, this target back is smack-dab in the center of the playfield and awfully close to the center drain! I have gotten cocky and gone for the shot quite a few times only to send the ball straight down the middle drain. The other option for kills is to hit... THE LINE OF DEATH!
At the end of the line is the Yagov Kicker, one of the fastest shots in pinball. When you hit the shot, it launches the ball at mach speed right back at the flippers! You can score a kill at any moment by hitting this shot but the ball is going to come right back at you and if you aren't quick to react, say goodbye to that ball!

Because of this shot, F-14 Tomcat was the first pinball table to feature Autosave. The autosave activates if the ball is drained at the beginning of a game, if the Yagov Kicker shoots the ball right between the flippers, or during the first few seconds of the multiball. I'm sure you know what autosave is seeing as nearly every pinball table from the late 80's on has autosave but it's a small feature that I never really knew the history of! The more you know...
I developed a neat little trick to survive THE LINE OF DEATH! Hit the shot from the right flipper and just as the ball is returning to the left flipper, lift the flipper at the right second to catch the ball and kill its momentum. You better have really quick reaction skills to snag the ball, otherwise it's just going to bounce right off the flipper. Once you get it down, however, THE LINE OF DEATH ain't so scary any more!
As you may know, Ritchie's previous table High Speed was a pioneer of pinball, being the first table to feature continuous music and sound effects. F-14 Tomcat follows suit, featuring some kick-ass music and some wild sound effects.
General Yagov spews out a variety of taunts throughout the game along with all sorts of jet fighter sounds and explosions. Along with the sounds comes the sights and F-14 Tomcat doesn't disappoint! The table has all sorts of lights littered throughout, like the flash lamps located at the back of the playfield that cause quite a scene when things get hectic. that If you are able to kill General Yagov or start multiball, be sure to check out the light show that follows!

The unmistakable art style of F-14 Tomcat is none other than Doug Watson! It seems that Watson and Ritchie often worked together in the late 80's and early 90's, Watson having done the art packages for Black Knight 2000, The Getaway, and the star of my upcoming House of TARG post, Terminator 2: Judgement Day! Just like on T2, the linework in the art helps define the shots, especially the LINE OF DEATH and the right loop. There is all a lot of red and blue throughout the table in the artwork and the inserts gives the table a bright and bold visual appeal. Compared to T2, F-14 Tomcat's art design is a little less busy but the cool visuals of jet fighters and explosions really add to the table's high-octane vibe.

The Junction is quickly becoming the pinball hotbed in Toronto. Between 3030 and Junction City Music Hall, you have close to a dozen different classic pinball machines to take for a spin! Add in Shox Billiards just a few steps east of Keele and you have a decent lineup of pinball ranging from old school EM's to modern Sterns! JCMH's lineup is outfitted with a few System-11's, F-14 Tomcat being our featured table of this post! Williams' slogan for F-14 Tomcat is "It's fast. It's Furious... AND IT FIGHTS BACK!" I couldn't agree more. Steve Ritchie has a penchant for fast-playing playfield design and F-14 Tomcat exemplifies this to a T. Along with the Yagov Kicker and the center target bank, this table is out to get you at every moment. It's good that this table is only 50 cents because you'll find yourself dumping quarter after quarter into F-14 Tomcat all for the chance to take down General Yagov!

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