Friday, October 2, 2015

NO FEAR! at Coalition

There has been a lot of action in Toronto's pinball scene! The city's pinball numbers have been on the rise lately with many new venues getting outfitted with tables. One of the most recent places I have heard about is Coalition in Kensington Market, just a few steps south of College St. on Kensington Ave. I recently got the chance to stop by Coalition on a rainy Saturday night and not only found a few cool pinball machines but also a really cool bar! Similar to Junction City Music Hall, the moment you step into Coalition, you will descend a few flights of stairs down to the bar itself. There's a room with a pool table but make your way over to the main part of the bar and you will find the pinball tables and a arcade cabinet tucked away in a corner. This place is big so there will be plenty of room to play and you won't bump anyone that is on their way to the washroom. Coalition is serviced by Toronto Coin Exchange, one of the best operators in the city, and they have placed some great machines!
WHOA! NO FEAR! When I heard that No Fear had entered the city, I was super excited to check it out. Street Fighter II... not so much but I did play it a round or two. Anyways, I think it's time we talk about a real cool and TOTALLY X-TREEEEEEEEEEME table in the form of NO FEAR!
This table is just plain crazy! You want fast gameplay? you got it! You want a ton of shots? You got that too. Plenty of modes? Oh yeah, more than enough to go around! You want fear? SORRY BUT WE'RE ALL OUT!

No Fear is in fifth gear at all times. The ball moves so dang fast that you'll be flipping moreso on reaction. It is tough to get control of the ball to make the right shots and when you do get the chance, better make it count! Make a wrong shot and you either won't get any points or you will drain.
Fast table and great flow? Must be the work of Steve Ritchie! This table is pure flow; it is pretty much all ramps and loops. No Fear is also one of the few tables without pop bumpers too which means there is very little ways to slow down gameplay. Even when you shoot the ball into the Skull Shot in order to lock the ball, there's a ball pre-loaded in the right popper so your game is stopped for all of a few seconds.

I mentioned the lack of pop bumpers but at closer inspection, it turns out there is quite a lack of gimmicks and toys! No Fear is pretty much Steve Ritchie distilled, using playfield layout as the main attraction. The only things I would consider a gimmick are the big skull and the "Jump Shot", a shot that is a bit reminiscent of The Getaway's Supercharger and Black Knight 2000's upper playfield loop shot. Similar to The Getaway, hit the left ramp to get up to the Jump then using the upper flipper, aim your shot just right so you clear the gap and hit the loop, ala BK2K (save for the gap). The shot loops around and you can make multiple jumps, just like The Getaway's upper flipper loop shot! One of the reviews on mentioned that No Fear is like Steve Ritchie's Greatest Hits and I have to agree. You can find all the Steve Ritchie trademarks, like the upper flipper loop shot, the symmetrical ramps, and the game modes reflecting those found in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Seeing No Fear in this light is quite fitting as it was Ritchie's last pinball machine with Williams.

The artwork of No Fear is a bit of a sore spot with some, probably due to the fact that it is totally 90's X-TREEEEEEME but HEY I dig that style! I grew up in the 90's so the table is a great flashback of those wild-and-wacky days of XTREME sports and IN-YOUR-FACE art styles. I can't complain that the backglass has a stock car driving out of a giant explosion, probably from a rival's destroyed vehicle as evidenced by the flaming tires flying out of the carnage. Speaking of which, much of the table's artwork is focused on fire with the cabinet awash in wicked looking flames. The playfield's artwork is pretty damn busy but artist Greg Freres manages to make it work and adds all sorts of little references to give the table some variety. For example, the ramps are highlighted with dirt to signify the associated mode. There is also a bunch of little NO FEAR statements like this one...
It is great to see more golden-era pinball machines appearing in Toronto. The usual mainstays like 3030 and Junction City Music Hall have recently become hosts to great Bally/Williams era tables, like Dr. Who at 3030 and Twilight Zone at JCMH but now more and more tables from this era are popping up thanks to Toronto Coin Exchange and Guelph Pinball Club! First we saw The Getaway appear at one of my favorite haunts, California Sandwiches, and soon after the Beer & Ball Festival, White Water stayed behind at Handlebar to eat money and take names. Now Coalition is getting in on the action by hosting an underrated Steve Ritchie-designed table, NO FEAR! This table is all flow and very little in the way of gimmicks. The ball is pretty much kept in perpetual motion due to the amount of ramps and loops as well as the lack of targets and pop bumpers. There are no toys which is strange as 1995 was rife with them.  I find that a bit hard to believe seeing as Theatre of Magic and Johnny Mnemonic both came out the same year as 1995 but perhaps No Fear's budget was reduced in order to support those two. Some claim that it was due to Williams budget cutting as the popularity of pinball slowly declined after the peak in 1992 and 1993, with a reduction of switch columns and solenoids underneath the hood of No Fear.Anyways, Ritchie's body of work never focused much on toys and No Fear is essentially the best of Steve Ritchie. The artwork by Greg Freres may be an artifact of the 90's but for those that grew up during that time and have fond memories of it will surely enjoy the XTREEEEME cheesiness of it all. The table at Coalition is in great shape too; the playfield is in fine form and everything is working though there isn't all that much to break... Also, Coalition is expanding their pinball line-up and just added KISS! If you're in the Kensington Market area, drop by Coalition for some cheap tallboys and some real good pinball!

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