Monday, April 25, 2016

Florida Arcade & Pinball Expo Part II

Par for the course, here I am with Part II of my trip report for Florida Arcade & Pinball Expo several months after the fact. At the very least, here it is! In Part I of my Florida APE trip report, I covered a few of the unique tables at the show, The Champion Pub and Banzai Run! I have been looking through my photos quite a bit, trying to stir up some ideas for another post and the main thing I noticed is just how good looking many of the tables at the Expo were. Like I mentioned in my trip report preview post, the dark arcade-like atmosphere of the Expo was a great way to showcase how much love and care were put into these tables. Private owners and a couple of operators put a lot of hard work into restoring and maintaining these tables and it really showed, what with all the lights turned down.
One table I was quite excited to see at Florida APE was Swords of Fu-LION MAN LION MAN-ry. Last time I saw this table was at the 2013 Ottawa Pinball Expo and was quite surprised at the complexity of this System-11 machine! I talked about SoF in the Ottawa Pinball Expo trip report but I don't see why I can't talk about it some more! Plus, I have some really nice pictures of SoF so why miss out on sharing them with you?

Swords of Fury was quite an ambitious title for the late 80's, with all sorts of features and shots packed into the table like the mini upper playfield, the dual U-turn shots and even the raised mini-playfield! The playfield layout is a bit awkward with a lot of the shots leaning more towards the use of the right flipper. There is a good way of getting to the mini playfield by hitting the right side of Ogre's Alley and looping the ball down to the third flipper. Successfully hitting this shot will give you a better chance of hitting that center ramp. It's really steep and can lead to a nasty drain if you try hitting it from the right flipper.
Swords of Fury feels like the prototype to the later DMD machines. It's packed with all sorts of wild gimmicks and unique playfield designs which became the norm for machines in the 90's. If you were to compare Swords of Fury to Taxi, which were both released in 1988, you can see where the state of pinball was going. Whereas Taxi focuses on making precise shots and progress for big points, Swords of Fury is very eye-catching and has all sorts of new features to interest you. Not to say that later tables were strictly gimmick-machines but you could see the importance of eye-candy becoming more prominent in pinball designs in the late 80's. If Swords of Fury wasn't evidence enough then Banzai Run should be. It was released the same year as Swords of Fury and surely would have turned heads back in the day!
Just by looking at Swords of Fury, you can get an idea of the quality of the tables at the Florida APE. Many of the tables were in top-notch condition and outfitted with bright LEDs which really popped in the dark environment of the Expo. The usage of LEDs in the pinball community has been quite polarizing. Some people find it to be quite distracting and in the words of an old friend of mine "imagine staring at a strobe light for 30 minutes." There are definitely instances where there is overkill on the LEDs. This Johnny Mnemonic went a little crazy with the purple.
On the other hand, when tastefully done, LEDs can really improve a table. They may provide more illumination to lacking areas (Addams Family, I'm looking at you) or make the inserts really pop. Swing by Junction City Music Hall to see a great example of how a few LEDs can really improve a table. Comet and Fire! were recently upgraded with them and they look fantastic. But I digress, the tables at Florida APE were total eye candy, especially the Cirqus Voltaire. The artwork of CV was done by Linda Deal who had previously worked with Cirqus' designer, John Popadiuk, on Theatre of Magic. The whole table, everything from the artwork to the playfield and sound design is done with such great detail. The only bare space in the playfield artwork is the drain which curiously is just bare wood. Otherwise, Deal packed in so much bits and pieces into the playfield artwork, even simulating the Ringmaster's upper body!
There are a couple of gimmicks that lend to the strange beauty of the table, such as the lowered Dot Matrix Display tucked into the back panel of the playfield rather than the usual spot in the backglass and my favorite, the neon light that stretches along the right ramp.
It is legitimate neon too! I'm a huge fan of all things neon so I'm like a moth to light when I see Cirqus Voltaire. But it takes a bit of skill to light up that neon tube as you have to activate Neon Multiball to light it up. Speaking of Popadiuk tables, I like that Florida APE set up a few of his tables all together.
From left to right you have Tales of Arabian Nights, Theatre of Magic, and World Cup Soccer '94. That is pretty much Popadiuk's Greatest Hits right there. I thought it was really neat how the tables were set up and curated. Rather than having a mish-mosh of EM's, early SS's and new Sterns all mixed together, the folks at Florida APE took careful consideration into how the machines were set up. Steve Ritchie's tables were all put together as such...
Including The Getaway and High Speed together!
The Early Solid-State tables had a section of their own too..
even the Arcade machines had an area to call their own!
There were quite a few tables at Florida APE and unfortunately, quite a few I have already reviewed. I guess that is what happens when you have been writing pinball reviews as long as I have! Yes, there has been a bit of overlap in the tables I have posted about in Florida APE so I suppose this will be the last part of this trip report. The good news is that City Pinball has been busy outfitting Toronto with a few new tables that I have yet to review on Bumper City! Keep an eye out for some Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure (The Williams version) and Indianapolis 500! Toronto Coin Exchange has also been doing some work over in Oshawa. I hear they put a very nice Mousin' Around there so it may be time to head over to Leisure Lanes...

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