Last week, I showed off some oddball points from the PAPA collection, as well as some glamour shots of the games Josh, Joyana, and I played. This week, I want to focus on the Zaccaria games that we played. As I said last week, I made a special effort to play a bunch of these games because I have never seen them anywhere else before, and I don't know where else I'd see them.
Huh, you've never heard of Zaccaria? "Maybe they were just a flash in the pan. A company that made a machine or two, but dissolved because they couldn't compete with the Chicago-based pinball giants?" I hear you muse. Guess again! Zaccaria made thirty games between 1978 and 1987. 30! You can click on the link above and read the wikipedia article about Zaccaria, so I'll sum up and say that they're an Italian gaming company that produced some really interesting titles before closing shop in 1988. Here we go:
ROBOT. As a quick aside, I LOVE robots. I've been obsessed with Tokusatsu (the genre of Japanese television that encompasses Power Rangers, Ultraman, Godzilla, and the like) since forever, and robots are a big part of that genre. The art on this game was amazing. My photo doesn't do it justice, so PLEASE check out the IPDB link above and get a better look. The purple/red color scheme is unexpected, but really intoxicating. It helps with the setting of the game. This really distinguishes itself from Terminator in that way, where I don't feel like I'm on Earth beating back robots. I feel like I've actually transported myself to the robot homeworld, taking the fight to them!!
Theme and aesthetics aside, this was a very fun game to play. There are some slingshots and some bumpers at the top, which make for a very lively upper playfield. The lower playfield SEEMS to be empty, until you hit the ramp in the center.
A quick note about the ramp: when you hit it, it immediately u-turns you up and heading back towards the player. I can't actually think of another example right now. Needless to say it feels very unique.
As the ball is heading down the ramp, five pop-up targets appear on the playfield (just like the trolls in Medieval Madness). You then have to hit them down. Definitely the highlight of the game. Great lighting, great sound effects. I didn't get too far into the rules, but I loved it. I could have stayed here all day! Check out a video of it in action HERE
Time Machine. This was a really bonkers game. The basics are that there are two time periods, the past and the future. You hit targets to prep your time machine to travel in-between the two periods. Once you get your ball in the Time Machine scoop, the playfield changes DRASTICALLY. A good square foot raises and lowers in the center to showcase either a bank of standup targets or pop bumpers.
You know, I REFUSE to go on until you see this beauty in action. HERE. It's okay, I'll wait here.
Cool, huh!? The concept of changing the field so drastically REALLY reinforces this idea that the player is literally traveling between different planes of existance. It's an idea I've never seen before.
The normal beeps and boops of gameplay sound is nothing to call home about, but oh man, the SPEECH! The game is practically narrated by a character who I assume is some sort of super time wizard. He tells you when you are going into the past and the future, and also helps you out. In the past, you have to hit 10 (?) standup targets in the back. As you hit a target, the light in front of it turns off. If you then hit a target you've hit before, the wizard gives you a tip to hitting one that's still lit. "More to the right." "More to the left." It's just a little programming trick, but it's very cool to hear while you're playing. Also, everything is in English, but there are a couple of lines that didn't sound quite right? My favorite was "You're going well."
We also played some games on Magic Castle and Fire Mountain, and we had an equally fun time on each. This brings me to my overall observation after playing the Zacarria games. I felt like I was experiencing something wholly new and unique, yet familiar. There were trappings of American pinball from the late 70's, early 80's that I recognized, for sure, but each game, without fail, was bringing something new to the table.
One of the things that I worry about with pinball is that we're going to get into too much of a feedback loop. I love that pinball, although it has roots in France, is a very American art form, but I see a little Italian publisher like Zaccaria come around and blow the lid off my expectations with every game, and I wish that there was more international pinball. Video games have flourished in the last two decades by having companies in North America, Asia, and Europe all competing against each other. This is obviously a larger issue, but it's something that I thought about while hitting down those five robot pop up targets.
I would love to see the Japanese gaming aesthetic back in pinball. Data East closed up shop in 2003, and have we had a non US pinball manufacturer since them? I honestly don't know! Please send them my way!
I have no other way to describe my experience playing Zaccaria games than to say that it just felt FRESH. It was undoubtedly my highlight of the trip. Phew! Well, I thought I was going to get through everything this week, but I have ONE MORE machine that I want to talk about. It was the last one we played before we left, and man oh man, it was strange! Get ready!