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Retro Video Game Review: Pinball Quest (NES)

In 1990, though, they released a pinball title called Pinball Quest, a unique video game that gamers perhaps have still not yet seen quite copied.

Jaleco had a decent run of cartridges on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), as a developer perhaps best known for their baseball simulators. In 1990, though, they released a pinball title called Pinball Quest, a unique video game that gamers perhaps have still not yet seen quite copied.


Using the B button the shake the board, the A button for right flippers, and the directional pad for left flippers, the player engages in classic pinball video gameplay throughout four different modes of play in Pinball Question.

Three of them are basically two-screen pinball cabinets enjoyed one player at a time for up to four people total, three balls each. Pop Pop! is a sports-themed board, with pins to knock over and even a billiards mini-game, in addition to the usual bumpers and holes. Circus is a fast-paced slick-action board with a slot machine appeal. Then there is Viva! Golf, complete with gophers, flags, and even a cute little Asian girl, not to mention the golfer who drives the ball rather than using the traditional plunger. Each board has its fair amount of fun to be had, different sorts of high-scoring bonuses to pursue, and a distinct feel, with Japanese flavor throughout.

But, really, if the player wanted to just play a pinball video game, there are several other titles available on the NES, including the classic release title Pinball and the sublime immersion of Pin*Bot. However, for a truly unique pinball experience, one needs look no further than the RPG mode of Pinball Quest.

In RPG mode, there is actually a loose storyline to follow, as the player controls the prince who must rescue the captures princess Bali. There are even speaking characters, such as the ghost of the kingdom soldier in the first level, a forest-setting graveyard. The player must put his or her well-honed flipper skills to the test in order to defeat enemies, travel through different environments, even acquire gold to purchase useful stoppers and more powerful flippers. The RPG mode of Pinball Quest truly is a quirky, innovative take on creating a pinball/RPG hybrid game. While some could see it as a watered-down version of each, in reality, it is quite an impressive pinball game, with only the RPG elements being compromised; even then, it is remarkable enough that the player upgrades an attack bar, collects gold from enemies to spend on inventory management, and even defeat bosses on each of the six levels.


Pinball Quest is a bright, colorful, poppin’ ballgame. The bumpers flash simultaneously with each contact, the game sacrifices realism (no metallic-looking ball here) in favor of cartoony fun, and puts minimal effort into an authentic presentation of a pinball cabinet, seeking the wacky sights of gophers and the unique addition of a miniature billiards table instead. The RPG Mode boasts menacing bosses, albeit a little silly in instances like the knights with afterthought swords, but truly shines in its portrayal of the widely varying locales, from the reds and oranges of an almost fire-and-brimetone feeling castle interior, to the greens and grays of the outer rim graveyard woods. This is a solid-looking cartridge.


The music gives a full effort here, reaching high staccato ditties and blooping effects. The shop between each RPG level has a charmingly signature track, and the battle effects of hitting enemies and bosses with the ball could have come from any legitimate adventure game. Jaleco actually seemed to care about the acoustics of Pinball Quest, and it shows, even if not the best-ever by any measure.


Although it may make few appearances on any best-ever lists, even solely confined to the NES library, Pinball Quest undoubtedly deserves credit for crafting a unique experience, with a head-scratching, what-the-heck choice of two genres to mesh into a provocative hybrid. It may not be the most in-depth role-playing experience, but it serves as quite an intense pinball challenge, even if not quite traditional. Good enough for three and a half stars out of five for being a decent pinball game at its core, then expanding into previously unexplored territory with competence and flair.

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