Things tend to have a way of always bouncing back the way they came. As the video game console is a direct descendant of arcade games, it is only natural that developers and gamers pay homage to pinball tables (which in turn are the forerunners to the arcade). The main problem with doing this lies in the differences between the generations. Pinball tables were a very tactile experience: the bright lights, the sound and feel of the ball rolling down the table, and the hardware specifically built for THAT table. As it stood, a console take on traditional pinball seemed impossible to replicate.
Enter Naxat Soft, a company that was not only determined to pay homage to some of the INCREDIBLE tables produced in the golden age of pinball, but to leverage the strengths of the console to make a unique product all their own. The result of this effort was Alien and Devil’s Crush, two games you are sure to have heard of … and Jaki Crush, which never made it to western shores.
A shame, because it’s the best of the bunch.
Before you begin, you have the option to choose from the speed with which the ball moves. Neophytes who are not very adept at pinball should choose slow, while pinball wizards should choose fast. New to the series is also the addition of a 2-player option that either lets two players take turns after a round is up or compete head-to-head.
Once you choose your game-type, it’s time for some demon slaying! Since pinball is all about the joy of exploring an interesting table, you are turned loose with no instructions and left to figure out the intricate cause and effect relationships between the various targets in the machine. And in this goal Jaki Crush delivers solidly, giving us a table filled to the brim with hidden reactions and secret goals.
This is accomplished on a table that spans three tiers, all of which have their own goals, targets and secrets. Using the first tier as an example, you have your typical pinball setup: two levers, two bumpers, some side targets and a clear central target in the titular Jaki Head. You could try to target the three imps, since destroying them plugs the drain, thus making life easier for a time. Or you could decide to go right for the throat and try to hit the Jaki’s jewel until it flees further up the board. Or maybe you don’t care and just want to hit the ball around for a bit? Jaki Crush gives you all of this and more, and the more you play, the more you will see.
That’s because if you play long enough you are bound to discover some of the boards more awesome secrets, the best of which is the series of secret boards that operate as boss battles of sorts. Aside from being visually spectacular, each of these boss boards offers a different spin on the main table’s gameplay. In one example a Thunder Devil rains lighting down on you, knocking the ball away as you try to hit him in the head. Another forces us into a game of breakout while a face slowly transforms from human to demonic in the background! Not only will you want to find these, but you will find yourself attempting to repeat your actions in order to find the pattern that unlocks them so you can repeat the process!
Of course there will be more than the cool factor driving you to find everything the table has to offer, since beating the Jaki Head on the main table and the bosses on the secret tables is the key to shooting your score into the stratosphere! Each time you beat a secret table, you get to see your normal yellow ball transform into either a red ball or a blue ball. The blue ball doubles the multiplier you get for its duration, and the red ball seems to destroy targets much faster, eliminating much of the work. And if you manage to vanquish the Jaki head on the main table, you will get access to a MULTI-BALL game! Though it can be much harder to keep track of two balls in play at once, this is how you really begin to rack up points.
Visually the game is a stunner. Graphics are much more important in a pinball sim, since much of a table’s appeal is in the visual design; The lights, the colors, the theme, etc. Jaki proves up to the challenge of besting Naxat’s other efforts with a dark and brooding board reminiscent of some of the classics. The Jaki head is a technical marvel of Mode-7 goodness, and watching it change and evolve over the course of a game is a joy to behold. Target placement is well done and everything animates well. Even the small details such as the clanking of bones when you hit the walls of the machine to the Japanese character that changes as the game plays are all present and accounted for. Finally, Jaki Crush offers a scrolling board and flashy cutaways to the bonus areas, making the package come together all the better.
On the audio side of things, Jaki Crush again excels with sounds effects that make us feel like the ball is hitting with perfect force. The voice samples are also great with each ball loss being punctuated with a creepy laugh that spurs you to try harder. The soundtrack is outstanding for what is there, and though it is a distant second behind Devil’s Crush, it still delivers a memorable tune.
Just like any finely-crafted pinball machine, Jaki Crush is more than the sum of its parts, representing the best of both worlds in a way that only video pinball can. It’s got all of the great mechanics of a classic pinball table while still delivering the bad guys and bosses that video games are known for. And it continues to reward you as you learn more about its intricacies and secrets in ways that may surprise you. Jaki Crush can last five minutes or five hours depending on how skilled and determined you are, but one thing’s for sure; you will enjoy every moment you spend with it! Jaki Crush shows us that the SNES CAN SURE PLAY A MEAN PINBALL!
4 Out Of 5 Stars
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