Friday, March 25, 2016

Florida Arcade & Pinball Expo 2016 Trip Report

Alright, let's get to talking about the 2016 Florida Arcade & Pinball Expo! I went way out of my comfort zone of Toronto to attend this one. For those long-time readers, you know quite well that I'm not bound to the city limits of the Big Smoke. I get around to all sorts of Expos, like Michigan Pinball Expo and Ottawa Pinball Expo. Now we can mark the Florida APE off the list! There has been something on my chest for quite some time about Expos that I just haven't been able to articulate until now. I picked up a book called The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross and in the foreword by Ken MacLeod, he says something in regards to conventions that "the peculiar melancholy of looking back on a con and realising no matter how good of a time you had, there was even more that you missed." That is exactly how I feel about pinball expos!
No matter how many machines I played, no matter how many pictures I took, I always think about the stuff that I missed. Shamefully, I missed out on playing the new P3 game Lexy Lightspeed as well as a few others I was hoping to play. Sometimes, it just doesn't work out; the lineup for a pinball machine is just too long or it's out of service while you're there. I just find it so difficult to wait in line for a pinball machine at Expos. You never know how good the person ahead of you is playing or if they're a goof and started a 4 player game for themselves. Pinball Expos must be a nightmare for those with short attention spans. You're waiting in line for a particular machine but there's so many around you making all this noise and lightshows that you just kind of wander out of line and find yourself playing something else. I have to say I am a pretty focused individual but when it comes to expos, I just lose all focus! There are all sorts of different machines I want to play, some that I rarely see on route or that I haven't seen before, like The Champion Pub!

I was pretty stoked to see this table. I heard about it through The Pinball Arcade and thought it a pretty interesting table; it exhibits some video game influences in that it has mini-games that you complete in order to start brawlin'!
The mini-games consist of Speed Bag where you "flip" the ball with little fists to hit a speed bag or my favorite, Jump Rope, where you hit the flippers to launch the ball over the rope by way of solenoid. It's a pretty neat visual novelty. By completing these and
hitting the punching bag, you will begin the boxing rounds with a rogue's gallery of various fighters. The fights are interesting in that you hit different shots in order to throw different maneuvers. Hit either of the ramps to hit the boxer's face for uppercuts or hit the body for a body blow. The progression through fighters kind of reminds me of Street Fighter II in that many of the characters are defined by different accents. The Champion Pub's sound design is another big factor in the quality of the table. There are over 300 different recorded call outs! Hearing this table is a treat because the callouts are really good.
Unfortunately, this is quite a rare table as it was one of Bally's last tables before closing down the pinball division. The Champion Pub was released in 1998 which was the height of home consoles and the downfall of arcades. Bally and Williams were trying their damnedest to compete with video games as evidenced by the video game influence in The Champion Pub and even more so when Pinball 2000's Revenge From Mars and Star Wars: Episode 1 were released. Unfortunately, The Champion Pub was not very successful and has fallen to the wayside in the pinball community, often overshadowed by it's earlier brethren.

Another rare table made an appearance at Florida APE and that was Banzai Run!
I have been lucky enough to play a Banzai Run in the wild back in Windsor; I have never actually seen Banzai Run available for play at any of the Expos I have been to. 
The Banzai Run at APE was in great condition, a lot better than the one that I had played in Windsor. I was hoping to have a real good run at it but I really dropped the ball. I mentioned that I have a hard time focusing at Expos and that applies to my playing too. There is just so much going on around me and so little time to play that I just can't settle in and have a good game. Not to say that Expos aren't fun but I just feel like I'm missing out if I spend too much time on a game and then I feel like I'm missing out because I didn't get enough into a game. The ultimate pinball conundrum... But hey, at least I got onto the back playfield!

My brother Shane, now he can really focus in on a machine and do work... too bad it wasn't a pinball machine.
He was obsessed with this thing. I think he played it more than the pinball machines! I would leave him playing it, go walk around the floor and come back to see him still playing Monaco GP! He was really damn good at it though. He got the top score and reached the secret level!

That's enough postin' for now! I have to stretch this trip report out a little bit so stay tuned!

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