Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection has been one title in my collection that’s seen a lot of playing time– for both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 platforms. Farsight Studios made key improvements from its earlier Pinball Hall of Fame title (The Gottlieb Collection) in terms of ball physics and the inclusion of online leaderboards and the addictive qualities of Achievements and/or Trophies were important. The licensed tables were all great choices and were certainly improvements over many of the Gottlieb tables. The Williams Collection is, arguably, the best version of virtual pinball around… so I was naturally excited to learn that a portable version for the 3DS was coming. The port had seen its fair share of delays, but the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions were also subject to numerous delays. I had some concerns before release about how the frame rate would be affected, moving from console to portable and with the inclusion of 3D support, but I remained positive about what Farsight Studios would accomplish.
After spending some time with The Williams Collection on the 3DS, I have mixed feelings about it. The tables still look great, two sets of objectives (or goals) for each table were carried over from the console versions, and having playable versions of great tables like Pinbot and Whirlwind on the go is nice. There are, unfortunately, several tables that didn’t make the cut for this version, though, including the popular Medieval Madness, No Good Gofers, and Firepower. There’s also an inexplicable lack of online leaderboards. In fact, the game doesn’t take advantage of any of the 3DS’ communication abilities such as StreetPass or SpotPass.
Let’s back up, though, and look at The Williams Collection in more detail.
What The Williams Collection does offer on the 3DS is a total of seven tables to choose from: Gorgar, Black Knight, Pinbot, Space Shuttle, Taxi, Funhouse, and Whirlwind. There aren’t any extra tables to unlock in this version. The level of detail for each table is about on par with the console versions, which means that they’re very close to the original arcade tables. The 3D screen is the playfield screen and the touch screen becomes the scoreboard. Unlike the console versions, the scoreboard is the full marquee for each table, which is a nice touch for purists. Each of the seven tables plays as expected, with bonuses, multiball opportunities, and key scoring shots. Each table also has two sets of goals to accomplish. The first set of goals, called Table Goals, will “unlock” a table for Free Play when the goals are all completed. Free Play means not having to use virtual credits to play certain restricted machines. The second set of goals, called Wizard Goals, will unlock a small set of additional options when completed. These options include using a custom ball for that table or turning the Tilt Penalty off.
The controls are pretty straightforward. The analog disc launches the ball, and the L and R buttons are for the left and right flippers. The accelerometer inside of the 3DS allows players to shake the device to nudge the table, rather than pressing a button or using a stick to achieve a similar effect. The accelerometer is a bit sensitive, though, and too much shaking will lead to a Tilt Penalty and immediate loss of turn. While the flipper controls are fine, expect some cramping of the wrists after playing for extended periods. There’s no way to avoid this as your wrists must be bent to play using the L and R buttons. It may be a minor complaint and it may not bother some players, but it did affect my time with the game.
If you’ve played the console versions, you’ll almost immediately notice the severe drop in frame rate in this version. The console versions run at a smooth 60 frames per second, even in multiball situations. The 3DS version runs at half of that rate, and sometimes less in multiball situations. This leads to the need for quicker reflexes and recalculated timing for certain shots. The frame rate does improve somewhat when the 3D slider is set to OFF, but it’s still a jarring adjustment from other versions of the game. The lower frame rate doesn’t make this port of The Williams Collection unplayable, but it does make for a less than optimal experience. There are also delays and hiccups with the sounds in the game, but this isn’t as major a problem. Most of the sounds are faithful and the quality is rather good.
A couple of additional gameplay modes add to the replay value in The Williams Collection. The Williams Challenge sends players through a gauntlet of all seven tables, as certain minimum score levels must be achieved in order to move on from table to table. The Tournament mode is similar, although it can be customized and multiple players can participate. These are nice features, but without online leaderboards or some kind of StreetPass functionality to update high scores, competing against your own scores eventually becomes tedious. This decision may stem from Nintendo‘s lack of online focus or it may have been a publisher or developer move, but when you consider that the 3DS is capable of internet and wireless communication, it seems like a wasted opportunity.
Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection for the 3DS isn’t a bad game. It’s a functional port of the console versions of the game and, after some adjustment to the lower frame rate, it plays fine. The asking price of $30 seems a bit much, though, when you factor in the missing tables, missing leaderboards, and that the superior console versions can be had for much less money. You’ll be competing with yourself more often than competing with friends or other skilled players. It’s nice that we can play these tables on the go, but the appeal fades far too quickly.