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Interview: Zen Studios’ Mel Kirk talks Star Wars Pinball

The Force is strong with this collection, which releases this weekend for Nintendo’s platform!

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…Nintendo finally got a Star Wars game.

We’re not talking about the just-announced Jedi Knight games that are on the way to the system. Nope, we’re talking Star Wars Pinball, a compilation of tables from Zen Studios that will be available on the Nintendo Switch starting September 13.

The original Star Wars table!

It’s been a long time coming to see this collection, especially with the company’s previously released Pinball FX3 making the rounds. Still, it’s great to see, and to get further context upon release, we chatted with vice president of publishing Mel Kirk about the game. We discussed new features, the selection of tables, and what could lie ahead for the Star Wars license.

First off, why did you guys decide to go with a full release of Star Wars Pinball for Nintendo Switch? Did you think there were enough tables to make it stand out, or…?

One of the very first questions fans asked when we announced Pinball FX3 for Nintendo Switch was, “Where are the Star Wars tables???” I think we always had a special experience in mind for Star Wars Pinball on the device. There are fun community features, special modes and other Star Wars-specific things we have always wanted to do but could not fit into the Pinball FX3 framework. For example, Cantina Jukebox lets you listen to the various licensed Star Wars tracks in the game lobby as you want to hear them – this would not have fit into Pinball FX. Star Wars Pinball is packed full of all things from that iconic galaxy far, far away, and this demanded its own standalone game. 

There are some noticeable features with this game, particularly with the Career Mode. Tell us about it and what we’re about to accomplish within it.

Career Mode puts you on a path to becoming a Jedi Pinball Master – or even a Sith Pinball Master! (I will be supporting the Dark Side in the Galactic Struggle, another feature in the game.) This mode will help you understand pinball better and also will allow you to master some of the special mini-games we build into the tables. So, when you activate these during a tournament, you will have a better chance at a high score! Career Mode is also designed to give you bite size play sessions if you are on the go or do not have a lot of time to spend playing. 

How many tables are included in the game? Were there any that didn’t make the cut, or are all the currently available tables in the collection?

The complete set of 19 tables is in the game. We really span the galaxy with tables based on films such as Episodes IV through VIII, plus each “Star Wars Story,” which follow the events of Rogue One and Solo. There are also tables based on TV shows like Star Wars Rebels and Clone Wars. We explore various themes like Jedi versus Sith in Masters of the Force, or X-wings vs. TIE fighters in my personal favorite table, Starfighter Assault. There are dedicated character tables like Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Droids and Lando Calrissian in the Calrissian Chronicles, and we even have tables based on locations in the Star Wars galaxy like Ahch-To Island. 

Shoot that Death Star!

This’ll mark your first retail release on the market for Nintendo Switch. How excited are you to see this game hit shelves physically, along with digitally?

It’s actually quite surreal. We are the first Star Wars game on Nintendo Switch, which is a huge honor. Star Wars and Nintendo have a great history, and it’s so cool to have the opportunity to join the ranks of this special club! When I opened a box of retail games and held the boxes in my hand, I must admit I felt very proud of our entire team. Somehow, along with help of the team at Lucasfilm and Nintendo, as well as many others, we managed to pull off a retail game! Incredible! 

Beasts everywhere in The Force Awakens table!

On that note, how’s it feel to have the first Star Wars release for the Nintendo Switch? (You beat Jedi Knight by just a hair!)

We will forever treasure the honor of being the first Star Wars game on Nintendo Switch! I know there will be more, and we are super excited to also play these games. Jedi Outcast is one of the best Star Wars games of all time, and it will be great on Switch. I am also very much looking forward to the new LEGO Skywalker Saga game from TT Games. Those guys are so awesome. 

Could other pinball compilations follow in the future? A Marvel Pinball collection for Switch, perhaps? Or are we thinking too far ahead?

There are all sorts of possibilities for compilations, but we don’t have any to discuss at the moment. Perhaps we will if enough of you give Star Wars Pinball a spin?…

Let the Force flow through you on Nintendo Switch!

What’s next for your collaboration with Star Wars? Could we see a table inspired by Rise of Skywalker down the line?

At this time, we do not have anything to announce regarding new tables, but I can dream, right? We’ll see what the future holds. 

Star Wars Pinball releases on September 13. May the Force be with you!

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