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Fantastic (or as the backglass states, "FAN-TAS-TIC"), was released by Williams in September of 1972 (start of my sophomore year in High School). The September release date meant that it probably missed most of the east coast shore arcades, which is probably why I don't recall playing it when it was on location.
The games was designed by Norm Clark (other games include Spanish Eyes, OXO, Gulf Stream), art work was by Christian Marche (Williams lead artist in the late 60's and early 70's).
I purchased this game at the 2003 York Show (Whiterose Gameroom Show, but nobody ever calls it that....). I wasn't intending to buy an EM, I was actually looking for a Theatre of Magic, having some pinball cash from just selling off my Dr. Who and Road Kings. I arrived at the show on Saturday morning before it opened, hoping to find either a TOM or another nice early 90's machine. However the show had been "cherry picked" on Friday, with most of the decent games long gone by Saturday morning. With the demise of the east coast auctions earlier this year, there aren't that many venues for finding games anymore outside of retail dealers and collectors selling single machines. The show was small, with less that 70 machines on the floor, and most of new games being titles no one would want (anybody want a Waterworld?) I wound up playing the EMs most of the day, and found myself being drawn back to the Fantastic more than any other game. The friend that I came with suggested that one of us buy the game, since we were both enjoying it so much, so an offer was made and the game was packed up.
Funny side note, when the seller was breaking down the game, he almost made a presentation out of handing me the keys, but then asked back for them twice to open the game up. Once he hung onto them by mistake and was adamant that I had them, and then breathed a sigh of relief when he found them in his pocket. Well you know that when I got home and had the game downstairs, I fished through my pockets for the keys and they were no where to be found! A 1/4" drill bit took care of the locks in a few minutes and as soon as I had the game up and running, the phone rang and it was the seller (I had given him my address so he could send me the instruction cards), and the first words out of his mouth were "don't drill the locks, I found the keys!". Oh well! I would have replaced the locks anyway, but the timing was hysterical.
As I said above, I was drawn back to this machine over the course of the day at the York show. It has a number of unique features, including the embedded Roulette Wheel, the pop bumper between the flippers, a left out-lane ball eject, a right out-lane return gate and 3 eject holes.
The Roulette Wheel - The most prominent feature on the game is the embedded roulette wheel in the lower playfield. While not the first pinball game to feature a roulette wheel, other games featuring a roulette wheel on the playfield include Williams A-Go-Go (1966), Williams Suspense (1969) and Gottlieb's Super Score (1967). The difference is that on these three machines the roulette wheel was mounted above the playfield, with the flippers located near the edges of the machine and the ball was routed around the wheel. Fantastic was the first to have the wheel below the playfield so the ball could roll over it.
The roulette wheel is activated by shooting the ball into one of the three eject holes. The motor runs for about 2 seconds, whipping the captive ball around! The roulette wheel has 12 scoring holes:
Landing in one of the 3 star holes scores 500 points and lights a
playfield "star". Lighting all 3 stars allows the player
to shoot again.
Lower Playfield - The lower playfield features a pop-bumper ("jet bumper" in Williams speak) in the center drain between the flippers. I think this is a really cool feature of the game. A ball that you think has drained can come back to life! A ball can be on its way out, and then bump its way back up and around and back onto the playfield. This also makes the game a great "shaker" game, a couple of nudges and you can reclaim what you thought was a lost ball.
The left outlane has a ball return (ala Steve Ritchie games, think Firepower and High Speed). This was the first EM game that I've ever seen with this feature. Its activated by the hitting the center stand-up target.
The right outlane features a ball return gate, one of may favorite features on an EM game. EMs drain so much faster than Solid State games that any type of ball return is a welcome addition. A Mark rant..... EMs were originally designed as 5 ball games, so the time per ball could be shorter than on modern games. In order to increase profits, Manufacturer's starting offering 3 ball options in the 60's. Generally three ball games were cheaper than 5 ball games (3 for quarter versus 10 cents for a single game). Players like me however started balking when operators staring charging the higher amount for 3 ball games. 3 balls for a quarter on an EM was ridiculous! I think the manufacturers got the hint in the late 70s and solid state game design featured longer ball times. end of Mark rant....
However what the game gives in these three ball savers, it takes away with the flippers. The area under the plastics behind the flippers is open, allowing the ball to drain behind the flippers.
There are two 50 point roll-over buttons in the middle of the playfield.
Upper Playfield - The center of the playfield features two eject holes that will spin the roulette wheel. There are three stand-up targets, the two end targets will advance the bonus by 1,000 points and the center target opens the ball return lane.
The top of the playfield contains three pop-bumpers. The center pop-bumper is always lit and scores 100 points. The two outside bumpers score 10 points and are lit to score 100 points when a corresponding stand-up target near the top of the playfield is hit.
There are four 50 point roll-over buttons, two near the center stand-up targets and two at the top of the playfield. There are also two 10 point switches behind rubbers in the upper playfield.
Bonus - Unlike almost ever other pinball game with a bonus feature, Fantastic only scores the bonus when the captive roulette wheel ball falls on one of the three bonus collection holes. While the bonus ladder tops out at 10,000, its possible to collect 30,000 points multiple times through the game. Likewise, you could collect absolutely no bonus, making the scoring range wide open!
Summary - Fan-tas-tic
is a FUN GAME! The "serious" player would scoff at this
game, it would be much too random for them with the outlane
pop-bumper. For the casual player however, this is a great
game. With a bit of luck, a novice player can beat the pants off
of an experienced player.
Close-up of the Roulette Wheel
Lower Playfield Close-up
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