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Game Facts:
Firepower was manufactured by Williams in 1980. The unbelievable amount of 17,410 machines were produced.  The game was designed by Steve Richie who also designed Flash, Black Knight, Black Knight 2000, High Speed, F14 and Terminator 2 among others for Williams.

Game Rules:
  
Click here for the complete Firepower rules
Drop Target "retro" Conversion:
  
I did a drop target conversion on a Firepower, see it here!

More Firepower Resources from Mark's Pinball Page...
   
Firepower ROM images (ZIP file)
    Firepower Instruction Booklet (PDF)
    Combo ROM Modification
    Firepower Instruction Cards (custom)
    System 6 MPU and Driver Board Information
    Firepower Plastics Scans
    Miscellaneous Firepower Information 

My Firepower Thoughts: 

Before I get started, let me tell you that I think Firepower is just about the best pinball game ever produced.  Of course, this is my personal opinion, and you may feel free to disagree with me, but you’ll never change my mind.  Yes, I love “Medieval Madness” and would love to own one someday (should have bought one when they were still going in the 3K range <g>!), and I have a blast playing my NIB Stern’s.  However I find that anytime I’m down in the game room playing pinball, I either always start or finish with a few games of Firepower.  I never get tired of Firepower, and I’ve been playing the one I own now almost every day for 4 years. 

Put your “way-back” hat on and let’s travel back to 1980.  This was the “golden” era of the arcade.  Video games were all the rage, and pinball was still holding its own.  Arcades were about 50-50 video to pinball.  EM machines were still quite prevalent, and the solid state games released to date were really nothing more than souped up EM games.  Bally had some decent titles, but most the early Williams titles were nothing to write home about.  This was also the first wide body era, with Williams releasing Stellar Wars and Pokerino, Bally had Space Invaders, Stern had Flight 2000 and Big Game, and Gottlieb had, well, forgettable Gottlieb titles.  Pinball was fun, but video games were capturing more and more of the arcade quarters.  1979 saw the introduction of continuous background sound (Flash) and Speech (Gorgar), which foreshadowed the potential of the solid state pinball machine beyond its current implementation as a transistorized EM machine. 

I was in my early 20’s in 1980, gainfully employed and had yet to buy a personal computer.  This meant that my weekend evenings were spent at the arcades prior to hitting the bars.  The current arcade of choice was the Malibu Grand Prix in Mount Laurel , NJ .  It had two go-cart tracks, a snack bar and about a 2,000 square foot arcade.  We would buy 5 laps, have some junk food, then play some games.  We’d do some video games, everybody was into Space Invaders and the such, but we were still hardcore pinball players, having been raised on the machines.  Bally’s Space Invaders was probably everybody’s favorite, followed by Williams Flash.  Games were priced at 5 balls per quarter, so you were able to get some decent playing time for your money.

Then at the beginning of the summer of 1980, they put in a Firepower.  It was pinball love at first sight!  In keeping with Williams tradition of not paying for a license (remember Beat Time and Disco Fever?), Firepower was a direct rip-off of the Star Wars Death Star and x-wing fighters.  To this day the backglass artwork in one of the most intricate designs every attempted.  The game was the coolest thing I had ever seen, and boy, was it fast!  It had everything, flash lamps, multi-ball, speech and the coolest pinball sound every!  You want an adrenaline pump, how about the multi-ball countdown, every muscle in your body tightened and your hair was on end waiting for those balls to be ejected.  We would go in and line up three or four dollars worth of tokens on the machine, effectively “reserving” the machine for ourselves for the evening.




Firepower caught the other pinball manufacturer’s off guard and in my opinion, was the game that started Williams on its march to pinball dominance.  Look at the other titles released at the same time as Firepower, Bally released Space Invaders and the Rolling Stones (what a bomb that was), Gottlieb was still releasing System 1 games, Spiderman and Panthera, and Stern released Big Game.  All single ball, none had continuous sound and most were wide-bodies.  Gottlieb never caught up and with the exception of Haunted House and Black Hole, never released another notable title.  Bally made a run at Williams with Flash Gordon, Xenon, Fathom and Centaur, however Williams fired back with Black Knight.  Stern quickly faltered, Firepower delivered a death blow to Stern. The company that Harry Williams’s (Stern’s designer at the time)  had founded was now light years ahead of his designs.  Flight 2000 was Harry Williams attempt to catch up, and while a good game, it was never in Firepower’s league.

So what makes Firepower such a great game?  Steve Ritchie was able to combine in a single game the total randomness (“the ball is wild!”) that differentiates pinball from video games and the control that allows a player to develop a strategy and play the game on their terms.  The game features four pop-bumpers at the top of the playfield, you can’t ask for more random ball movement than is generated by a ball bouncing between four pop-bumpers!  Through multi-ball in the equation and you have the most wild ball action you’ve ever seen.

Firepower was the first game to feature “lane advance” where you could control which of the top roll-over lanes was lit.  The bonus multiplier was advanced every time you completed all four roll-overs, and with lane advance this task could be accomplished with just four shots to the top of the playfield (in theory at least!).  The ball-locks also gave you a short time-out to catch your breath and re-group during a busy game.  I always liked to play for multi-ball rather than high score as I liked the action.  Multi-ball was achieved by hitting completing the stand-up target banks in the middle of the playfield to light the ball locks. If you wanted high score and the corresponding free games, you would play the roll-over lanes and the bonus multiplier as well as the “POWER” targets.

When Black Knight was released in early 1981 I switched my allegiance (and quarters) to Steve’s next game, but still always put a few quarters into Firepower before we left.

Fast Forward to 1999.  I think the last time I played Firepower in an arcade was probably 1984.  The arcades were closing and the pinball to video ratio had switched to about 10 to 1, so there wasn’t much reason to even go.  I had purchased my first pinball game for the house in August of 1999 (Black Knight) and then discovered that you could buy pinball games on Ebay!  This is when there might have been 200 to 300 listings max at any one time.  I searched and saw a Firepower listed for sale in New Jersey .  I survived a last minute sniping attempt and won the machine for $800.  Not bad really considering I was a complete novice at pinball buying then, having bought my Black Knight from a retailer (for what now turns out to have been a great deal).  The seller offered delivery for $75, so I took him up on it.  Good thing since the machine didn’t work when he set it up.  A few trips to Radio Shack for new solenoid and flipper fuses (the eos switch was shorting it turned out) and I had my Firepower!

I played it almost every day for the first month, then I when  I tried to turn it on, nothing would happen.  It would take maybe three or four tries to get it to boot, then it would play fine.  Then it took maybe 10, then it just refused to boot.  I wound up taking the machine to the retailer where I bought the Black Knight for repair, and retrieved it after a $250 repair bill (I also bought a new back glass from them, so that brought the total up to $500).  Turns out they just took the boards apart and put them back together again (great way to make $250!), advice you can find for free in my repair guide!  Between that repair and a $175 repair to my Black Knight to have one connector replaced, I figured that if I wanted to remain in the hobby with working games I was going to have to learn how to repair them myself, and 50 or so games later, I think I’ve finally mastered it <g>.

I’ve owned four Firepower’s over the past 5 years.  One I restored for a charity auction at my girls’ school (it went for $3,600, no kidding!), one I sold as a project (whish I had hung onto it), one I converted to the original drop targets and I’m in the process of restoring the other as a stand-up target game.  I plan to have both versions side by side. 

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