by Ray Johnson (email@example.com)
Revision 1 - May 20, 1999
Firepower. This game definitely deserves a few words of history and praise.
What can I say? What a game! Truly one of designer Steve Ritchie's legends which graced arcades and gaming locations across the country during what many call the "second golden era" of pinball- the early 1980's. In regard to Ritchie's other pinball creations, Firepower took second place only to his masterpiece, Black Knight, which toppled Firepower from it's top position on the earnings list in 1980 when it was released only months later in the same year.
I consider Firepower to be my favorite game of all time. Why? Well, partly due to the fantastic game play, sounds, and lighting effects, but also for sentimental reasons. This is the game I grew up playing the most. When my pre-teen lawn-mowing income determined how much pinball I could play, Firepower was the game that got most of my quarters, probably because I was able to keep the ball in play longer than on other games. And who could walk away from the excitement on the playfield? It always kept me coming back.
Firepower was released in March of 1980. A staggering 17,410 units were produced. It was the first solid-state Multi-Ball pinball machine, and was the only Level 6 Williams pinball to use ALL SIX game ROM chip locations on the MPU board. Some would call it ahead of it's time. The designers definitely squeezed all they possibly could out of the electronics in this game to make it what it is.
Firepower features 3-ball Multi-Ball play. The playfield has two flippers, in the standard location at the bottom center of the playfield. Four pop bumpers, three eject holes, and one spinner.
It also has both sound and voice for it's audio effects. The voice effects in these early Williams solid-state pinballs were always my favorite, and still are, even though competitor Bally had at the time what many consider a "better" voice system with their Squawk & Talk board. But I think it's the slightly-rudimentary, computer-generated-sounding voice in these games that gives them more personality- it's more like the game itself is speaking to you rather than just playing back someone's recorded voice. Just adds more character to the game.
Basic Game Objectives:
- Score center targets to light eject holes to lock balls. Lock 3 balls to start Muti-Ball play.
- Complete F-I-R-E rollover lanes to advance bonus multiplier and light Extra Ball.
- Collect Firepower Bonus to light outlanes for Special.
Firepower's playfield shows many features that lent themselves to the designs found in some of Steve Ritchie's later games. At first glance, the playfield seems to be something of a cross between "High Speed" and "Terminator 2". The following is a brief description of the playfield features, following the ball's path from the plunger, going counter-clockwise around the playfield. All scoring and awards described are based on the game's "factory" default settings:
The plunger lane is located on the right side of the playfield, as usual. It releases the ball into play near the top of the playfield after the ball leaves a one-way gate at the top of the lane. The player can attempt one of two types of shots from the plunger lane. A light plunge will allow the ball to enter immediately into play on the playfield, dropping it straight down to the flippers. A 'normal' plunge will cause the ball to continue out of the plunger lane, curving to the left, and entering the top center area of the playfield above the four F-I-R-E rollover lanes (see F-I-R-E Rollover Lanes below).
Lower Right Lock:
The Lower Right Lock, or eject hole, is located on the inside edge of the curve from the plunger lane to the upper-center of the playfield (above the four F-I-R-E rollover lanes). The ball passes behind this lock as it makes it's way to the rollover area. This lock will capture a ball, when lit, and awards 10,000 points. When not lit, the hole scores 1,000 points. There is a star-rollover button located in front of this lock, which also scores 1,000 points when activated.
Upper Right Lock:
This lock is located just above the curve that exits into the F-I-R-E rollover area, at the top of the playfield. A ball being shot into this area (from the plunger or from flippers at the bottom of the playfield) will pass along the curve and below the Upper Right Lock, entering the area above the F-I-R-E rollover lanes. In short, a ball cannot be shot into the Upper Right Lock when it enters from the right. It can only land in this lock by being shot up the Left Spinner lane (see below), or by a lucky or skillful rebound off one of the posts at the top of the F-I-R-E rollover lanes. Scoring for the Upper Right Lock is the same as the Lower Right Lock- 10,000 points when lit, and 1,000 points when not lit.
F-I-R-E Rollover Lanes:
Four rollover lanes are located at the top center of the playfield. Each lane is marked with one letter of the word FIRE. The Lane-Change feature in the game allows the player to rotate any lit rollover lanes from left to right, one position at a time, by pressing the right flipper button. This makes collecting all four rollover lanes much easier. Completing all four rollover lanes lights the "FIRE" insert (in center of playfield), and awards a bonus multiplier- 2X, 3X, 4X, and 5X. When 5X has been collected, completing all four rollover lanes again lights Extra Ball (see Lower Right Standup Targets below).
Balls can enter the area above the F-I-R-E rollover lanes from the left or the right. Each entrance features a one-way gate that will prevent the ball from leaving the area without going through one of the rollover lanes.
Each rollover lane (lit or unlit) scores 1,000 points.
Pop Bumper Area:
Four pop bumpers are positioned strategically below the F-I-R-E rollover lanes, in a square formation. The left two pop bumpers are actually located slightly higher up the playfield than the right pop bumpers, which I think really helps the ball action in that area. Most Firepower games will exhibit very good response and ball action from the pop bumpers.
Pop bumpers, when not lit, award 100 points each. When lit, pop bumpers award 1,000 points each. Pop bumpers are lit by completing all six Center Stand-Up Targets, located just below the pop bumpers, in two banks of three targets each (see below.) On first completion of the Stand-Up Targets, two pop bumpers are lit, one left, and one right- one above and one below. These will alternate as they are hit. On second completion of the Stand-Up Targets, the other two unlit pop bumpers will be lit, so all four are lit.
Rebound switches around the pop bumper area score 50 points. The sounds associated with these switches, and the sounds associated with pop bumper activation, make for some neat sound effects when the ball is in this area.
A single "bullseye" stand-up target is located in the top-center pop bumper area- between the "I" and "R" rollover lanes. Scoring for this target is often misunderstood by players, due to the three lamp inserts located directly below it. The target actually scores 1,000 points. The three lamp inserts below it (mounted vertically on the playfield) are marked 10,000, 30,000, and 50,000, from bottom to top. These inserts actually indicate the bonus points awarded when the player completes F-I-R-E and POWER (see Lower Right Stand-Up Targets below.) They do not in fact pertain to the bullseye target. I have often wondered if the combination of the stand-up target and these inserts were originally designed for some other award, but have not been able to confirm this. The layout of these two items certainly doesn't seem too logical, so it's perhaps possible that points or award(s) associated with the stand-up target were changed in the game before it was released. Which leads us to....
Center Stand-Up Targets:
This is probably the "heart", and most interesting area of Firepower's playfield, and game play. Two banks of three stand-up targets are mounted here, just below the four pop bumpers (one bank of stand-ups below each column of two pop bumpers). Again, like the pop bumpers, these two banks are slightly offset, and pointed slightly inward toward the center of the playfield. The left bank is mounted slightly higher than the right bank.
Targets are marked "1" through "6" by orange arrow inserts on the playfield in front of the targets themselves. Completing one bank of targets lights the Left Kickback in the left outlane (see below). Completing both banks of targets will light two of the three ball-lock eject holes (Left Lock, Upper Right Lock, and Lower Right Lock), and will also light the spinner in the Left Spinner Lane (see below) for 1,000 points. Completing all six stand-up targets a second time will light the remaining lock.
Each stand-up target awards 1,000 points, whether lit (collected), or not lit (not collected).
Initially, the game was designed to use drop targets in place of the stand-up targets. In fact, some prototype Firepower games still exist with the original drop targets in place. Some early production Firepower games actually have the wiring for the drop targets still in place (but taped up). The software for Firepower supports the use of drop targets, whether they, or the wiring for them, is in place or not, so it is possible to "retrofit" your Firepower to use drop targets in place of the stand-up targets. Details of this retrofit have been covered in detail in Ted Estes' Firepower Retrofit document, so I won't cover them here, but his document can be found in various locations on the Internet.
Left Spinner Lane:
This lane is located in the upper left corner of the playfield. It actually starts about mid-way up the playfield, and hooks sharply to the right at the top of the playfield, sending the ball through a one-way gate, across the top of the F-I-R-E rollover area, and toward the Upper Right Lock. This is the shot to make when attempting to lock a ball in the Upper Right Lock, and with a crisp shot off the right flipper, can be very gratifying when the spinner hits maximum RPMs and the ball slams into the lock. Very nice shot, and typical Steve Ritchie "flow"! Experienced players will note that this is virtually the identical shot found on Terminator 2, but without the spinner.
The spinner in this lane scores 100 points, or 1,000 points when lit. Complete all six Center Stand-Up Targets to light the spinner.
The third of the three lock eject holes, this lock is located just behind (to the left) of the start of the Left Spinner Lane. Rules for this lock are the same as other locks, as described above. This lock also feature a star rollover-button in front of it, like the Lower Right Lock.
Another Steve Ritchie signature classic, this feature comprises the left outlane, and is dubbed, the "Shield" on this game. The "Shield" is lit by completing either bank of the Center Stand-Up Targets (whether they've been completed already or not), and awards 1,000 points, whether lit or unlit. When lit, the Shield will kick the ball back into play, and become inactive. Complete center stand-up targets again to re-light the Shield.
Slingshots, Flippers, Return Lanes, Outlanes:
Ah, the standard layout here- which I do like. Traditional. Two lanes behind each slingshot bumper- an outlane and a flipper return lane. Return lanes award 1,000 points, or 3,000 points when lit (see Lower Right Stand-Up Targets). Outlanes score 1,000 points, or Special when lit. Special is lit by collecting Firepower Bonus (see below) three times.
Left outlane of course features a kickback (see above). Slingshot bumpers score 10 points each. The right flipper will activate the Lane-Change feature for the F-I-R-E rollover lanes (see above). 'Nuff said.
Lower Right Stand-Up Targets:
Again, very typical of Steve Ritchie playfield layouts- the lone 3-bank of stand-up targets to the above-right of the right slingshot. Seen on other games like Terminator 2, and Getaway. On Firepower, these targets, when completed, award "POWER", light the "POWER" insert in the center of the playfield, and light both flipper return lanes for 3,000 points each. These targets will also award the Extra Ball, when lit (see F-I-R-E Rollover Lanes).
This completes our tour of the playfield....
Completing both "FIRE" (F-I-R-E rollover lanes) and POWER (Lower Right Stand-Up Targets), awards the Firepower bonus, which is a value of 10,000, 30,000, or 50,000 points, as indicated by the insert lights in the center of the pop bumper area. After collecting the 50,000 award, the outlanes are both lit for Special.
Bonus can range from 1,000 points to 29,000 points, and can be multiplied from 1X to 5X. Bonus points are accumulated by major targets, when initially collected (such as F-I-R-E rollovers, unlit Center Stand-Up Targets, etc.) Bonus multipliers are collected by completing the F-I-R-E rollover lanes.
Multi-Ball play is awarded after locking all three balls in locks, or eject holes, on the playfield. All three balls are then released into play. The game does a great countdown effect with the displays, lights, and sound when Multi-Ball is collected. Very neat effect.
Unfortunately, Multi-Ball on this game is a bit shallow. If you're used to playing newer games that have a jackpot or other strategy during Multi-Ball, then you'll notice the difference when you hit Multi-Ball on Firepower. Really no object to it once all three balls are in play. Just keep the flippers going and enjoy the action, really!
- My personal favorite: Go for Extra Ball. This can be pretty tough on Firepower, however, depending on the way the game is setup/adjusted. By factory default, one must achieve 5X, then collect the Extra Ball, all in one ball. Can be tough. On more liberally-adjusted games, bonus multipliers can be carried over, thus making the Extra Ball more easily obtainable.
- Keep the Shield lit. A must on any Steve Ritchie game with an outlane kickback. Actually pretty easy on Firepower. Just keep whacking the center stand-up targets to get the Shield re-activated.
- Go for bonus X. Always ensures bigger points.
- Remember that center stand-up targets are always worth 1,000 points each, whether lit or unlit (flashing), so if you can't make the shot you want, slap the center targets for some easy points.
- Keep in mind that most features can be more easily obtained during Multi-Ball, for the simple reason that there is 2 to 3 times the playfield activity (depending on how many balls you can keep in play). This may be the most comprehensive of strategies- go for Multi-Ball. As there's really no Jackpot or other strategy employable during Multi-Ball, use it for points and feature collection.
As always, Happy Pinballing!
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