The Wii U version of Star Wars Pinball activated the hyperdrive of success and shot off into the stars, promising many more adventures to come — the table designs were impressive and fantastic production values sealed the deal. Unfortunately, downloading the same title onto your 3DS results in a poor compromise, crushing the beautiful visuals into a constrained space and allowing a major bug — at the time of writing — to break the leaderboards entirely. The core game has been faithfully recreated, but Zen Studios is altering the deal; pray they don’t alter it any further.
Initially you’ll feel right at home as you navigate menus that mostly mirror the Wii U version. The tables are all intact, too, and haven’t changed a bit; considering how well-crafted they are, that’s a good thing. The Empire Strikes Back diorama does a bang up job of telling the tale of Luke Skywalker’s training and the Rebellion’s struggle, action-packed animated TV show episodes are told through the Clone Wars theme, and Boba Fett gets a chance to hunt some bounties in his very own table. Complex and surprising, these colorful contraptions can be played over and over again before their intricacies are mastered.
The “compromise” bit comes into play when all of that bright, beautiful chaos is sent to the trash compactor and… well, compacted. Artwork that deserves the full HD treatment is blurred and shrunken, relegating a myriad of rather important lettering to "squint in confusion" territory. One of Star Wars Pinball’s shortcomings has always been the overabundance of stuff on the screen, and while the Wii U GamePad worsened the problem, the 3DS maximizes it. Although the 3D effects do bring an element of eye-popping wonder back to the tables, they certainly won’t alleviate the eyestrain.
The controls suffer as well, forcing you to clutch inconveniently tiny shoulder buttons — on the original 3DS model, at least — that might leave you yearning for the comfortable bulk of a GamePad. There’s something to be said for a second screen of information just a glance away, but the touchscreen content is never truly necessary,. Even if you shrug off the control issues with no trouble at all, there’s still the matter of physics, which sent the ball spinning in the wonkiest of fashions a time or two — framerate is also well below its HD brethren. Occasions of dodgy physics were rare, meanwhile, but are an unfortunate addition not present in the Wii U version.
The greatest fumble of all lies in the leaderboards, chiefly because in our experience they don’t work. Starting or finishing a given table will connect you to the Internet so you can compare scores with the world, but this process often results in a crash that spits you all the way back to the 3DS menu. It can thankfully be avoided by turning the wireless switch off, but that effectively disables the leaderboards altogether. You can still play offline with friends via the hot seat mode, but simultaneous play has been removed for the 3DS, making online score competition all the more important. Zen Studios claim that a patch is being built as you read these very words, but as it stands, the leaderboards are quite broken.
Behind a laundry list of complaints is an exceptional game of pinball and a loving tribute to the star-spanning story of good vs. evil, but compared to the Wii U version it’s a downgrade in almost every way. If you’ve only got a 3DS and that’s that, the game is still worth considering; but like Luke Skywalker on his voyage to Dagobah, you’ll have to put up with a nasty crash and some muddy visuals before finding what you seek.