Saturday, April 22, 2017

Asheville Pinball Museum - Asheville, NC

Tucked away in downtown Asheville, NC is a very cool place that all pinball and video game enthusiasts must check out for themselves at one point or another, the Ashevlle Pinball Museum. Inside this building you'll find vintage pinball tables going back to the 40's all the way up to more modern tables. In the back you'll find two different rooms full of vintage arcade cabinets. There is also a bar if you get thirsty. Best of all, it's only $15 per adult for unlimited play!

This section of downtown Asheville is a little more upscale than I would have thought it'd be. Perhaps this is why this "arcade" is called a museum, so the city would allow it to be downtown. Don't get me wrong, there is a bit of preservation and history going on inside too. Above each pinball table is a small sign that gives you some history. 

When you first walk in you are greated to a little seating area right in the middle. Opposite are a bunch of classic tables from the 40's. These were just for display purposes. Many of these tables are so old that I imagine finding replacment parts is next to impossible.

 Arlington - 1937

The oldest machine in the museum, this one had a framed article that accompanied the table with some interesting information that I never knew.


 Humpty Dumpty - 1947

 Marjorie - 1947

 Select-A-Card - 1950

Yacht Club - 1953

Four Million B.C. - 1971

 Sonic Mars Trek - 1977

Star Battle - 1978

On each side of the room were several tables lined up side by side for your enjoyment. On the left side of the room, the right side had several older tables that were set up for free play. I particularly found Buccaneer and Wizard! to the really fun.

King of Diamonds - 1967

Nip-It - 1973

Air Aces - 1974

Sky Kings - 1974

Wizard! - 1975

The card above this machine mentioned that Fonzy played this table on early episodes of Happy Days, even though the machine wasn't released in the mid 70's and the show took place in the 50's.

Capt. Fantastic - 1976

Opposite the 60's/70's tables were a collection of tables from the 80's/90's. This is where I started my journey around the room. The Creature from the Black Lagoon and High-Speed were my favorites in this section. The Twilight Zone was cool, but it was hard to follow as your ball would "disappear" on the table, only to shoot out from another area you weren't expecting it to come from. The Terminator table was cool, however the physics seemed off. The ball would jump all over the table. At times when I was playing the ball would hit the plexi-glass on the top of the table!

Space Invaders - 1980

This table was much wider than the others on the side aisle. Based on the same coin-op franchise, I thought this would be a great table to play. Sadly it failed to capture my attention and was hard to finish out one game. Next.

High-Speed - 1986

My first exposure to this pinball title was actually on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). I love the sound of the squeeling tires peeling out as you launch the ball. This table had some of the best sound effects, in my opinion, of all the tables in the room.

Taxi - 1988

I may not have watched much of the television show this table was based on, however I found it to be a pretty entertaining table.

 Terminator 2: Judgement Day - 1991

Creature from the Black Lagoon - 1992

Fish Tales - 1992

Twilight Zone - 1993

Across the front of the museum were a few more tables. Iron Man, based on the first two movies of the Marvel Comics character was located in the corner. It proved to be a popular table as one woman had to sit there and play it for at least 30 minutes straight. Once I got a chance to play, I was a little disappointed. It wasn't a bad table, just wasn't as good as I hoped. Thankfully some of the other Marvel based tables didn't disappoint.

Xenon - 1980

 Cyclone - 1988

Iron Man - 2013

The right side of the room had some of the best and newest tables to choose from, however there were a few older machines worked into the mix. X-Men by far was my favorite on this side, followed by the modern KISS table and Ghostbusters.

Pitch & Bat

This was an interesting game. I can't remember what year it was released, but you got to chose the pitch and then swing the bat ala pinball. I was horrible at it, but some younger kid kept coming back to this table time and time again while I was on that side of the museum and was much, much better than me!

Hercules - 1979

This table is pretty rare as only 200 tables were made. It was currently down for repair on my visit, but I overheard one of the workers tell someone that they hoped to have it operational again very soon. This machine was much larger than most of the tables and looked to be a lot of fun. I wished I would've been able to play it.

 Silverball Mania - 1978

When I first saw this game and is lavish, silver artwork I thought it was a table based on the cosmic Marvel character, the Silver Surfer. Turns out that I wasn't that far off according to the sign above the machine.

Back to the Future - 1990

Michael J. Fox didn't want his likeness used in the game, so the artist had to render the Marty McFly character on the marquee and on the table to resemble his son! This was a fun table, but I didn't get to play it as much as I would have liked as it was popular with many people there during my visit.

Cactus Jack's - 1991

Bram Stoker's Dracula - 1993

 X-Men - 2012

X-Men was one of my favorite tables to choose from. It had multiple levels and paths for the ball to travel and on many occassions I found myself having to keep up with 3 or 4 balls at the same time.

Metallica - 2013

It was really loud in the museum so it was hard to tell if this Metallica table was playing the band's music. I'm not a fan of the band so I didn't find this table to be as entertaining as another legendary rock band's table.

Ghostbusters - 2016

One of the more popular tables in the museum was no doubt Ghostbusters. My wife enjoyed this table too. At one point she scored a certain point level were the table let out this blood schrilling scream that startled her! I later heard it as I was playing the X-Men and I couldn't believe how loud it was.

Opposite Dracula and Back to the Future were three MAME machines. Each cabinet had the monitor set up in vertical orientation and contained a lot of different games. There were a ton of different Pinball FX tables, but oddly enough there were also several shooters (shmups) to play. Too bad the joysticks just weren't responsive enough to really enjoy these games.

The front corner of the museum featured a few machines that always seemed crowed. I had to constantly wait for these tables to open up for a change to play.

The Incredible Hulk - 1979

This table looked awesome, but wasn't as much fun to play as I hoped. It's noted for being the first super hero themed pinball table.

KISS - 1979

KISS has never shyed away from marketing themselves on just about anything. This appears to be one of the first pinball machines that featured their likeness. It was a fun table to play, but couldn't hold a candle to the more modern version.

Haunted House - 1982

My first first discovered this game and couldn't wait for me to try it out. This was the only table that had 3 layers of table. The ball once launched would end up in a small graveyard like area. There was one small flipper in this area. Once the ball dropped out, it would go down to the 3rd and bottom layer. Here the table was reversed and the flippers were at the top of the table. If you missed, the ball would then come up to the main level where you had 4 flippers to control. Keep in mind you had two sets of flipper buttons on the side of the machine so remembering which button operated which level's flippers could be trying at times!

KISS - 2015

If X-Men wasn't my favorite, this more modern KISS table would be it. After you start you game and before you launch the ball, you can use the flippers to select the song you want to play. Detroit Rock City, Rock 'n Roll All Night, Shout It Out Loud and many others could be chosen. This made the table that much more enjoyable, at least to me. Funny how I knew more KISS songs than I thought after playing this table multiple times.

 Checkpoint - 1991

Game of Thrones - 2015

These two tables were wedged in on the right side of the museum. Checkpoint was one of the few tables I saw that wasn't from Bally, Stern or Midway, but from the now defunct company Data East. This table had several features that I didn't see anywhere else. Instead of a simple start button, you had a car key to turn to start the game. While you played, the table would vibrate and shake as lights would go off all over the table. It was a cool feature, but a little distracting at times.

 Star Trek - 1978

Doctor Who - 1992

Star Trek: The Next Generation - 1993

The only machines that I didn't get around to playing were these three that were in the front left corner of the museum, near the bar. I'm not a fan of either Doctor Who or Star Trek so I didn't feel too bad not giving them a try.

If pinball wasn't your cup of tea, there are two rooms in the back that house several different vintage arcade cabinets. I believe every game is in it's original cabinet, or at least has the original graphics on the side of the cabinet. I found this to be visually appealing to my eyes. 

The first room several games, such as Crystal Castles, Defender, Frogger, Q-Bert, Tron, Dig Dug, Pole Position and Joust to name a few.

The far back room had some great games and is the area I spent the most time (between these two rooms). My wife and I played Area 51 all the way through to the end. I also enjoyed playing Time Pilot and Commando. There was a cocktail table Ms. Pac-Man that I played with my wife. I was surprised at how well I did considering I haven't played Ms. Pac-Man in the arcade in a very long time. Right before my wife and I left, I played one last round of the X-Men pinball. While I was playing this little kid came up and asked me if I knew what Street Fighter was. I said "yeah". He then asked if I was any good. I said "well it's been a long time since I've played". He then asked if I'd play him. I went to the back and we fired up a two player game. We played probably 10 rounds and I won 8 of them. Mind you this was the non-Turbo edition of the game so pulling off moves was tougher than I thought it should've been. We talked about games and such since he liked fighters. I asked him if he had a Sega Saturn or Dreamcast and he uttered at the top of his lungs "I wish!" Then he said, "those are old" (pauses and looks at me) and said "how old are you?!"

I was quite shocked to see this Konami classic in the corner. I still can't fathom why a port of Aliens never made it to home consoles in the 90's. This run and gun game was a lot of fun to play, however being an arcade game that is meant to eat quarter after quarter you have to be prepared for a tough challenge.

At some point during our 4 hour visit to the Pinball Museum, my wife headed to the ladies room. When she came back she couldn't wait to show me the decor inside the restroom. Wonder Woman adorned the walls and there was even a small pinball table there. Not sure if it was playable. 

Overall this was an excellent afternoon I spent with my wife. We both got a lot of enjoyment out of our visit and we definately got our money's worth in our opinion. I don't know how often they change out the tables or arcade machines in the museum, but I wouldn't hesitate to pay them another visit at all. The staff was very nice and you could tell they took pride in keeping the equipment in top condition. If you are a fan of pinball and vintage arcade games I don't see how you couldn't enjoy a visit to the Asheville Pinball Museum. Once your done playing and you've worked up an appettite, there are plenty of great places within walking distance to grab a bite to eat or get a drink. Look them up on Facebook if you want more information.

1 comment:

  1. Coolest museum ever! My LCS had the Star Trek Next Generation pinball machine. We had some epic battles back in the day.