Friday, 26 July 2013

Crush Series Overview

In the unlikely event that you've been reading my ramblings here at Red Parsley since all the way back at the beginning, you may remember that I've long been keen on Naxat's rather spiffing Crush series of pinball games. Even including the (fairly) recent Wii remake, however, there have only been six releases in the series, and only three of them are generally considered unique and proper instalments.

What is much more likely, however, is that you haven't been visiting my humble blog for very long (or ever before) and have therefore seen nothing of my enthusiastic tributes to the (mostly) fine games that make up this intriguing series. Therefore, as it's been a long time since I posted anything about them, and also because I was recently reminded of an article I wrote for the Replay magazine a while back, I thought I'd share it with my tens of readers here as well to wrap up my coverage of the series. Behold, for your possible reading pleasure:

Flippin' Hell

Videogames have probably never been more popular than they are right now but they haven’t always been around. Before they arrived there were many other forms of entertainment; some of them died off over the years, others endured. One that did both is pinball. The history of pinball can be traced right back to the 18th century, amazingly, but didn’t reach the peak of its popularity until 1970’s and early 1980’s. At this point, the videogame explosion all but killed of the pinball phenomenon as well as a few other things. Ironically, however, the entertainment medium that saw the demise of pinball would soon be helping to resurrect it.

Alien Crush - recognise anyone?
For almost as long as there have even been video games there have been examples based on or inspired by pinball. Most tried their best to accurately mimic the pintables seen in the many arcades around the world with varying degrees of success, but they weren’t often particularly entertaining. Although limited by the technology available at the time, their creators had also apparently forgotten that they were no longer limited by the restrictions of physical tables. None that is, until Naxat Soft. It was 1988 when they unveiled their first game, and perhaps the first pinball video game that actually tried to do something a bit different with the genre – Alien Crush. Here was a game that was not only original and supremely playable, but one that would be impossible for an actual pintable to replicate. Its table, you see, is viewed from an overhead perspective, is two screens tall, and is awash with alien creatures and devices!

Not just around the edge either – some actually walk about on the table itself! The Giger-esque design of the table was a masterstroke and includes pretty much direct copies of his creations from the Aliens film among (many) other things. Pinging the ball around the table can destroy many of them and help you amass all sorts of bonuses and can even earn you access to bonus mini-tables. It was a revelation and, whilst only available to a limited audience, was nonetheless a smash hit.

The best pinball game ever made? Could be...
Naxat didn’t get complacent either – apparently aware that they had ignited much interest, they quickly followed it up with a great sequel – Devil’s Crush, again for the PC Engine. As you might guess from the title, the theme this time was the occult, with the table playing host to sorcerers, mutants, dragons, and all manner of horrifying demonic creatures! Featuring a bigger, scrolling table this time, packed with even more features and bonus tables, it was a huge success, especially when it was ported to the MegaDrive under the name of Dragon’s Fury. Apparently some were offended by the game’s inclusion of some Satanic/Pagan imagery, but even its biggest detractors surely couldn’t dismiss the supreme gameplay it offered. Featuring flawless ball physics, fantastically atmospheric graphics, authentic sound effects, and a kick-ass rocking soundtrack, Devil’s Crush contained more fun and excitement than most actual pintables!

In a curious addition to the series, the Western distributor for Dragon’s Fury, US company Tengen, took it upon themselves to develop and publish an unofficial sequel to the MegaDrive classic. It was the first game with no input from Naxat and it showed. Retaining the medieval look of its prequel, Dragon’s Revenge had a strangely designed table and, crucially, the ball physics just didn’t feel right. One of the reasons why the first two Crush games work so well is the weighty feel of the ball – it really does feel like you’re actually playing pinball, an illusion that is far less effective here. Still, it wasn’t a terrible entry in the series, it just fell victim to having prequels of such high quality!

This guy is presumably a 'Jaki'...
For most home pinball fans, the series ended there. However, unknown to many fans, myself included at the time, Naxat had their own sequel to Devil’s Crush in mind, and to release it they jumped ship to Nintendo. The largely unknown Jaki Crush was a Super Famicom exclusive, not available outside of Japan, and this time it was based on Jaki's, or Japanese ogres/demons and associated mythology. The table design can feel a little disjointed at times but overall it was a fine return to form for the series, and featured the flashiest-looking bonus tables yet!

So, the four ‘Crush’ games were released in a fairly short space of time – a mere four years spans the release of the first to the last, but it would be sixteen long years before fans would get another helping of pinball action, Crush style. When the current generation of consoles arrived they brought with them their various download services which were able to offer hundreds of games smaller in scale and/or budget and not deemed worthy of a full, disc-based release, and it is here, on the Nintendo Wii of all consoles, that the Crush series would make its triumphant return. Alien Crush Returns does a great job of taking the series into the third dimension and includes some of the most grotesque graphics yet. Naxat Soft, for all intents and purposes no longer exist, sadly, so this series revival is not by their hand, but it remains loyal to their original vision and potentially promises a bright future for the series. I’m sure I’m not the only one hoping for a Devil’s Crush Returns!

Red Parsley - Crush Pinball Series:
Part 1     Part 2     Part 3     Part 4     Part 5     Part 6


  1. Didn't know about Returns! I'll try to get hold of then dust off wii... :p

  2. It's a download game only, I believe buddy, and not free either :P