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Published on Feb 19, 2015
For your viewing pleasure today we have a 1986 Williams High Speed pinball machine. This is the seminal machine of the mid-80's that many argue revolutionized the pinball industry and brought it back from the brink. The early-80's were rough on pinball -- the arcades were dominated by video games and the home market was flooded with home gaming systems. Pinball was on its heels and the major manufacturers were either closing their doors or working very hard to reduce costs.
High Speed, designed by Steve Ritchie, ushered in a new era. Glimpses of what was to come were released in the year leading up to High Speed's introduction. Space Shuttle, Comet and Sorcerer, released in 1985, sported the new System 9 hardware design, which allowed for great improvements in rules and sound. Ramps -- not just those that went to an upper playfield, but that transported the ball to a lock or returned the ball to the flippers -- were introduced. This combined with dynamic speech, quick gameplay and multiball produced a style of pinball that was very new, but was still very much pinball.
Enter High Speed, with its appealing theme, excellent artwork, immediately understandable ruleset and lightning quick gameplay (and amazing sound!) and Williams had a true winner on its hands. Pinball was back!
Williams sold over 17,000 High Speed units, eclipsing sales of any other other game made in the previous four years.
The rules of High Speed are simple... hit the red, yellow and green stationary targets on each of three banks to change the ramp light to red. This is not difficult to do, as getting the ball into the right kick-out saucer spots a colour. Once the ramp is "red", hit the ramp to "run the red light". Hit the ramp again to lock a ball. Hit it a 2nd time (even off the initial plunge) to lock ball #2. Hit it a 3rd time (even off the plunge) to start multiball. Hit the ramp during multiball to score the jackpot.
High Speed's sound was done by Larry DeMar and Eugene Jarvis -- famous for their work on the Williams Defender, Stargate and Robotron video games (among others).
Of course, I'm making it sound like this is a great game (and it is), but it's not to everyone's taste. I still prefer my old/slow/boring electromechanical and early solid state Stern machines. But I can appreciate the place High Speed has in pinball history.