A Brief History of the South Park Pinball Machine
Retro game consoles and old arcade/pinball machines have long interested in me. I wouldn't bill myself as a gamer, but I am someone who immediately gets transfixed by weird oddities of the past. I remember my heart skipping a beat when I discovered a playable Beavis & Butt-Head arcade machine at an arcade I used to frequent.
While at the Mall of America a couple weeks ago, I noticed a South Park pinball machine sitting amongst a handful of other arcade cabinets. Sadly, it was out of commission, roped off from folks like myself who undoubtedly would've funneled quarters into the machine for at least 30 minutes.
Thankfully, I was able to snap a few pictures and spend the ride home doing research about the game itself. Here's a brief synopsis of the pinball machine, including its history and whether or not you can actually find one to purchase if you have a couple grand lying around!
The South Park pinball machine was the last pinball machine to be manufactured by SEGA, and it was as late as 1999. Programmed by Neil Falconer and Orin Day, the cabinet features inlanes known as "Super Fart Bumpers," which illuminate during gameplay. Eight familiar South Park characters serve as targets, including the core four Kyle, Stan, Cartman, and Kenny as well as Chef and Mr. Hankey. Various catchphrases can be heard if the ball happens to strike one of these characters.
The game features five missions for the player to complete. The five "modes" each revolve around the major characters (Kyle, Stan, Cartman, Kenny, and Chef); completing them unlocks the "secret wizard modes." The individual character-modes are triggered by hitting each individual character's slot a certain number of times. The number of shots necessary will continue to increase upon the goal being reached.
How Vulgar is the Game?:
Of course, everyone knows South Park is an unapologetically filthy show. The big question I had when seeing the pinball machine was "how vulgar is it?" It's a tricky dance to make the game faithful to its program yet also make it couth enough for people (particularly children) who would instantly want to play the game if they saw it in an arcade.
The vulgarity can actually be adjusted, believe it or not. South Park has two different settings: a "PG-13 mode" and a "G mode." The former setting features mild language, although "hard" expletives are bleeped-out. The "G mode" was absolutely installed to make the game permissible for all ages. For example, instead of Kyle responding to Stan's famous line, "oh my god, they killed Kenny!" with a certain eight-letter curse-word, he simply yells "Rats!"
The game designers even went as far as to omit Terrance & Philip's incessant farting with belching in the latter setting. It's slightly reminiscent of how some fighting games used to have settings to limit or increase the bloodshed during combat.
Can You Buy South Park Pinball?:
As if I needed another thing on my wishlist, you can indeed buy an operable South Park pinball machine on eBay for about $6,499 OBO. There's another one available for about $8,000. The collector market on arcade and pinball machines is unbelievable, truthfully. I am friends with a guy who has about 50 different cabinets in his basement, an enviable man-cave if there ever were one.
For more information on the South Park pinball machine, check out the Internet Pinball Database (IPDB).