Here is the situation I was in recently.
I had the itch.
You probably know about this yourself. It is that itch to get a new machine in your game room.
It just hits you after awhile.
As great as your list of games may be — eventually you just have the hunger for something new.
If you have unlimited game funds and space — this is not a very big challenge.
But most of us have a limited budget and arcade games and pinball machines are huge — so we have very limited space also.
That was my situation.
I could make room for one more pinball machine; buy only had a few thousand bones in the gameroom budget.
I could build up the slush fund and get a new Stern later…but wanted to scratch that itch now.
So what to do?
I cannot just buy any game, as my gameroom is up a brutal three flights of stairs.
So I am very careful about what I buy and cannot sit back and pull the slot machine trigger on just anything.
The game needs to be seriously good and something I can live with for several years before I haul it up there.
There are great games that everyone raves about that never made it out of the garage into my gameroom.
- Medieval Madness did not make it (requires too many boring shots up the middle, castle exploding gets super old after see it for the 10th time, etc.)
- Theatre of Magic did not make it (game software is just not good at all, despite great art, theme, and nice layout).
The challenge was to find an awesome pinball machine at a $2000 budget. Is this even possible today?
With inflation even some pretty lame games are selling for much more than that.
This was going to require some seriously out of the box thinking — as I have already gone through and gotten tired of many of the great bargain games.
Judge Dredd I have already owned about 5 times, Fish Tales about 3 times, Johnny Mnemonic twice, well you are getting the drift.
I did finally find it though, but I had to research long and hard.
Let me tell you about this game and let you decide if it sounds like it should be a bargain basement game.
Here are some great features:
- Beautiful hand drawn artwork by one of the all time masters of pinball art.
- Unique toy that throws pinballs at you.
- Fast paced layout by John Borg with great orbit shots and three flippers.
- Small production run of only 3,000 games — which typically makes games go up in value.
- Great horror theme that everyone on the planet is familiar with.
- Giant DMD that dwarfs the size of a regular DMD.
I guess by now you might realize I am talking about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by Sega.
Sega pinballs are not very well respected. Maybe for good reason in some cases.
Although Frankenstein is basically a Data East pinball — as it was already in the works before Data East sold to Sega.
What else kept this machine down in terms of price and reputation?
One big thing was a flaw in the design. The original flipper coils on the two bottom flippers are not strong enough for the game to play properly.
The ramp is very steep to reach over on top of the Frankenstein’s monster toy.
Even after rebuilding my game with entirely new flippers, I could barely make the right ramp, lots of shots would only go up half way, I could not backhand anything, and game play was boringly slow.
When you upgrade the flippers with these coils it shines and transforms the game. With these upgraded coils you can nail the ramp, can even backhand the ramp if you hit it right, and the ball screams all over the place.
Frankenstein, like most games of that time, is a dark in terms of the lighting in some areas. I added a few LED lights here and there and it helps make things easier to see.
With these flaws fixed the greatness of the game became clear.
I can say it now. This game is a classic and is right up there with other John Borg greats.
First of all it is just gorgeous — and we all like pretty games.
I have it placed between two other classic games — Creature of the Black Lagoon and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It can stand up with either of those classics and forms a nice monster’s row.
Rules and More
Frankenstein also has a solid ruleset.
Multiball is unique and challenging.
First you have to hit the ramp enough times to light the locks. Then lock two balls and it starts.
The monster throws a ball at you and the other gets shot out by the auto launcher.
Then the countdown begins to see if you can increase the number of balls in play.
If you can load another shot right away, you can get a six ball multiball going. If not, it goes down to five, then four, and if you totally blow it — you only get to have three balls going.
This is a fun feature that makes multiball different most every other game in my collection.
Also worth mentioning is that there are several modes and all require that you spell out a ton of letters to start:
F R A N K E N S T E I N
To get to the wizard mode you have to get through all of the modes. I have not even gotten close yet.
Not sure if I ever will, but it is fun to have a game that has something left for you to strive for.
Some other great things about Frankenstein:
- Great cabinet art with a Frankenstein switch plate in the front. Totally classic.
- The big giant DMD is put to good use with some top-notch animations.
- Sound is decent…but the music shines as it features the amazing Frankenstein by Edgar Winter Group.
These are the mods I put in that made the game nicer to me.
Frankenstein has a huge number of stand up targets. They are plain white and kind of ruin the colorful look. You can juice them up with these nice target decals.
The built-in speakers don’t push out the great Edgar Winter soundtrack as well as you want. I recommend adding a new speaker system.
Things look better with orange flipper rubber and some orange posts. I used Super-Bands from Pinball Life and am happy with the improvement.
This is another hidden gem
Next time you have the itch like I had, but don’t want to pony up $6000 for a new pinball machine –consider Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by Sega.