Star Trek: The Next Generation is a 1993 Pinball machine, designed by Steve Ritchie with artwork by Greg Freres, and released by Williams Electronics. It is the third arcade pinball game based on the Star Trek franchise, and was based on the television series.
The pinball casts the player as a newly-arriving Ensign on the USS Enterprise. True to the series, the player and the crew travel the galaxy and have various encounters, such as a time rift, a visit from Q, encounters with the Ferengi, Romulans, and Cardassians, and an attack by the Borg. Other experiences include holodeck simulations, trips to the Neutral Zone, and chances to collect rare artifacts. Truly skilled players will be able to advance in rank, and ultimately reach the Final Frontier. For added appeal, the playfield features two rotating phaser cannons that shoot pinballs at various targets.
The game is considered one of Steve Ritchie's hardest tables, with demanding shots and dangerous outlanes to punish careless players. It includes original voice clips from the TNG cast, including Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, and Michael Dorn. As thanks for their participation, each of the stars received a pinball machine at the end of the project. Patrick Stewart says he still plays his, while Marina Sirtis placed hers in the basement where her kids can enjoy it.
A digital version was available for FarSight Studios' The Pinball Arcade until the license for the Williams and Bally tables expired on July 1, 2018.
"Welcome to the Enterprise.":
- Annoying Video Game Helper: Invoked; if you flub a shot and drain the ball, Data will sometimes begin to comment. Interrupting him (by hitting the flipper buttons) yields a small bonus.Data: "Had you propelled the ball on the proper trajec—"
*hit flipper buttons*
Picard: "THANK you, Mr. Data."
- Anti-Frustration Feature: Drain the ball too soon after launch, and another one is launched automatically.Worf: "Don't move!"
- Asteroid Thicket: The "Asteroid Threat" mission.
- Author Appeal: Steve Ritchie is an unabashed fan of the Next Generation television series.
- BFG: One mounted above each slingshot. When loaded with the ball, they swivel back and forth and fire when the trigger is pressed, used in some modes.
- Bragging Rights Reward: In addition to the regular high score table, there is the "Q Continuum" for players who score over 10 billion points.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: There is also an "Officers' Club" table for players who "buy in" additional balls during a game; the concept is that people who can afford to go to an Officers' Club can afford to buy-in multiple times.
- Cap: Subverted. The number of Holodecks collected will roll over to 0 if another one is collected with 255. Similarly, the bonus for completing the Bonus X lanes when already at 10X will roll over from 250M to 4M. Both of these are most likely a result of the values being stored as an 8-bit integer and not being checked against a maximum.
- The per-shot value during Final Frontier tops out at 250 million (reached by collecting 10 or more artifacts).
- Creator Cameo: Admiral Biagi (who informs the player about the Borg menace) is voiced by and modeled after Carl Biagi, who developed the mechanics for Steve Ritchie's pinball games (including this one).
- Early-Installment Weirdness: The earliest ROM revisions had the artifacts awarded be random instead of in-sequence. Additionally, the value of each shot in Final Frontier was a flat value instead of being dependent on the number of artifacts.
- Easter Egg: Several.
- Poker with Riker: See Video Mode, below.
- Secret Mission: When the holodeck is lit on the right ramp and the display says "Holodeck 3 Ready", pull the phaser trigger three times. This starts a 20 second frenzy where every target is worth a weird number of points.
- When the ball goes in the Advance Rank/Command Decision hole when nothing is lit, pull the trigger to see a limousine drive past some buildings.
- Steve Ritchie's pinography: Pressing the flipper buttons in a specific order during the game will display the logos of all of Steve Ritchie's past games. Yes, even those from Atari.
- Faster-Than-Light Travel: The player can accelerate the Enterprise from Warp 1 to Warp 9. At that, "Warp 9 Mode" begins, and there's a Timed Mission where additional shots can be made to advance the ship to Warp 9.9.
- Licensed Pinball Table
- Magikarp Power: The spinner awards a paltry 1,000 points per spin at the beginning. By raising your Warp Factor high enough and hitting certain targets enough times, it can give up to 25,500,000 points a spin normally.* . That's not even counting Super Spinner.
- Match Sequence: Surprisingly generic - the number is selected over a space background.
- My Significance Sense Is Tingling:Troi: "I'm sensing a lit Extra Ball."
- Negative Space Wedgie: The Time Rift.Worf: "Sensors are picking up a distortion in the space-time continuum."
- The Neutral Zone: The upper-left corner of the playfield, where Ferengi, Romulans, and Cardassians can be found.
- Oh, Crap!: Q gets one if the player does well during the "Q's Challenge" mission.Q: "Okay, that's enough!"
- Our Wormholes Are Different: One appears in the "Worm Hole" mission, and sends the Enterprise across the galaxy.Picard: "What is our exact location?"Data: "Unknown, captain."
- Pass Through the Rings: The shuttle simulation Video Mode is basically this.
- Phlebotinum Breakdown: Triggering the Warp 9 mode will deactivate the left ramp for warp increases for the rest of the game. The Warp Factor choice at the start of the ball will also be lowered from 4 to 2.
- Once you lock two balls for Borg Multiball, the "Light Lock" option will change to "Light Holodeck" and stay that way until you play the multiball.
- Pinball Scoring: Prevalent, with high scores being in the billions. There is also the Q Continuum high score table that keeps track of high scores of 10 billion or more. While a short to medium-length game gives scores in line with the era, a long game can result in truly ridiculous scores:
- As mentioned above, the spinner can become worth over 25 million points a spin.
- Even just starting Final Frontier can award billions of points, with the artifacts accumulating over the entire game. Not to mention the 6-ball free-for-all multiball itself after where each shot can be worth up to 250 million.
- Multiball jackpots can be worth hundreds of millions, if not billions of points.
- Random Number God: This table is known for awarding extra balls at highly variable point tresholds after the first guaranteed scoring one. As well as not awarding them for certain shots. To ellaborate: the table may allow for a sixth shot in Battle Simulation which awards an extra ball, or may just end the mission upon landing the fifth shot. Also, the Extra Ball in the Shuttle Simulation is often replaced by a 10M pickup.
- Rank Up: You start the game with the Ensign rank. Advancing the bonus multiplier lights the "Advance Rank" shot, and shooting it advances your rank to the following (in increasing order): Lieutenant, Lieutenant Commander, Commander, and Captain. Going for the buy-in also advances your rank.
- Real Song Theme Tune
- Red Alert: Multiball begins with Red Alert klaxons blaring as the Enterprise prepares to open fire on the Borg ship.
- Resistance Is Futile
- Set Bonus: Each full set of four artifacts is worth 1 billion points when starting Final Frontier, in addition to the 100M that each individual artifact is worth.
- Signature Style: Get the speed up to Warp 9, then make Steve Ritchie's signature shot (outer left loop to the upper-right flipper, then up the Delta Quadrant ramp), and Riker will compliment you.Riker: "The Picard Maneuver, nicely done!"
- Skill Shot: One of the five launch choices available to the player, but Flipper Skill Shot and Launch Probe are considered to be the true skill shots.
- Space Is Noisy
- Take That, Audience!: The game has several if you tilt.Q: "Someday you'll learn to play pinball."
- Video Mode:
- The player can participate in a shuttle simulation in the Holodeck, flying through a series of caverns without colliding. Players could choose to skip the Video Mode, but completing it yields an artifact.
- An Easter Eggspoiler replaces the simulation with a game of Five-Card Draw Poker against William Riker.Riker: "You feeling lucky?"
- The operator's manual refers to a "secret video mode", which is a version of Breakout. Accessing it requires a complex series of flipper presses at the beginning of the game among a few other steps. *
- Virtual Training Simulation:
- Inverted with the "Battle Simulation" mission, where the player shoots pinballs at playfield targets.
- Played straight with the shuttle simulation Video Mode in the Holodeck.
- Voice of the Legion: The Borg, of course.
- Wizard Mode: After completing all seven missions, the "Final Frontier" becomes available. Upon starting it, the game first awards points for each individual artifact collected, plus a big extra bonus for each complete set of four. Then the Final Frontier begins; it is a six-ball multiball mode, with every major shot awarding a value determined by the number of artifacts.