Quoted from AlexF:
Oh weird, I didn't notice that. One with and one without. Where's NicoVolta? He loves the prototype version. It would be fun to have them set up side by side for awhile.
Whoa... I was at a pinball party this evening and Xerico just informed me about this thread... "You didn't hear about it?"
Hi DEN. What you've got there is, in my *opinion*, the most desirable EM of them all. Both in terms of play and collectability (collectibility?). The main reason why....?
The guy was a WIZARD of innovation from the start of his career and never quit. His first game was Williams King Pin in 1962... a novel game with four flippers in an unusual layout w/center kicker. King Pin is (rightly) considered one of the very best of the "reverse wedgeheads" from that era along with River Boat, which he also designed. Other innovations followed:
1964 - Stop N' Go with reverse flippers and unique stop/go scoring
1966 - 8-Ball - 2-player middle-pop game
1966 - A-Go-Go - first game with roulette captive ball spinner (which he invented)
1967 - Magic City - 1-player middle-pop game
1968 - Cue-T/Miss-O - 1-player middle-pop games w/AAB variant
1970 - Jive Time w/huge backbox spinner
1971 - Doodle Bug w/innovative captive ball scoring and nonstop action
1972 - Spanish Eyes - First middle-pop game w/3" flippers
1972 - Fan-Tas-Tic - First 4-player middle-pop game
1973 - Travel Time - unique time-based play
1974 - Norm Clark modifies some Bow and Arrow machines with a new little thing called "solid state technology"
...as well as having designed many beloved games in-between such as Apollo, Pit Stop, Klondike, Gulfstream, etc.
If you look at pinball history, you will see that every middle-pop game since the woodrail era (with the exception of Safari) was designed by Norm Clark. Essentially, he is responsible for bringing back middle-pop games and taking them to the next level.
Knowing this... we continue...
In 1975, Norm Clark joined Bally as head of the design department. The next game in production was for the American bicentennial celebration in 1976... hence "Freedom".
As we know, only 100 Freedom prototypes were ever built. Primarily because European distributors didn't "get" the middle-pop thing. They demanded a redesign... and Bally caved in order to sell more units. Which essentially destroyed its fundamental figure-8 geometry and wide shot stance (not to mention the unpredictable fun of the middle-pop).
Isn't it ironic that a game named "Freedom" of all things, with an over-the-top American theme, gets shut down by fussy Europeans from which Americans came in the first place? I imagine a snooty Frenchman in a beret... "zis meedle-pop bumper... tut tut... no no no... zees will not do at all. Not at all. Just make eet like all ze others. Do eet now... or you... and your MEEDLE-POP BUMPER... can sweem back to America."
LOL and thus here we are today.
A lot of rare games and prototypes were made in low quantities because they weren't very good, but this one is definitely an exception. The Freedom prototype is Norm Clark's last, and best, middle-pop game... deployed on the last, and best, Bally EM platform... in its original unmolested form... having escaped with its "Freedom" intact... with a touch of Kmiec's "house energy" in full swing... and is the single best-playing EM I have ever found. The layout is wide, fast, and fun and will teach you new flipper skills in the process. Enough that I think every serious player or collector should have at least one middle-pop in their stable (Fan-Tas-Tic or Spanish Eyes would be the obvious alternatives since they offer a similar layout and relatively high production count... can still be had affordably).
So, DEN... if you are not an EM-guy... if you don't enjoy disassembling steppers and relays and rebuilding things by hand... if you don't plan to give this special game a head-to-toe restoration... I suggest passing it on to someone who will do so and put it in front of people who will play it and be entertained by its history. Who knows, since yours is in Europe, maybe that very game was the one which set everyone off? :p
And yes, I'd also very much like to own it and restore it.