The Nintendojo Interview: Zen Studios’ Mel Kirk

We talked to one pinball wizard on what new tables are coming to Wii U, what the team’s dream IP is, and more!

By Marc Deschamps. Posted 04/30/2015 07:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

ND: What’s the selection process like for new tables?

MK: There are a few key questions we ask ourselves when selecting a new theme. First off, are we fans of this theme or IP? We like to work on stuff of which we’re already fans. Second, could we introduce a new game mechanic that has never been done before? Now that we have done many tables, we need to stay fresh and introduce new ideas each time. Third, does this theme or IP introduce us to a new group or demographic that we have not yet appealed to, while also being something interesting that our existing player base will be excited about? We always want to grow the game, so we look for new brands to help us do that while still pleasing our current players.

ND: What impresses me the most about each of Zen Pinball 2‘s licensed tables is the fact that there seems to be a lot of fan service. There’s a strong attention to detail, and knowledge about each franchise. Where does that come from?

MK: Pinball tables, if done right, immortalize the theme on which they are based. You have one shot to get it right, there is no updating it later or adding something once it has shipped. In order to set the table up properly and make sure we are including the most important aspects of the theme, we take 4 – 6 weeks at the very beginning of the process to simply research and become experts. What are the most important characters, stories, moments, sounds, supporting cast, playfield toys, details– all of this is thought through in detail. These tables are the ultimate fan service, and this is also due to the fact that they are made by fans of each property. When selecting a new theme, we always make sure that we have a team who is really excited to be working on that particular table.

ND: Can you tell us anything that’s definitively on the way for Wii U or Nintendo 3DS?

MK: Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, Star Wars Pinball: Rebels, Star Wars Pinball: Heroes Within, and the Iron & Steel pack are all on the way for Wii U. We have been quiet for a very long time on Nintendo 3DS and do not currently have any releases planned.

ND: Does the team have a “dream IP” they’d like to work on next? If Zen Studios could work on any license they haven’t already taken a crack at (either for Zen Pinball 2 or otherwise), what would it be?

MK: That’s a tough question to answer! We have already been working on many of our dream IPs, so it’s been a “dream come true” scenario for us already. There are others that we have just started working on or are in process of securing, so we cannot name them. The most exciting thing is that we now have access to virtually everything we could want, and we are definitely working on things that we are very passionate and excited about.

ND: For our readers that haven’t yet tried Zen Pinball 2, what reasons would you give them to check it out?

MK: Pinball is a great game for players of all abilities and ages. If you need a break from a long RPG grind session, pinball can be a great game to help you relax and chill out. If you have a very short amount of time to spend on a game, pinball can be quick to pick up and play, providing that quick fix. If you start to gain skill and get to be a good player, the game holds so many secrets; even after you think you have done it all in the game, you can suddenly find something new and unexpected. Finally, it’s always fun to try and beat your old score, not to mention your friend’s scores!

As usual, we’d like to thank Mel Kirk, Steven Hopper and everyone else at Zen Studios for their time! If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the excellent Zen Pinball 2 on the Wii U eShop! Take a look at our previous reviews for more information! Whether you’re looking for an old-school throwback pinball table, or something based on a popular movie or television show, pinball fans are sure to find something they’ll enjoy.

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