Zaccaria has been one of the largest pinball manufacturers of the past few decades.
The company was founded in 1974 by three brothers ( Mario, Franco and Natale ), with headquarters in Calderara di Reno in Bologna.
Their first model was the single player EM game called TEN UP, in 1975 followed by three other models, REDSHOW, LUCKY FRUIT( single player ) and TEN STARS four player version.
In 1976 WOODS QUEEN and TEN STARS; along with two and four player models of their original design from ’74.
1977 brought 7 new models followed, MOON FLIGHT, AEROBATICS, SUPER SONIC, NAUTILUS(single player games); CIRCUS, UNIVERSE and COMBAT( four player games ).
COMBAT was the first game that was also produced with SS electronics, bringing about the decline of EM games, with only one model produced by 1978, the single player game titled QUEENS CASTLE. The same year saw the making of WINTER SPORTS, FUTURE WORLD and HOUSE OF DIAMONDS as four player games and STRIKE and SKY JUMP as single player games.1979 was the breaking point when Zaccaria gained strength as most other smaller companies stopped production with the introduction of SS electronics, due to the high cost of transferring from EM to SS systems. They either completely stopped production or made conversion kits of other manufacturers, with some remaining exclusively in the EM business only to die out shortly after. This left Zaccaria as the only Italian pinball manufacturer, who with SHOOTING THE RAPIDS, HOT WHEELS and SPACE CITY( the last single player game ) started off with a whole new outlook on pinball in the beginning of the 80’s.
It should be stated here that this was the period when BELL COIN MATICS ( also in Bologna ) started out, however they only produced conversion kits and hence didn1t mean real competition to Zaccaria, who by that time had their own factories and produced every part themselves. In 1980 only three games were produced but all were great successes, FIRE MOUNTAIN, STAR GOD, and SPACE SHUTTLE. The following year saw LOCOMOTION and EARTH WIND AND FIRE, both smashing successes. The real change started here, as so far SS games didn’t differ all that much from EM games, the same bumpers and targets were used all around. In 1982 PINBALL CHAMP ’82 brought the change. This game was new in all aspects, it had a new elevated second mini playfield where you had to spell out CHAMP with the droptargets and two flipper sin a given time limit for bonus points. The other major innovation was speech. The first thing the players heard upon inserting coins was „Challenge the champ!”. During play the game told players about different shots to make. I personally remember there was a part of the game when the game simply wouldn’t stay quiet, for example it kept saying to shoot for the orange special and to shoot for the red special one after the other constantly, or to shoot the ramp. Thanks to all these new features these games staid playable and enjoyable to the early 90’s without people getting bored of them. I remember a particular person who pulled parts from newer games to keep his PC ’82 working. Thanks to the smashing success, two other themes were made with a very similar layout with the main feature being the upper elevated playfield. One of these was Soccer Kings, this one featuring only one flipper on the upper playfield used to pass the ball past a rubber goalie and into the goal ( which was present in place of the droptargets ).A small two digit display showed the amount of goals that could be shot once the ball was passed to the upper playfield, this game was one of their biggest sellers, in part due to the fact it was marketed at the time of the soccer world cup. 1983 mainly passed with the continued production of Pinball Champ due to the high international demand, But let’s not forget about TIME MACHINE, the game that offered the possibility to change between time periods by changing the playfields, depending on what shots the player made! When traveling to the future a large part of the upper playfield raised out offering bumpers and a few extra targets to the player. Zaccaria also had a unique patented feature on their games called the game time bonus, which added the possibility of each player getting as many balls as they wanted through a period of time, the length of which was determined by the gameplay of the last ball and could last up to 99 seconds. We mainly used it to try and get an extra ball as a last chance, in which case the timer stopped and the game continued. Another success was FARFALLA made in the same year, which was basically an advanced version of Pinball champ with many more droptargets, and a completely different theme.
In 1984 two new models came out, DEVIL RIDERS, and the more well known MAGIC CASTLE. They year after saw the making of ROBOT, where robots rose out from the surface of the playfield at the shot of the ramp, CLOWN, where the main attraction was a card traveling back and forth on a train that you had to hit with the ball, though the lack of a speech board made this game titled as uninteresting and dull, and finally POOL CHAMPION which was a simple but rather popular Pool based game with a unique design.
1986 brought about four new games, MEXICO 86, as with SOCCER KINGS this was also made as a tie-in to the world soccer championships, but it wasn1t by far as successful as the previous title, partially due to the lack of the upper playfield, the goalie was moved to the main playfield. ZANKOR on the other hand, the machine right after was a great hit, as it had new ramps and other new features. This game had a worthwhile skill shot, and as soon as the ball was in play it was all about defeating your enemies. There was also a tunnel which fit in great with the theme of the Tarzan-like character fighting beasts on the backglass art. This game played actual music for different shots which was also a much liked feature of this game. In 1986, they made a conversion kit for the Bally -35 system called MYSTIC STAR This game was nothing more then a playfield and new eproms bundled, for use in any normal sized Bally game. 1987 was the beginning of the end, with the game called SPOOKY, which had significantly less targets, and about 40% of the playfield was empty, titling this game as boring. The only redeeming quality in the eyes of most were the blinking owl eyes in the backglass. The other machine made in this year was Stars Phoenix, Floating targets that spelled out PHOENIX were introduced which looked neat but were more annoying then playable. The first version had a purple cabinet, while the second was black and the game’s name was also changed to New Stars Phoenix. There were really few made of these as the factory was almost closed by that point.
As a conclusion we can state that Zaccaria was probably the only major pinball manufacturer who managed to create internationally successful pinball machines and export them aside from the well known Williams, Bally, Gottlieb/Premier and Stern/Data East/Sega games. What is known by fewer people is that between 1983 and 1985 Zaccaria also made Videogames, MONEY & MONEY, JACK RABBIT (in three versions) and SHOOTING GALLERY, which while made in the golden age of video games weren’t really successful, forcing Zaccaria to stay in the field of pinball until their demise.
Translated by B.J AKA EdHunTer