Pinball Collection – 1979 Stern Trident

1979 Stern Trident

I picked up this interesting gem from a local Craigslist ad in March of 2009. As with most older pinball machines, it had it’s share of quirks. It was the first electronic pinball machine I ever bought for my gameroom. This meant that not only might I have needed to troubleshoot a mess of wires on the playfield to fix some of those quirks, I might also had to deal with bad components on a circuit board. That’s OK. I used to work on pins like this back in 1982/83. So, as long as the knowledge “all came back to me” when I got it home and set up, I would have been OK.

Lucky for me, the quirks were minor. Lights on the playfield were going out on occasion. Cleaning up a few bulb sockets did the trick. Before long, and after a little playfield cleanup, I had a great running electronic Trident pin in my collection. This was my fourth pin!

The machine itself is in pretty decent condition for its age. The theme of it is “nautical”, having a red octopus on the backglass and a sea green protagonist, similar to Neptune, carrying his Trident. However, the designs were more for looks because very little on the playfield tied in with game’s theme.

The gameplay on Trident is rather simple… just HIT things! That’s the best way of collecting points. There are places around the playfield which can help you rack up points rather quickly. The most common one is the kickout at the top of the playfield. Minimum score for each time you land in it is 5000 points. You can easily flip the ball up the right side during gameplay to try and land in it again and score another 5000 points. When operated in conjunction with the drop targets, the point value of the hole can progress to 10000, 15000, and 20000 for each time you land in it.

Speaking of drop targets, there is only one on this game. However, it is a “memory drop target” of sorts. meaning that is can reconfigure itself to a new pattern. It doesn’t necessarily remember the target position between players as a true memory drop target would, but it does configure itself during game play to a new configuration after you knocked down the last set. At the start of the ball, only two targets are up. The game resets the target at the start of the ball and drops three of them down. When you knock them down, it resets to three visible targets, eventually going onto four, then all five, as long as the ball is still in play. When you lose the ball, it resets to two targets again.

Bonus point kickout hole
Bonus point kickout hole

Trident Dynamic Drop Targets
Trident Dynamic Drop Targets

As you knock down each successive rack of drop targets, your bonus multiplier goes up and the kickout hole at the top of the playfield increases to the next level. This is how you set yourself up for high scores. But, it does take time to build up the play during the current ball to get there. And when you do, that’s usually when Murphy’s Law dumps the ball down the outhole before you can generate the score. Another caveat about the use of the drop targets is that the programming isn’t particularly responsive. It seems to favor the need to render sound BEFORE it updates the playfield. After you knock down a rack of drop targets, there’s a chance the machine is catching up on a “scoring frenzy” where hundreds or thousands of points are racking up 100 or 1000 points at a time. As this is happening, the drop targets will not reset, meaning that spirited ball activity between the bumpers and where new targets WOULD HAVE BEEN gets wasted until the scoring finished counting up. THEN the new drop target rack appears.


Trident "Play More" chute
Trident "Play More" chute

Trident has a form of death save in the right side outlane, colloquially called the “play more” bumper. Just like other death save features, if you nudge the playfield after the ball hits it, the game will TILT on you anyway… errr… I mean, the ball will nudge back into play. I’ve owned this machine for several years and I’m still trying to master this particular death save setup without losing the ball, or nudging the game, ball then going back into play but sinks down the outhole because I tilted it in the process. Maybe it’s just my style of playing, but considering how little I ever save the ball in this fashion, I’d be better off without it.

Of course, when you tilt the game, you lose your end-of-ball bonus points, not that there are many to earn. The playfield has bonus numbers in 1,000 point increments. The max you can earn (without multipliers) is 19,000. As the game advances bonus the light moves from 1,000 to 10,000, then holds at 10,000 as a second light moves to 9,000, thus 19,000 total bonus. Each successive clearing of drop targets during the same ball increase the bonus multiplier to x2, x3, x4, and x5.

Trident Bonus Meter

All in all, it’s still a challenging game, with opportunity to provide a certain amount of frustration at times. It’s not my most favorite from my collection, but the family really likes it, so I’ll probably be holding onto it for a while.

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