Appendix 4. Tables with MagnaSave Buttons

Most virtual cab builders include a second set of flipper buttons, located just behind (or sometimes below) the regular flipper buttons. Virtual pinball people usually call these the "MagnaSave" buttons, named after the trademarked ball-save feature that Williams used in a series of machines in the 1980s. The extra buttons on those machines activated magnets under the playfield that could catch the ball when it was about to enter one of the side drains.
Examples of extra flipper-type button positioning on real tables. Clockwise from top right: Black Knight (Williams, 1981), Special Force (Bally, 1986), Nip It (Bally, 1972), Jolly Park (Spinball, 1996). The in-line horizontal placement used in Black Knight is the most common, and most people think of it as the standard because Williams used it on all of their later machines, but some people find the extra buttons easier to reach with the vertical or diagonal arrangements. Note that all of the machines pictured here use the older, wider style of side rails that required cut-outs for the flipper buttons. The newer WPC-style side rails are much narrower and don't overlap the flipper button area, so you won't have to cut any holes if you're using modern parts to build your cab.
When I was building my cab, I was torn between, on the one hand, wanting to include the extra buttons for the sake of playability for those tables that need them, and on the other hand, wanting a more authentic look to the machine. The extra buttons aren't at all common on the real machines built in the 1990s, or indeed those built in any era, so I was leery about the aesthetic impact of including them. Some virtual cabs I've seen go so overboard with extra buttons that they look more like video games or slot machines than pinballs, and I didn't want to go too far down that road.
To help decide, I figured I should get a better idea of how many games would actually be affected if I didn't include the buttons. I knew there were a few MagnaSave titles from the 1980s, but I didn't know the exact number, and I didn't know if there were any other machines over the years that had similar buttons for other features. So I started digging through IPDB and asking around on the forums.
The results surprised me. A little IPDB research reveals that the actual MagnaSave games amount to a rather modest seven titles. That much was in line with my expectations. What I didn't realize was how many other games were out there with other extra-button features besides MagnaSave. It turns out that dozens of real machines over several decades had extra flipper-like buttons. We really should stop calling them MagnaSave buttons, since the actual MagnaSave machines are only a small minority of games with similar buttons. But I have to admit that I don't have any better ideas for a name; "extra side buttons" just isn't as catchy.
The other thing I learned was that a rather large number of Visual Pinball tables rely on the nominal MagnaSave buttons to substitute for other, unusual types of special controls that were used in the original tables they're re-creating. I didn't realize before how many pinball machines have their own unique extra controls. This really shouldn't have surprised me, since pinball designers always want to make their games stand out from the crowd, and novel interactive controls are a good way to do that. But if the whole point of these extra controls is to be unique, they present a problem to the virtual cab builder, which is that we can't possibly include physical replicas of all of the novel controls from hundreds of different machines in a single virtual cab. There's just not room. And so, Visual Pinball table authors have adopted the convention that the MagnaSave buttons should serve as stand-ins when a table has unique controls beyond the standard flipper, Start, and launch buttons. This is another point in favor of including MagnaSave buttons on your virtual cab.
The results of my survey are presented in the list below. In the course of compiling this, it became apparent that there are two separate categories of MagnaSave usage that are important to virtual pin cab people, so the list is divided accordingly:
  • Originals are tables where the original arcade version featured extra flipper buttons on the side of the cabinet. For these tables, the MagnaSave buttons on your virtual cab will serve as accurate replicas of the extra side buttons on the real arcade game, providing very much the same playing experience.
  • Virtuals are tables that didn't have MagnaSave-style buttons in the original arcade versions, but that do have some other kind of extra controls - extra buttons located somewhere other than alongside the flipper buttons, or some entirely different kind of control, such as a lever or knob. Visual Pinball can't assume that you have anything like those other controls on your pin cab, but it does assume that you have MagnaSave buttons, so Visual Pinball table authors have adopted the custom of using the MagnaSave buttons as substitutes for special controls. That changes the playing experience, but it at least makes it possible to fully play the game.
For my own build, this list settled the question for me, easily in favor of including the extra buttons. As you can see, a lot of games take advantage of them. But there's no reason you have to come to the same conclusion; you might read through the list and conclude that you're just not interested in enough of the titles that use the extra buttons. That's why I thought it was useful to present a list of specific titles, to make it more concrete than just a vague claim that there are lots of such games.
GameFlipper button colorExtra button colorFunction
Black KnightWhiteRedMagnaSave
Black Knight 2000RedWhite - right side onlyMagnaSave
Blackwater 100WhiteRedButtons move flashing selection and lower start gate
Bone Busters Inc.RedGreen, right side onlyControls extra flipper on upper ramp
DefenderNavyRedleft is "Reverse" (left lane kickback), right is "Smart Bomb" (scoring feature)
Devil's DareRedGreen, left side onlyBall save (manually activated outlane kickback)
Dungeons & DragonsWhiteWhite (varies: also pictured on ipdb as navy or red)Flex-Save
Fireball IIRedWhite, right side onlyRaises center post between flippers
Freedy: a Nightmare on Elm StreetRedRed, right side onlyRaises center post between flippers
Grand LizardRedRedMagnaSave
Harley-Davidson (1999)RedRed, right side onlyRaises center post between flippers
Haunted HouseRedRedSecondary flipper buttons
Heavy Metal MeltdownUnknownUnknownLane change
Johnny MnemonicRedBlueControl magnetic data glove
Jolly ParkRedRedMini-playfield magnetic diverters
Judge DreddYellowRed (large square button rotated 45 degrees)Mode selection
Jungle LordYellowRedMagnaSave
MedusaRedRed, right side only Raises "Shield of the Gods" center post between flippers
Nip ItWhiteWhite, right side onlyActivates "balligator" (diverts ball to special scoring lane)
Party AnimalWhiteWhiteLeft button changes P-I-G lights, right changes O-U-T lights; scroll through high scores in attract mode
Revenge From MarsRedRed (Pinball 2000-style combination button)Mode selection, aligns crosshairs in attack mode
RockyRedGreen, left side only"Instant Win" (scoring feature)
The Rolling Stones LE (Stern)WhiteRed, right side onlyActivates pop-up outlane blockers
The ShadowRedBlueControl ramp diverters ("phurbas")
Sharkey's ShootoutRedWhiteRaise ball-saving posts in outlanes, and between flippers when pressed simultaneously
The Simpsons Pinball PartyRedWhite, left side onlyUnknown
Solar FireWhiteRedMagnaSave
Special ForceWhiteOrangeRocket buttons
SpeakeasyRedUnknown, left side only"Sacrifice" scoring feature (cancels cards collected out of sequence at cost of 25000-point score penalty)
SpiritRedGreenOutlane ball-save flippers
Star LightNavyBlue, right side onlyLane change
Starship TroopersRedRed, right side onlyControls small secondary flipper
Star Wars Episode IRedRed (Pinball 2000-style combination button)Mode selection
Strange ScienceWhiteBlueManually controlled outlane kickback
StrikerRedGreenSide-to-side passes (scoring feature)
ViperWhiteRedButtons control turret in center of playfield when ball enters it (left button reverses direction of rotation, right fires ball)
VolcanoRedGreenLeft controls manual outlane kickback; right controls shooter guide
World Cup SoccerYellowRed, left side onlyMagnaSave
TableFlipper button colorExtra button colorFunctionOriginal control style
AC/DC (Stern)YellowWhite"Fire"Stern-style lockbar button
Apollo 13RedYellowBall launchRotating handle in place of plunger
Austin PowersRedRed"Fire"Medium circular red "fire" button left of center on top of lockbar
Baby PacmanRedRedJoystick up/down on flippers, left/right on MSVideo game style console with joystick
Black RoseRedRed"Fire"Rectangular button on lockbar
CavemanRedRedJoystick up/down on flippers, left/right on MSJoystick on top of triple-deep lockbar
Demolition ManRedRedLaunch balls & move craneJoystick type buttons on handles sticking up from sides of cab
The Getaway: High Speed 2RedYellow left, Green rightGear shiftersUp/down shift lever in place of plunger
Granny and the GatorsBlueGreenVideo game style console with large circular "paddle" left/right buttons and "fire" pushbuttons
The HobbitWhiteWhite"Fire"Stern-style lockbar button
Jurassic ParkYellowRedSmart MissileGun-like launcher with trigger and large circular red "Smart Missile" thumb button
Last Action HeroRedYellowSmart MissileGun-like launcher with trigger; large square yellow "Smart Missile" button on front of cab just above gun
Mac Attack (Mr. Game 1990)RedRedUnknown, possibly used in video modeHandles on either side of cabinet with red buttons on top
Mustang LE (Stern)BlueWhiteFire?Stern-style lockbar button
Odisea Paris-Dakar (Peyper)RedBlack"El Movimento"Knobs on side of cabinet near flipper buttons
Riverboat GamblerWhiteRed, NavyPlace bets on roulette game with flippers+MSFour rectangular buttons on top of lockbar
Sir Lancelot (Peyper)RedBlack"El Movimento"Knobs on side of cabinet near flipper buttons
Star Trek (Stern 2013)WhiteWhite"Fire & Select / Punch It!"Stern-style lockbar button
Star Wars (Data East)RedOrangeFire, Shift"Shift" handle (pulls up) in place of plunger, with Fire thumb button on left side
World Cup '90 (Mr. Game 1990)RedRedUnknown, possibly used in video modeHandles on either side of cabinet with red buttons on top
Wolf Man (Peyper)RedBlack"El Movimento"Knobs on side of cabinet near flipper buttons

Notes on the special controls

Stern-style lockbar button: Many of the Stern titles from the mid "aughts" (around 2005) to present feature an extra button on the top of the lockbar that activates special features at certain points during the game. We usually call it the "Fire!" button because that's how it's labeled on several of the titles. It's so ubiquitous on newer Stern games that I think it's on the verge of joining the set of standard controls you expect to find on a virtual cab, but so far it's not common. For more, see the notes on the Fire! button in Cabinet Buttons.
"El Movimento": A few games from Peyper (a Spanish manufacturer) had a feature known as "El Movimento", which used knobs next to the flipper buttons that moved the playfield. The VP re-creations of these tables approximate this by mapping the MagnaSave buttons to a special non-tilting nudge function.