I think any pinball historian would tell you that Gottlieb always struggled to keep up with its competition when it came to their solid state games. During the early 1980s they went through several changes in ownership including some companies that really had no business making pinball machines. Technologically speaking they were late to the party and this resulted in poor sales, weak licensing, and (for a while) flaky technology.
In 1986 Gottlieb was owned by Premier Technology and in October released a game with the title Gold Wings. Take one look at that game and it's obvious it's a "knock off" theme based on the recently released hit movie "Top Gun" starring Tom Cruise. If you have never seen or played the game, spend some time on IPDB.org and look it over. Then consider the games that Williams released that same year: High Speed released in January, and PIN BOT would come out in October, the same month as Gold Wings. Any self respecting flipperspieler would tell you that both High Speed and PIN BOT are amazing games and even revolutionized the industry. Both games were manufactured in quantities exceeding 12,000 units. Gold Wings on the other hand, had less than 3,500 units produced and likely some of those languished in the warehouses of distributors. So, it can be pretty easy to see why someone would ignore a game like Gold Wings in an arcade when it is surrounded by legends like these.
Funny how the passing of time can change things. The year is now 2013 and most pinball enthusiasts have played quite a bit of PIN BOT and High Speed. Longing for something new and unusual the time has come for games like Gold Wings. Today the backglass, complete with a Tom Cruise look-a-like flamboyantly showing off his chest hair, is an exaggeration of what much of the mid-80s was like for teen and pre-teen males. If you were looking for nostalgia, the search is over. The music track on this game is the perfect mix of an 80s pop beat and digital tones no doubt produced on a synthesizer keytar. The quirky gameplay is exactly what you are looking for too. Tired of losing your ball in those pesky out lanes? No problem, Gold Wings has none! Multiball? Check! 360 degree looping ramp? Check! Crazy high multiplier? 15x baby, no less. Big payoff shot to let everyone in the arcade know you are the Master of the Universe? Oh yea! Gold Wings has a real 50v AC air siren that will wake the dead. Yes, and actual air siren....like on a fire truck, or in any tornado alley town in Oklahoma. This sucker goes off when you shoot the 500,000 point shot (worth a cool 7.5 million with full multiplier in effect). Nothing turns heads like Gold Wings blasting its siren.
The next time you are looking for a pinball thrill consider playing a game like these or many of the others that were overlooked and even derided when they first came out, you just might find a hidden gem. At the Flipperspiel Wunderland we try and stock at least a few of these quirky and strange titles that you may not find at other arcades. Cactus Jack's is one we own that we should be rotating back in soon. Rescue 911 is another that is currently in the arcade and ready for play. In the past we have had many different Gottlieb Premier games including: Hot Shots, Operation Thunder, Gold Wings and Wipe Out.
Post in the comments your favorite "unpopular" game that you think more players should give a second look. And if you have any information on a good condition Gold Wings for sale, please let us know! We would love to get one for the Flipperspiel.