Saturday, July 14, 2012

Retro Review--Balloon Fight (NES)

Last August, Nintendo launched its 3DS Ambassador Program as a way of recognizing early adopters when they cut the price of the 3DS. Anyone who had bought the handheld at its original price of $250 was able to download 10 NES games and 10 GBA games for free, some of which will not ever be showing up on the eShop.

The Ambassador games were a fantastic bunch overall, with classics like Super Mario Bros., Zelda and Metroid leading the way. For me, one game that got lost in the shuffle from that bunch was Balloon Fight, and I’m sad it took me so long to play it because it’s pretty great.

If you are a child of the 80s like I am, then you will immediately realize what game that Balloon Fight is a clone of as soon as you start it. There is no mistaking that the 1982 combat platformer Joust was the inspiration for Balloon Fight, right down to the physics of the game. Each stage consists of several platforms of different height that are suspended over water, which is a deadly hazard to your player. Whereas in Joust you were a mounted on an ostrich battling other mounted warriors, in Balloon Fight you are a guy with two balloons tied around him trying to knock other balloon-assisted fighters out of the air. By tapping the A or B button, you keep yourself aloft, and failing to stay aloft results in your plunging into the icy depths. As you navigate around the screen and the platforms, you try to pop the other fighters’ balloons by hitting them with your feet. They’ll do the same to you, and if they pop one of your balloons, it’s that much harder to stay aloft. lose both, and you’re done for.

When you knock another fighter into the water, a bubble rises from the surface, which you collect for bonus points. Your goal is to clear each stage of enemies. When you clear three stages, you get a bonus stage where you pop balloons for points.

The game can be played by one or two players, and there’s an additional game mode called “Balloon Trip” where you navigate through a side-scrolling level collecting balloons while avoiding lightning clouds. It serves as a nice change of pace from the regular game.

At the end of the day, Balloon Fight is really just Joust in a more charming and whimsical package. The physics are solid, and there’s a lot of replayability, especially with the extra game mode. After all these years, the game still holds up well.

4 out of 5

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