Tuesday 18 August 2015

Balloon Fight (NES review)

Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1986

Balloon Fight is based on the 1982 game Joust (Arcade) and was released in the Arcades two years before it arrived on the NES.

The game can be played with 1-2 players (the latter in co-op) and the premise is to destroy all your opponents' balloons before they pop yours. You always have a slight head start so if you're quick you can take out a few beforehand; this is a great idea and lends itself perfectly to the risk-reward system. Once you hit an enemy they start to fall with the aide of a parachute; you need to quickly hit them again to finish them off for good otherwise they can land on a platform and pump up a new balloon. Getting too close to the water sees a giant fish emerge that tries to eat you; however, it will also swallow enemies! To add some variety the stage layouts constantly change and there's even interactive elements such as propellers and lightning bolts that fire around the screen. You can also fly off one side of the screen and appear out the other which opens up some unique gameplay possibilities. The controls are fantastic and don't rely on you having to mash buttons at ridiculous speeds to keep up momentum. Every few rounds there's a bonus game where 20 stray balloons fly up and you need to collect as many as you can for points. It's a simple premise but surprisingly addictive as you find yourself trying for a perfect run! The final mode is Balloon Trip where the screen scrolls from right-to-left and you need to avoid lightning and rack up as many points as possible with just one life. Balloons and bubbles can be collected for extra points but don't get too close to the water as the giant fish can still get you. It's challenging but great for high score lovers and an excellent addition to the main mode.

While Joust might have established this style of gameplay it's Balloon Fight that perfected it. Granted, it's not the deepest of games but it's aged amazingly well and is still an enjoyable way to spend 30 minutes, especially if you have a friend to play with.

Random trivia: This NES version was re-released in 2002 on the Game Boy Advance. Interestingly, it used the e-Reader format meaning you had to scan in several cards to download the game to the system's memory!

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