Sunday, August 16, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Balloon Fight

Retro Game of the Day! Balloon Fight

Balloon Fight, that'd be a 1st-generation NES game developed and published by The Big N themselves, released 1984 and 85 to arcades and then home systems, respectively.

Essentially a ripoff of William's Joust, I guess Nintendo were able to get away with it for a variety of reasons (but so we're clear, let's not forget who was first, here!)

A simple little game, this was a one-screen game ("as was the style at the time!") where you were a little guy being hoisted up through the lower atmosphere thanks to a pair of balloons strapped to your back. To clear a round, you'd have to do-in your similarly-equipped rivals, merely by getting a little altitude on them and popping their balloons from above. They'd fall to earth and chill out for a moment, only to relaunch if you'd neglect to "tag" them before they had the chance to inflate once more. If you originally nailed them over The Drink, they'd get swallowed up by a hideous, graphically-depicted death of drowning. So awful.

Like Joust, you'd hit the action button to "flap" (gain altitude) and could land on platforms to take a breather - as well, you could 2P it (beware not to kill your buddy!) There were other dangers besides the Enemy Balloon guys, you'd have balloon-popping lighting bolts shot out occasionally by the storm clouds - also hungry fish if you were flapping to close to the water.

And that's about it! Doesn't sound like much, but this was a couple of decades ago, and it was exciting to see so much colorful action transpiring on the screen. At it's core, the game is still quite fun and provides a nice alternative to Joust, no one will argue (though Joust is more of a "man's game!")

Nintendo did go the extra mile and toss in a bonus mode, "Balloon Trip," the likes of which you'd not find in the competitor's game. Though not solid enough for a full game, it was a nice secondary/mini-game which basically turned the game into a side-scrolling contest to help you practice your balloon-maneuvering precision. Slide between corridors of (usually) stationary lighting bolts, err, sparks, and sweep up extra balloons for bonus points. Simple and limited, but fun.

All told, Balloon Fight owes it's fame (such as it is) to it's age, a period when Nintendo's games were getting more colorful and slightly more interesting. Hardly revolutionary but decidedly solid, it's a game which is still fun to pick up and one I'd love to see expanded on, actually!

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