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Friday, September 2, 2011

Retro Review: Balloon Fight (Wii Virtual Console/ 3DS Ambassador program)

Balloon Fight is a groovy little game, and perfect for the Nintendo 3DS. As a freebie through the ambassador program, it’s quite possibly the best of all ten games, but when it goes on the eShop proper, it will well be worth the $5 or whatever Nintendo decides to charge for it.

Some people might be more familiar with the game this way: It’s Joust in a different skin. It plays the same way as Joust, and if you squint it looks much like Joust. Here though, it’s a little fellow with two balloons helping him keep afloat. By rapidly mashing the “A” button, the little fellow can rise up in the air. The goal is to bump into the enemies from above, which will pop the enemy’s bubble. They’ll then deploy their parachute and start to float towards the ground. Run into them again and they’ll die, you’ll get points, and you’ll be a step closer to the next stage.

Of course, if the enemy bumps into you from above, there goes one of your little balloons. Run out and it’s down one life. Enemies start out nice and slow, but after a few levels they become very fast and tricky indeed.

And that’s not the end of things that want the little balloon boy dead. There’s some nasty-looking clouds in each level. Spend too long taking out the opponents, and the cloud will spit out lightning bolts that hurt.

And then there’s the evil fish. Stray too close to the water at the bottom of each level, and you’ll become fish food. That’s not a whole lot of fun.

Every so often there’s a bonus stage too, where you’ll get the opportunity to pop balloons for points. So all up, this is a fairly standard, points-hunting NES arcade game. Physics are somewhat floaty (pun intended), but what makes this game enjoyable and addictive, where other games such as Ice Climbers are just frustrating, is that those physics is something you can master. The first couple of times, level five is a challenging target. Soon it becomes level 10, or maximising the points in each level. There’s plenty of room to get good at Balloon Fight, and it’s an enjoyable journey.

Predictably the presentation is quite poor, and on the 3DS there’s the heinous oversight of no multiplayer (yet). The game does keep track of your high score though, so that’s a worthy goal in itself, and though the 3DS screen is quite small compared to a TV, and as a result the characters are quite small, the colours are vibrant and you’re not going to miss anything for want of a microscope.

This is one of the better NES classics – if you’re not a 3DS ambassador, make sure you pick up the Wii Virtual Console version; it’s easily worth 500 points.

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Retro Review: Balloon Fight (Wii Virtual Console/ 3DS Ambassador program)
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