Balloon Fight — 1Q2017 issue

Fruit­less bal­loon showdowns

The best thing I can pos­si­bly say about Bal­loon Fight is that it’s inno­v­a­tive for its con­cepts at the time. Oth­er than that, this isn’t a game I’d rec­om­mend to any­one beyond the age of 10 and even that’s push­ing it.

The premise is sim­ple: You play as the “Bal­loon Fight­er,” who is tasked with stay­ing alive and defeat­ing ene­mies in increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult stages. Two bal­loons are attached to the Fight­er and to the ene­mies, and the Fight­er must pop their bal­loons while avoid­ing his own being popped and oth­er obsta­cles such as a large piran­ha, water and light­ning strikes. The Bal­loon Fight­er is fair­ly stout and stur­dy, see­ing as though he can take a lot of bump­ing and push­ing, but if he los­es his bal­loons, it’s a lost life. There are bonus games and a dif­fer­ent mode, Bal­loon Trip, that takes the Fight­er through an obsta­cle course to improve your rank and score. 

This is all fine and well, but the con­trols turn what should be a fun and sim­ple game into a night­mare and a chore to actu­al­ly con­trol. The Fight­er flaps his arms to stay afloat and even with both bal­loons still present, this is extra hard to do and main­tain. More often than not, I don’t lose bal­loons because an ene­my popped them; it’s because I land­ed in the water, was eat­en by the large fish or steered myself unwit­ting­ly into the light­ning I was des­per­ate­ly try­ing to avoid. Pre­ci­sion fly­ing this is not. To get a sense of what it’s like to con­trol the Fight­er, imag­ine if the hor­ri­ble Ice Climbers were fly­ing instead of jump­ing ter­ri­bly up a mountain. 

And while the game is bare­ly playable, the sound­track also man­ages to squeak by in pre­sen­ta­tion. It is a sad day when I declare that a sound­track from Metroid sound direc­tor Hip Tana­ka is irre­deemable. There is noth­ing that makes me want to lis­ten to this, and near­ly every­thing that Tana­ka has cre­at­ed gets high marks from me. The songs aren’t mem­o­rable, there are few songs there any­way, and the lack of var­ied sound effects is dis­con­cert­ing. Add the sound­track woes to an under­whelm­ing graph­i­cal palette and the game over­all is a mess.

Despite the pedi­gree of folks who worked on the game (i.e. Shigeru Miyamo­to as pro­duc­er, Metroid designer/director Yoshio Sakamo­to and Tana­ka), Bal­loon Fight couldn’t be fur­ther away from the qual­i­ty of Nin­ten­do clas­sics I want to play. Bal­loon Fight is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of an old­er era of games that required a Her­culean amount of patience, which I am not pre­pared to give in this day and age where bet­ter games are available.

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