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.