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Balloon Fight

The NES console box art for Balloon Fight!

Balloon Fight is a game developed and published by Nintendo in 1984, first for the arcades, then the NES, and a number of ports since then. The game is pretty much a clone of Joust, except for a change in setting along with a few twists; you and possibly a second player are the Balloon Fighters, and along with being threatened by occasional bouncing lightning (don't ask me how that can possible happen) and gigantic fish that eat anyone (including enemies) who gets too close to the water, you have to deal with a bunch of balloon flying birds (who bear a creepy resemblance to Mordecai from Regular Show) who have the potential for two hit kills against you. You clear a stage by avoiding lightning at all costs, and at the same time popping the birds' balloons and then fly-kicking them in the face before they get back up.

I'd heard the basic idea of this game once, and since it sounded like a hilarious concept, I wanted to see how it played. The game is, in fact, a lot like Joust, except harder because of the additional enemies and obstacles in your way.

It inherits all the great qualities of its influence, including the ability to fly with tons of momentum, and control your flight reasonably well. It even carried on the same alignment principle, where you had to hit your enemy from above to do damage, which I found clever.

In just the same way, however, it carries on the bad and annoying qualities. The biggest by far of these is that if you fly into a platform, it bounces you off the side and, almost unfailingly, into the enemies. That's how I always died in Joust, and how I couldn't get past Level 3 of this game on my first sitting. The lightning also did not help at all.

While I do like the fact that you could last two hits per life in this game, I wish there were more lives, considering how you don't pick any up along the way. That would have made the game almost completely tolerable, but I think it's a little too challenging the way it is.

Needless to say, this game takes a whole lot of practice to get very far. Even the minigame, Balloon Ride, is practically impossible to beat, because the flying is so loose that you constantly hit lightning.

While this game may have many tedious shortcomings, it has its benefits as well, and it's a very lovable little pastime. As with many of my reviews for games like these, I strongly advise that you test the waters online first before buying this on the VC, because while it is likely inexpensive, it would be a waste of money if you can't get the hang of it.

If you have a knack for the gameplay as a whole, though, I support you in buying it if you wish.

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