Nintendo has produced many classics over the past few decades and Balloon Fight is definitely one worth checking out. It features unique gameplay that's still fun after all these years. Seeing as it's available for many different consoles, there is no reason not to give it a try.
Balloon Fight is simple to control since players only need to push a button to flap their arms and move left and right. You battle enemies by trying to pop their balloons before they pop yours. Balloons hover above characters and once a character touches a balloon, it pops. It's a simple concept and it works very well as the controls are tight and responsive. Enemies have one balloon and you have two. Once you pop an enemy's balloon, he will parachute to the ground. If he lands in the water then he's a goner. However, if he lands on a surface then he'll eventually pump up a new balloon and rejoin the battle as a tougher version of himself. You get points for both popping balloons and taking out balloon-less combatants.
Stages get more hectic as the game progresses and some interesting elements are included that help diversify this otherwise basic game. Clouds will eventually emit lightning that spawns a ball of electricity which bounces off walls. Once one touches you, you're toast. Players must also avoid the body of water at the bottom of the screen since they may drown or be eaten by a sea monster! When enemies perish and fall past the bottom of the screen, a bubble will rise which rewards some bonus points when collected. These aspects help to make the game a more consistently frenetic experience as there are many things to see and do at any given moment. Also, there's a bonus round after three stages are completed where players try to pop as many ascending balloons as they can for bonus points. It's a challenging distraction that helps mix things up a bit.
The graphics are simple with black backgrounds and foregrounds that stand out well. Player characters look very different to enemies so keeping track of everyone is easy. Animations are also simple and watching characters flap their arms around frantically is a lot of fun. Balloon Fight may not be eye candy but the graphics are clear and serve their purpose well. The audio is as frenzied as the gameplay as brief tunes are triggered by different events while the audio outside of these events is comprised of a constant rapid succession of random high pitched notes. It sounds very arcade-like and complements this type of game nicely.
Balloon Fight's main mode can be played with one or two players. Playing with two players can be a cooperative or competitive experience depending on who you play with. Players have their own scores and can burst each other's balloons so they can choose to work together to defeat enemies and see how far they can get or try to attack each other and see who can last the longest and get the highest score. This is implemented excellently and makes for some awesome local multiplayer fun.
A bonus mode is included in the form of balloon trip. This mode is single player only and is played by navigating through a lightning-filled stage that scrolls to the left while popping as many stationary balloons as you can. The left, you say? How unorthodox. Players get bonus points for not missing balloons and it's game over once they touch a lightning ball. Balloon trip is challenging and makes aiming for high scores quite a rewarding experience.
Since Balloon Fight is a pretty old game, it does have a couple of disappointments for today's standards. There is no sense of progression since when the game is over, you must start from the beginning again. This is acceptable but it means that you probably won't spend more than a couple of attempts in one sitting. A Balloon Fight remake that has a story mode where your progression is saved would be fantastic. Make it happen, Nintendo! Also, the high scores are not saved since there is no battery in the cartridge. This means that you will have to take a picture if you want to show off since the high scores are reset every time you boot up the game.
Balloon Fight is a classic Nintendo game that is still a lot of fun in this day and age. With only a couple of limitations for today's standards, it's easily recommendable for gamers to download or track down a physical copy as almost everyone will find some enjoyment in this frantic balloon popping adventure.
- + Solid and frantic gameplay that still holds up
- + Playing with a friend mixes cooperative and competitive elements very well
- + Balloon trip mode is a fun addition
- - No sense of progression
- - High scores reset after you turn off the game