Sometimes, the most obscure retro games are also the most fun. This is definitely the case with Nitro Ball with its insane overhead action and unconventional pinball elements so grab a few quarters and get ready to shoot!
Okay, just what the heck is Nitro Ball? Also known as Gun Ball in Japan, Nitro Ball has you control one of three characters as you blast away enemies within uniquely themed stages. It looks a lot like Smash TV with its zany game show premise although it's far less violent and I find it to be a lot more frantic. The basic controls include tapping a button to shoot and occasionally using another one to launch a stocked special bomb attack. That's essentially it so you won't find yourself stumbling with trying to figure out how to play.
Upon shooting some enemies, they roll around like pinballs so if you aim well, you can roll them into holes and such which grants bonuses such as score boosts and power-ups. You'll even run into timed challenges that usually task you with defeating a certain amount of enemies. If you succeed, you get treated to a fun scene like cheerleaders doing a little routine as you get awarded stuff like luxury cars, mansions, yachts, and private jets. The power-ups include weapons like the very cool Ring Laser and if you're lucky, you get to try out the Rail Blaster. Another power-up will have you turn into a ball just like Samus so you can conquer the pinball challenges easier.
Nitro Ball is such a crazy game. As you progress through its campaign, you'll traverse 5 distinct stages: Strange Football, Combat Field, Ghost Town, Aliens World, and Space Station. You'll encounter a ton of off-the-wall scenarios, enemies, and bosses along the way that allow the gameplay to remain fresh and exciting throughout. Some portions even feel like they're ripped straight from '80s movies like The Terminator, Alien, and Ghostbusters which is just awesome. Overall, it's one varied and thrilling arcade game.
One thing that's fantastic about Nitro Ball is that 3 players can enjoy it simultaneously. Although you can work together, the scoring system is competitive and impressively well-implemented. For example, whenever a player uses a continue, their score takes a big hit so players who survive longer will have a much better chance of winning the whole game. It is a game show, after all.
The main aspect of Nitro Ball that hasn't aged well is its aiming system. Whereas twin-stick shooters are everywhere you look nowadays, Nitro Ball forces you to shoot in the direction that you're facing. It takes a while to get used to but once you do, you can definitely kick ass without much of a struggle. That being said, some sections of the campaign can be exceptionally irritating. Specifically, some screens have far too many enemies (that are actually referred to as goons in-game) which complicates the visuals to the point where you might not be able to work out where you are. Some of the bosses can be annoying, too, with high defense and short attack windows.
If you enjoy retro games then you owe it to yourself to download Nitro Ball. It's the most impressive arcade game that I've played in years and I'm very grateful that it got ported to a modern console.
- + Awesome blend of overhead shooting, pinball challenges, and crazy stages and bosses
- + Has 3 player simultaneous multiplayer
- + Fantastic competitive scoring system
- - Aiming doesn't hold up in an age when twin-stick shooters are commonplace
- - Hectic parts and some boss fights can be rather frustrating