BALLOON FIGHT
Game Cover
Game
バルーンファイト
©Nintendo 1984
Release: 1985-01-22 (¥4500)
Cartdridge HVC-BF
Action/Platform game

American Version
country
Released in America as
BALLOON FIGHT
( NES-BF-USA )

European Version
European Version
European Version
country
Released in Europe as
BALLOON FIGHT
( NES-BF-XXX )
Balloon Fight is a single/fixed screen action game by Nintendo and basically modeled on Williams's arcade game Joust originally released in 1982. The player takes control of a floating character equipped with a helmet and two balloons tied to his back, and the action buttons allow him to quickly flap his arms, and to fly like a bird and defy gravity. The goal of each stage is fairly simple - our atypical hero must fly around the screen and clear all the rival balloon fighters. As he hits them from above and pops their balloons, they slowly parachute to the ground and must be kicked into the water, and this before they even get a chance to inflate another balloon and burst into battle again. Once an enemy is defeated and sinks to his doom, a bubble slowly floats up and can be collected for points. Of course the player is not immune to enemy attacks, and if one of his balloon pops, then his ability to fly becomes greatly restricted, and one more hit sends him plunging into the water. And that's not all, storm clouds are dotted around each stage and start shooting lightning bolts if the player lingers too long in a single level. Furthermore, one of the most dangerous challenges of all is the large hungry fish that lives in the water - if the player (or an enemy) happens to fly too close to the bottom of the screen, the predatory fish will try to gobble them in one bite. Finally, a bonus stage awaits the player every three levels, in which he has to pop twenty balloons within a time limit for bonus points. The game includes a simultaneous two-player mode as well as a single-player game called 'Balloon Trip', in which the goal is to fly forward, avoid lightning bolts and collect balloons for points.
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Balloon Fight VS The Famicom version of Balloon Fight can be somehow considered as a port of the arcade game VS Balloon Fight (picture on the right) released by Nintendo in 1984, only few months before the version tested here. VS Balloon Fight was designed as a two-player competitive style play and some editions even featured a double cabinet with two screens. Interestingly, it seems that VS Balloon Fight was developed by a different team at Nintendo, and the game does indeed show some noticeable differences. The most obvious one is the size of the playfiled which is a lot taller than the Famicom port, and scrolls vertically. Controls are also slightly different and the arm-flapping doesn't feel as effective (no auto-flapping), and the game is a tad more difficult (enemies are better/quicker at deploying their parachutes it seems). Finally, VS Balloon Fight didn't include the Famicom exclusive Balloon Trip mini-game mode which, interestingly, was later released as a Game & Watch title (both in Crystal Screen and Regular editions). The original Balloon Fight was also ported in 1985 to the Sharp X1 and NEC PC-8801 by Hudson Soft. A sequel called Balloon Kid followed and was released in 1990 for the Game Boy (curiously exclusively in Europe and North America) - the game takes the balloon Trip framework from the original Famicom version and expands it. A (unofficial) clone of Balloon Fight was also released in 1991 for the Supervision handheld system - developed by Watara, the game starred a pig as a hero and penguins as enemies. Although Balloon Fight was part of the Famicom Mini series released for the Game Boy in 2004, the franchise flew underneath the radar until 2007 when Tingle's Balloon Fight was released for the Nintendo DS in Japan (it was however only available as a bonus item for Club Nintendo members).

Teaser text copied from the American version:
You'll need lightning- fast reactions to win this battle in the sky!
Take to the skies! BALLOON FIGHT. You'll score lots of points and have loads of fun when you birst enemy balloons and send their parachutes crashing into the sea. But beware. These hot air invaders have an amazing ability to land safely, blow up another balloon and come back stronger than before! What's more, if you fly too low you'll be devoured by man-eating sharks! Challenge them alone if you think you're up to it, or team up with a friend. Either way, you'll have the time of your life fighting off your opponents in the sky and avoiding those hungry sharks bellow in BALLOON FIGHT!


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Balloon Fight manual
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Lets face it, Balloon Fight is mostly modeled after Williams' classic Joust released in 1982, and this blatant rip-off really came as a surprise to me. Nintendo is known for its commitment to innovation, and this comes across as a cheap shot (on another hand, I'm not sure if the arcade game Joust was ever available in Japan, and the Famicom version was only released in 1987). Anyway, I don't usually mind when games borrow ideas from other games with the purpose of improving, and in that respect, Nintendo succeeded admirably (Balloon Fight was released three years after Joust though). Altogether, I feel that Balloon Fight has tighter and more responsive controls, levels are more varied with additional obstacles, all this without forgetting the special bonus stage Nintendo threw in. But let's not start a polemic about which game is better (both games are classics in their own right), but I feel that Balloon Fight definitively has a 'fun' factor I've never really found in Joust, and it has a lot less frustrating moments. Although levels can be a bit repetitive after a while, Balloon Fight showcases all the heart-pounding and addictive fun of the classic arcade games of the 80's, and a brilliant simultaneous two-player mode.




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