Balloon Fight – NES

“You’ll need lightning fast reflexes to win this battle in the sky!”

Never has a truer word been spoken when starting my “50th plus” game of Balloon Fight on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Let me get straight off the mark and say Balloon Fight is a good game.  Its simple, its fun it has a two player game mode and the graphics….well the graphics are perfect for a game released in 1984 on the NES.  But…Balloon Fight is incredibly frustrating and dam right difficult when playing the single player mode.  The difficulty may cause a lot of new players to be put off by the game but anyone that is familiar with 80’s video games like Joust (for an example) will feel right at home and find yourself, trying and trying again.   A perfect balance of difficulty and fun.


Famicom Cartridge and NES Cartridge

Balloon Fight released in 1984 in Japanese arcades and then ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1986 for the US market (UK release 1987)  It was part of the original “Black box” titles (Early NES games with black box art and basic cover design) that Nintendo released to help sell the NES in its infancy.  Out of these so called “black box” titles Balloon Fight is one of the most remembered games and one that is still fun to play today.  (There might have been another one….Super Mario …something something)


Part of the box art (Basic design using colourful spites from the game)

Starting Balloon Fight you see the title screen and game menu.  The game has three game modes to choose from, Game A – 1 Player Game, Game B – 2 Player Game and Game C – Balloon Trip.


Beginners level

Starting single player mode you will be instantly dropped into the action.  Controls are very simple and responsive in Balloon Fight which is very important in this type.  By tapping the A button your character (or balloon fighter) will flap his wings and continue to rise to the top of the screen.  If you stop tapping the button or slow down, your character will slowly descend.  You can move left and right off the screen where you will appear at the same point on the other side.  This is a great piece of level design as it makes the battlefield appear larger than it actually is.

enermy move

The blue enemy heading off screen to appear in front of me

Your character starts with three lives and two balloons attached to the helmet on his head.  This is your life gauge.  If these one of the balloons gets popped, your last balloon will make it harder for you to fly around the screen.  If your last balloon get popped its a life down for you.


Going for a swim!  Don’t let your last balloon get popped

The enemies also have a balloon and the idea of the game is to pop their balloon by either landing on top of them or flying into their balloons.  When popping an enemy balloon you will receive points and they will fall to the level below and craftily use a parachute to land safely.


Pop! 750 points will do nicely thanks

You must finish them by landing on their head before they inflate another balloon and become even tougher to take down.  When an enemy is killed you will also see a bubble rise up from the water.  You can pop this for even more points.  On earlier levels this isn’t too much of a problem but later on you’ll have lots of obstacles to avoid and a screen full of enemies trying to get you.  Its all about judging when to strike and when to finish them off.  The idea of the game is to clear all of the enemies off the screen and progress onto the next one.  Level design changes and becomes more difficult due to the amount of platforms and on-screen enemies.


Crafty spare balloon being inflated right behind me

As well as a battlefield full of enemies you also have to deal with clouds of lightning.  I know, you play a video game to get away from the weather outside and then it goes and appears in your game!  Typical huh 🙂 Only that these lightning clouds shoot out bolts that move quickly around the screen getting in your way and most of the time causing you to panic.  Again on later levels this more often than not causes my character smashing head long into one.  Shocking really! (a, a, did you see what i did there? yeah ok that was terrible)


Thunder bolts of lightning, very very frighting for me

To top it all off, just when you think you are getting the hang of dodging, floating and attacking, Balloon Fight throws in another trick.  You may have noticed the water area at the bottom of the screen.  If you fly to close to water surface you will be greeted by a giant fish that eats you.  There is nothing more frustrating than clearing the screen with skill and precision only to to beaten by a giant fish before taking down the last bad guy.  But to the fish’s credit, he does also eat enemies which can come in handy every now and then


Well that’s just charming!

After the first three levels you have a chance on the bonus stage.  This allows you gain even more points to gain an extra life.  Your character has to pop as many balloons that emerge from the pipes below.  The bonus stage happens every three stages so make good use of the opportunity for points.


Get popping them balloons

Game B of Balloon Fight is a two player version of Game A in which you work co-operatively to destroy the enemies and clear the screen.  Player two has blue coloured balloons and starts on the right hand side of the screen.  Its great fun and a great way to play the game.  Strategy will come into play as you work out he best methods to clear the screen.


Team team team

Lastly Game C (Balloon Trip) is a game which requires skill and a great way to practice your Balloon Fight skills.  You start on the right hand side of the screen which starts to scroll towards you.  The idea is to dodge everything on the screen apart from the balloons.  Again this starts of easy but gets difficult incredibly quickly.  Its good fun and great to pass round taking turns with friends as each turn usually ends quickly.


Balloon Trip

Overall Balloon Fight is great game and I highly recommend giving it ago.  If you are a Nintendo fan or enjoy classic arcade games you will have many hours of fun with it.


Thanks again for reading and I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on Balloon Fight.  Please take a look at the other posts on VGR2016, you thoughts and comments are really appreciated by us.  Enjoy 🙂


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Da22 says:

    Excellent write up dude sounds like fun. The mechanic sounds like ‘helicopter’ or if you are younger, ‘flappybird’


  2. stevenger says:

    Proper early arcade style game. I wonder if the odd choice of balloons for lives in Super Mario Kart was intentionally evoking this.


  3. acidbearboy says:

    Been playing NES Remix on 3DS and I’d forgotten how well made some early NES games were – this was one of them. Great game and very addictive.


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