Wednesday, September 26, 2012

NESquest #29 - Chubby Cherub

(Chubby Cherub, October 1986, Bandai)

Hell yeah! Time to strap in and review Kid Icarus, a great little game featuring an adorable little angel who strikes at his foes with arrows while avoiding dastardly baddies in an attempt to...oh fuck me, this is Chubby Cherub isn't it?

Bandai may have only reached mediocrity in video games but FUCK could they make a toy!

Another of the first wave of third party games, Chubby Cherub was presented by Bandai, a company founded in 1950 whose long translation means "We will make shit games and you will love it". Unlike Data East, Bandai never went the way of the dodo and remains a powerful force in toys, anime, and trading card games. Currently known as Namco-Bandai, one things these guys could never seem to do well would be to program a memorable Nintendo game. The catalogue of titles they were responsible for unleashing on the world is full of stinkers so is Chubby Cherub any exception? Let's all explore the answer together as this is my first ever time firing this bastard up.

I wonder if NOA changed it to a cherub because noone would know Q-Taro or because he looked like a jizz trail with a duckbill 

Originally released in Japan as an adaption to a popular manga, Obake no Q-taro: WanWan Panic just didn't roll off the tongue for some odd reason. Q-taro is like Casper's asian cousin, a happy little ghost who finds himself in entertaining, humorous, light-hearted situations. The little guy had drawing power and had been featured in one form or another since 1964. Instead of introducing an American audience to the likable spectral fellow, we were instead given a little angel named Chubby Cherub, which is rather strange due to Nintendo's shying away from all religious icons or drugs of any sort to a strict degree. The plot is the same in both versions but is pretty sparse. Chubby's friends are kidnapped and his only fear in this mortal plain, dogs, are obstructions on his path to rescue. Honestly, the dog thing makes a hell of alot more sense to the Cherub, as what the fuck does a ghost really have to be scared of? You've faced DEATH for shit's sake!

Best death animation since Donkey Kong Jr.

Lo and behold, this honestly isn't a terrible game. It isn't Metroid but isn't quite Tag Team Wrestling either. There are a few good points that caught me off guard as I was expecting to trash this as an abomination within minutes but the more I played, the more I appreciated what they were going for. First off, the music number played in the levels is tremendous. No shit, in a span of 24 hours I have caught myself doing laundry, cooking dinner, and waking up with this snappy little ditty lodged in my head. No small feat for any video game even if it is really the only tune available. Do you think I'm going to harp on Tetris for only having one song during gameplay? Hell no, so why do it here? The graphics as well don't present me with much to bitch about as they are bright and vibrant and the timer up top corresponds with what color the sky is which is really neat for the era.

This was as far as I was willing to go with it. Best of luck to you all.

Now for the cavetching if I may. While the graphics and sound I found pleasing to the eye and ear, the controls can be slightly of the left of fucking insanity. Remember in the SNES classic Super Mario World the reward for learning how to fly like a master was that you could hover over entire levels on top of impressing the shit out of your friends? Well, Chubby Cherub strips it down to nothing and makes it to where it is as easy as Sesame Street 1-2-3 to fly over a level as long as you keep eating the fruit that is present every other pixel. Sure, every now and then, a dog will bark the letter "B" your way(!), but they take little effort to avoid and the only real challenges here are either the close to impossible bosses that randomly show up throwing bombs like there's no tomorrow or having to shoot something to get it out of your way. The only reason shooting is a whore is because you have a limited supply of arrows and their range is nothing compared to your enemies. It's like going against a trained sniper with a .22, the shit just doesn't work. Also, if there comes a time when Chubby needs to drop from the sky to ground level, you have no control over the descent whatsoever so if a dog, cat, or owl wants to veer in your path in the meantime, you're toast.

In Belfast, it's a pizza joint!

5/10 Smack in the middle of the NES lovefest is Chubby Cherub. It had potential to be an IP that could've spawned a few successful sequels if they stuck with it, but alas, it wasn't meant to be. Ironically, Q-taro also petered out around the same time overseas so that could've had alot to do with it as well. Say hi to Stanley and Mach Rider for us!

"I could've been a contender. Fuck it, it's Miller Time."

Monday, September 24, 2012

NESquest #28 - Tag Team Wrestling

(Tag Team Wrestling, October 1986, Data East)

When I reflect on the zany world of professional wrestling (and trust me, I can tell you a thing or two about that freakshow), many of my favorite moments dealt with the many colorful tag teams. There were far too many masters of their two-on-two craft that it would be impossible to name them all here, but just to throw out a few, The Road Warriors, Demolition, Ole & Tully, The Midnight Express, The Hart Foundation, Hansen & Brody, The Dudley Boys, The Ricky Fighters...The Strong Bads...wait, whutdafuck? Ricky Fighters and Strong Bads? Who were they? What were they? Not the slightest but they were badass enough to head the charge when it came to 'rasslin' on the NES so today we share a peek at Tag Team Wrestling.

In all their "glory", straight from the manual

Nintendo up to this point had published every single one of the available 27 titles for the system. As always, there comes a time for the parents to let the kiddies play with the big boy toys and voila, third party games were being produced. One of the first companies out of the chutes was Data East, an arcade/pinball company founded in 1976 who knew to strike when the iron was hot. What mighty title did they use to impose their will upon Nintendo players the world over? A port of a game that already sucked the balls of a diseased platypus in the arcades for over a year that's what! 

Let's port this game that has already been established as horrible! FUCK YEAH!

So, in a world where every major tag team is tragically killed in a bus/train/plane crash, we are stuck with two of the most ridiculous sounding duos in history, The Ricky Fighters, consisting of Ricky and Ultramachine, squaring off for all eternity with The Strong Bads, a fearsome twosome of Worly and Mascross. Right away the team names don't sound all that bad when paired up to the individual's names. In a twist of irony only video games can produce, Strong Bad would go on to become the name of a popular character in the hit Flash animated series, Homestar Runner. 

If you're a fan of this guy, thank Tag Team Wrestling.

If you've ever played this broken sack of wet hobo turds, then I'm sure you understand why I am going to keep this brief. Quite simply, there is no worse wrestling game in history. Yes, I'm aware M.U.S.C.L.E. exists and actually have it on deck soon, but it is like Fire Pro next to this dreg. If one said to me that this was a 13 year old programming student's first project, I'd be likely to believe it as well as said student having a D average. My favorite part is when a character has to run because he resembles a fat zombie trying to give a case of the ooga boogas rather than a mat warrior destined for battle. Win or lose a match and be delighted by the sound of white noise that harkens back to the days of old televisions left on overnight and scaring you half to death in your sleep when the station signed off. Perhaps I dated myself with that reference so you young kids, just youtube white noise like everything else in your lives and you'll be fine. 

Wooga booga booga!

The controls are non-existent. That isn't me trying to be funny. Zero exaggeration. Non-fucking-existent. Going into a collar and elbow tieup, instead of using the controller to make shit happen, if a move is somehow pulled off, a menu comes up where you are given a set number of time to choose what move in your huge repertoire you'd like to inflict on a Strong Bad. How this is accomplished is never explained and don't tell me to get a manual and figure it out. I have one of the motherfuckers and it doesn't give clue one how to go on offense. Even without a manual, this was one of my first games, as you could've boxed up anything with the word wrestling on it back then and I was content, so I've had over 20 years to figure it out. Non-existent. Kid you not, the manual tells you how to advance in rank, how to pin, and how to kick out and that's about all.

A Winner Is You! Sorry, wrong game.

1/10 Donkey Kong Jr Math is the only other game to reach the bottom of the bowling alley toilet so far. Yeah, Urban Champion was a piece of shit, but it was playable. Sure, Stack-Up was damned near broken due to R.O.B., but that was a marketing ploy going in, this was a game going in. Graphics, sound, controls, fun, and being a fucking game are the things Tag Team Wrestling fails at in every possible way. Big ups to Nintendo because if I was a musician and wrote nothing but smash hits and the first song I let someone else write for me was Rebecca Black's "Friday", I'd have serious apprehensions about allowing another writer into my life. The Big N, however, must've just known that it was all uphill from here and kept the third party train a-rollin'.

In a rare case of dropping kayfabe in the 80's, the arcade version just comes out right and calls you faces and heels. That's kind of awesome actually.

TAG TEAM WRESTLING: THE MOVIE! Yeah, I know it's unrelated but found this and thought it'd be awesome as an unintentional mock-up to share!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

NESquest #27 - Metroid

(Metroid, August 1986, Nintendo)

Atmospheric. Claustrophobic. Non-linear. Exploration. These words were simply not associated with games in 1986. Today is a day I've been waiting for since the quest began. The very definition of a game thinking outside the box as well as molding a genre still popular to this day. This is a masterpiece. This is Metroid.

...and the shit is ON!

Heavily inspired by the 1979 sci-fi hit, Alien, as well as H.R. Giger's surreal art, Metroid was by far the most ambitious project by Nintendo at its inception. A large team for the time including director Gunpei Yokoi and producer Yoshio Sakamoto set out to create a magnum opus that could hang with Miyamoto's Super Mario Bros as the must have cart for the new system's library. The majority of the platformer games available at the time moved either right to left, left to right, or traversed a single screen. Nintendo R & D1 said fuck all that noise and set out to create a dark, thought provoking, and at times, downright scary complete planet that would require equal parts brain power and expedition to keep one playing for hours. It wasn't just the playing that made the entire thing blow the minds of consumers at the time but the newfound sense of discovery the game offered. In order to make it through a section of the map that seemed unaccessible previously, the player needed to find the correct weapon or items that would let them pass, a type of strategy unheard of for the period. These innovations defined the adventure genre and many of the gameplay mechanics are used today, over a quarter of a century later. Most powerups at the time weren't permanent fixtures required to advance and if there were, they weren't anywhere as badass as the Morph Ball or Screw Attack. An internal clock also keeps track of how long it takes you to make it all the way through Planet Zebes, rewarding the player with mutliple endings, making this one of the earliest games to gain popularity in the speedrun community. The list of amazing game changers that Metroid offered was simply off the charts to anything else that was out there at the time.

If you can't take enclosed spaces, steer clear of this one.

As for the game itself, Space Pirates have attacked a research facility on the planet Zebes. Their diabolic scheme is to expose the Metroids, giant jellyfish with energy tampons for fangs, to beta rays giving the Pirates the ability to control them as weapons. How the goatfuck this would occur on a scientific level stays unexplained but as kids, we ate this shit up without much question. The Galactic Federation sends their own personal Boba Fett by the name of Samus Aran to rectify the situation. Samus has a design that words do no justice to, look at the above picture and see if it isn't one of the most rightesous, badass suits of armor ever. Ever. The sense of discovery starts to pay off immediately as Samus begins with only an eight-way pea shooter and no add-ons and right away you can't do diddly shit until finding the Morph Ball. All of a sudden, it's apparent this isn't going to be like your grandmomma's NES games. Also if one goes into Metroid thinking of eventually making it outside into a Mushroom Kingdom-like happy place, one will be highly disappointed as this game is as dark as it gets, exactly what the team of programmers was going for. The sound is a step beyond the usual fare and the variety of effects was worked on and tweaked to perfection. The Bomb is loud and not just a blip, bouncing when in a Morph Ball sounds like a bounce somehow without being overly cartoony, and the Screww Attack sounds as close to an 8-bit tornado of death is going to. Controls were paid alot of attention to and are tight as can be so no bitch and moan there either. Graphically, this was the pinnacle of the time and truly felt like an immersive world other than a "stage" or "level". All in all, R&D1 really knocked it out of the park and were firing on every cylinder for this title and it showed.

The iconic Mother Brain, who just sits there and lets you shoot the shit out of her.

10/10 The second game to get the full monty but, really, if Donkey Kong Jr and Popeye hit for a 9 a piece, what other dimension would I have to be living in not to truly appreciate the scope of what Metroid brought to the early days of the NES? EVERYTHING Metroid did was different from the female protagonist being tough as nails, the bleak, desperate feeling of Zebes, all the way down to simple things that mean so much in the end like the Morph Ball? When it comes to perfect games for the NES, Super Mario Bros claims the light, happy side of things, while Metroid has a comfortable stranglehold on the dark, bump in the night, scare the piss out of you side.

WHOA SHIT! Now we're talkin'!!!

No reason to even delve into what happened to Samus in the long run like I normally would. Once of the most recognizable Nintendo mascots to this day and even underwent a game genre change into first person shooter with the Prime series, Samus Aran will always remain a staple in the things to come for the Big N. My only question is who the hell is JUSTIN BAILEY, the name that can be entered as a password in the original version? Anyone know?


Friday, September 14, 2012

NPC - A.C.Sativa - Wally Bear And The NO! Gang

(Wally Bear And The NO! Gang, 1992, American Game Cartridges)

It’s time for the review that will give you 5 for $20 all day long: Wally Bear and the NO! Gang
(Great, they’re fucking up the English language right in the title, and I’m a pothead who made a weed joke right in the opening line about an anti-drug  game. Yeah, this is going to go REAL well…)

They had no logo so I thought I'd make one that fit their business model.

OK, before we get started, a little history lesson…  American Game Cartridges was founded as a subsidiary of a company called ShareData in 1990, and was put into the hands of former Atari/Tengen  employee Richard C. Frick. They started out with ports of the Exidy arcade games Chiller (easily the most violent and gory game on the NES, a light-gun game so awesome that Mike might review it himself) and Death Race, best known for sharing a title with the only movie Jason Statham starred in that sucked. They also made an odd puzzle game, Shockwave, before Frick left (*cough* Chapter 11 *cough*) to start another company well-known to fans of unlicensed NES garbage, American Video Entertainment. At the time, programmer Keith Rupp was working on AGC's fourth game, Wally Bear and the Just Say No! Gang. Frick bought the rights to it, and to the other AGC games.

How can she say no to drugs when kissing Mr. T's head has to be like licking a Sonorian Desert Toad?

This was originally going to be called Wally Bear and the Just Say NO! Gang, but the term “Just Say No!” was already copyrighted. For those of you not around in the 80’s, president Ronald Reagan (considered either one of the best or one of the worst presidents in U.S. history, I’m definitely of the latter opinion) started the War on Drugs. I’m not going on a big rant about it, other than to say it’s NOT WORKING, it will never work, and it’s money down the fucking drain that would be better spent on education or heath care or maybe fixing the goddamned unemployment problem. Right around this time his hosebeast of a wife, Nancy (best known for consulting with astrologists about major policy decisions), appeared on Diff'rent Strokes (I think she was on Punky Brewster too) to introduce the Just Say No campaign to the world. Basic idea was that if someone offers you drugs, well, just say no. The problem with this (and the D.A.R.E. campaign) was lumping marijuana in with all the hard drugs. Some people got a little older, tried some weed, and realized that it’s perfectly safe (and pretty fun!). Said people then assume that the anti-drug people were lying their asses off about hard drugs like cocaine and heroin (and nowadays, meth) too, and get hooked. You’d think that people in the government would learn, but the Obama administration’s crackdown on medical marijuana in California (legal by state law, mind you) says otherwise.

No offense A.C., but ever try to duck the birds? They won't damage you for shit even if they land right on your head!

Anyway, Wally Bear is basically D.A.R.E.: the game. Funny thing is that the game didn’t meet Nintendo’s content guidelines, due to being about drugs, despite being an anti-drug game. There’s some irony for you. You’re a bear on a skateboard, and the game starts with you having to gather your friends (all of whom are being harassed by various dealers) for a party your uncle is throwing, with your mom telling you “Remember, stay smart, don’t start!” (That was the other anti-drug catchphrase at the time). It’s a basic side-scrolling platformer/adventure game, and the first noticeable thing is the shockingly good controls. Very responsive, really nothing to complain about here at all. Graphics are decent, I’ve certainly seen worse. What gets annoying right off is the birds that fly around in random patterns and kill you in 1 hit. Why a bunch of doves want to kill you (or what at all this has to do with drugs, unless “white birds” is some kind of coke slang I’ve never heard) is beyond me. There’s also some bulldogs that are pretty harmless unless you skate right into them. Power-ups include Frisbees to use as weapons (and they give health, though no health bar is ever present) and a skateboard power-up that makes you go faster. The gameplay is pretty much crap despite the tight controls, you’re pretty much forced to go really fast, and just hope you get lucky and one of the fucking birds doesn’t plow into you. You can’t memorize their patterns, they don’t have any.

That's just as weird as seeing a Bio Force Ape poster.

Level 2 takes you on a subway to rescue your friend Toby the Turtle from pill-dealing/tossing rats. Simple stuff here, just run and jump over the rats to the end. Most notable here is the ads for AGC’s 5th (and unreleased) game Crossbow. 

Let's go to a gas station where NO drug deals EVER take place!

Level 3 has you back outside with the fucking birds again. For a game designed for little kids, this game is pretty hard, and it’s the cheap bad kind of hard. Level 4 is exactly the same as level 2, level 5 has you back outside… yeah, I think I’m done here.

Just Say No is so open to interpretation.

Overall Score: 3/10: While I appreciate the good controls, it would have nice to build a decent game around them. This is nothing more than repetitive crap, and I can’t imagine even the most easily amused little kid playing this for more than 10 minutes without getting bored. Seriously, I can’t really think of anything else to say about this.

Got any unlicensed crap you want me to take a shot at? Let me know in the comments.

(NESquester: No chance I'm doing Chiller so that one gets my vote. Prove to me it is a gorier, scarier game than Sweet Home! That game is a mindfuck and a half. Great shit yet again!)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

NESquest #26 - Mario Bros

(Mario Bros, June 1986, Nintendo)

.....Seriously, why the fireshits do most of the Black Box games have box art with sprites or attire that aren't in the game? 

"One day I wish to be known as the biggest BAMF of symphonic, chamber, and choral music. Oh, and have my work introduce the first solo Mario game!"

Who would be eccentric enough to open up a game with Mozart's "Eine Kleine Machtmusik" for no good reason whatsoever? Shigeru Miyamoto of course! This edition of the Quest takes a nice long look at a NES port of the first solo outing for our favorite Italian plumber as well as the debut of the other member of the family in the original Mario Bros.


Originally released in 1983, Mario Bros was the creation of Mr.Miyamoto and Mr. Game Boy, Gunpei Yokoi, and was a spin-off to their earlier monumental title, Donkey Kong. There were alot more ideas bounced back and forth off of each other this time which in turn created tons of early Mario signatures. For example in Donkey Kong, if Mario fell from too far a height, he perished because Miyamoto thought he should be a normal "everyman" type. Yokoi insisted that Mario be able to fall from any height, his reasoning that video games are just an extension of your imagination so why not give him a few super human powers if htye had the power to do so? After all it begs another question, what young gamer wouldn't want to experience the rush of becoming a sort of super hero?

I somehow doubt Miyamoto and Yokoi researched a proper New York sewer for Mario Bros. Turtles, flies, and crabs would probably be the least of your worries here.

In early development, it was decided that the adventure would take place underground, so the trusty R&D 1 team went with a New York sewer. This seemingly random idea also transitioned the former Jumpman from being a carpenter to what we associate him with to this day, a plumber. Also equally as important, the creative team was hell bent on their new title being multiplayer, so a palette swap on Mario was done and the world was introduced to the other member of the Mario family, Luigi. Now alot of shit has been given to the Super Mario Bros film for a scene where their full names are given as "Mario Mario" and "Luigi Mario", but when you put two and two together, if they were dubbed the "Mario Brothers", what else would Luigi's name be? Certainly an assload less confusing than trying to figure out who Donkey Kong Country's DK truly is. I digress. 

Most of the time, you feel like you're running around in SMB3's ice levels anyway and then the shit *really* hits the fan

As for the game itself, memorable though it may be, it doesn't seem to weather the test of time as well as I thought it might. There are certainly worse games out there, but when thinking from a historical perspective and what this brought to the table, I certainly expected more. Mario Bros is definately a much better multiplayer affair and I would put good money on it causing some of the earliest broken friendships in gaming history as it isn't too hard to fuck the other player over be it coin robbing or flipping an enemy over right as another is above it. You are given a triple layer part of the sewers to work with and in order to advance, Mario must take out a set number of one of three types of enemies, none of which can be hit from above as in all later Mario games but rather flipped over from underneath. The Shellcreepers are the first versions of a Koopa and only need to be hit from below once. Sidesteppers are methed out crabs that have to be hit twice, becoming slightly pissed after the first strike. Lastly are the Fighter Flies, who besides bringing one of the most annoying sound effects ever to our 8-bit party, must be hit in a timed fashion the second they land on solid ground. When down to the final enemy of a stage, whichever baddie it may be flies into an "FTW" mode where it doubles in speed and can throw the timing off a bit, keeping the challenge fresh. Stand in one place too long and a fireball will insure your chubby Italian arse keeps moving. The fireballs come in red or green and try as I might, I couldn't figure out a difference between the two. Coins roll around the playing field but offer nothing more than a few points and a familiar sound effect. The coolest thing I found about Mario Bros was the POW button, as it becomes a sort of strategy when exactly to use the ever present, blinking, and taunting lifeline.

All we need is a parka and some baby seals to be an Ice Climber. Hey, maybe that's where Mario's hammer ran off to during this time...

The controls can be awkward and at times the jumping reminded me of Ice Climber, which is not a game I'd associate with that 'fun' word. Also in comparison to that basket of bile, every few stages present a bonus level where Mario is given 20 seconds to collect 10 coins, normally requiring around 19.5 seconds to pull off, so miss just one of those jumps and it's time to set the controller down and utter your favorite curse word. Like I needed any more reminiscing, later stages throw icicles onto the platforms to really hammer the unintentional point home. It's not all bad and has its moments but the negatives really jump out. My biggest complaint are the sounds. It starts strong with the out of place Mozart but once the action begins, there really isn't any music. One can't defend it as an atmospheric thing because of the sewer setting as an echo couldn't have been that tricky to throw in if that is what they were shooting for. The effects are also just lazy re-hashings of existing ones or some that were being programmed in soon to debut games. For example, when you get an extra life, it is the pause sound from SMB. No lie, I thought I hit the start button somehow and got my ass chewed off by a Shellcreeper when it first happened. When an icicle freezes a platform bust out with the unmistable sound the boxing glove makes as it rips through the screen when Punch-Out is started. Maybe I'm just bitching too much but little things like that can take me out of a game at times. 

To think when I was a young lad, I couldn't say his name properly so just called him "Loogie".

6/10 I know, I know, if it has Mario in the title it has to be good right? Wrong. For 1983, it held its own but as a half-assed port in 1986 considering what was out there and what was soon to come it isn't the super heavyweight some would assume it is. Not as bad as Ice Climber but not as good as Popeye or Wrecking Crew, Mario Bros can be fun but tends to wear thin rather quickly. It's kind of like coffee, drink a few cups and you're good to go but there is only so much of it you can stomach before really needing some water.

99 levels, zero way to save. I wonder who the first to sue Nintendo for unlimited Tylenol was?

No game barring Tetris has been ported as much as this one. Every single Super Mario Advance cart came with the same remake (Again, fucking lazy!) and if there is an old school console without the word Sega plastered on it, Mario Bros was present and accounted for. A sequel was made in 1995 using the same mechanics for the Virtual Boy of all things named Mario Clash and good ol' trusty Hudson Soft made a few renditions around the same time as the NES port. Mario Bros Special and Punch Ball Mario Bros, added a few new tricks to the old dog and to be quite honest, Punch Ball was awesome and outdid the NES port in almost every way. 

The first time gamers could utter "I'm about to throw my balls right on your face!"

Marvel comics ran this ad in many issues around 1984 and it was my first exposure to Mario Bros so thought I'd share. Anyone else remember the commercial where Luigi would sing the "Mario, where are youuuuu?" line?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

NESquest #25 - Balloon Fight

(Balloon Fight, June 1986, Nintendo)

........I'M BACK........

Another brainchild of the eccentric designer of Wrecking Crew and Gumshoe comes a game that many dismissed as a clone of the Midway classic Joust but has a bit more to offer. After a far too long absence, it is due time to shake the dust and rust off as the quest rages on with today's offering to the NES review gods, Balloon Fight., not only is it free but it's one of the most awesome fucking things you'll ever experience in your life.

I'll shoot straight with you and hide my head in the sand by admitting that I didn't even know this game existed until recently. While plowing through the greatest homage to the NES ever conjured up, the astounding Abobo's Big Adventure, there was a level that just owned my ass time after time. Every other stage, I had a forwards and backwards knowledge of the references the game threw at me, no matter how obscure but when I hit the balloon stage, I was sadly stumped. Never one to like not knowing things for longer than ten seconds, research revealed that the parodied title was Balloon Fight, a fun little gem from the mind of alpha-weirdo Yoshio Sakamoto shortly before his greatest known franchise was conceived. Trust ME, I'll be going inTo gReat detail on that bad bOy withIn a few more Days.

Insipring fear in the heart's of men wasn't what Mr. Balloon Fighter was shooting for apparently.

So to be fair, Balloon Fight and Joust aren't very far apart. The trusty ostrich is replaced by two balloons and the valiant knight is now a peculiar looking chap creatively dubbed the Balloon Fighter. The objective of the first mode is to ascend above your enemies, who closely resemble the Flying Men from Earthbound (even though Wiki also states this, I thought this instantly on my own, giving me a brief moment of NESnerd pride) and popping their balloons, causing them to fall to the ground. From there, either float towards them and bump into them to dispose of them permanently or hope they fall into the water, where one of the ugliest 8-bit fish you'll ever lay eyes on converts them into future fecal matter. Our hero can take two hits but after the first balloon is popped controls as if he smack in the middle of a vodka bender. On top of that, if too much time is taken accomplishing Flying Man death, clouds will suddenly produce lightning that acts as though you have a metal rod hanging out of your ass. The difficulty is already above average but once the homing missile style energy bolts come into play, it becomes downright merciless. As far as graphics and sound go, it isn't the best of the best or the worst of the worst and everytime I truly tried to rate those aspects, I found myself indifferent. I personally had a very hard go of this one until I read an interview with Miyamoto where he confirmed that he ripped the controls for Super Mario's water levels straight from Balloon Fight. After that 'a-ha' moment, I found if I treat these stages like World 2-2, the controls become quite a bit less daunting.

What other game can you watch a sentient aquatic turd with blue lips devour a Flying Man from Earthbound?

The second game mode dubbed Balloon Trip, makes the first mode look Sesame Street ABC/123. The Balloon Fighter is auto-scrolled right to left while being thrown everything under the sun to avoid. One single hit and it's the ballgame. Seriously, look at the picture below and imagine all that shit moving in patterns you have to predict while attempting the SMB swimming mechanics. Even playing underneath a double rainbow with a four leaf clover tied to a rabbit's foot, you aren't making it to the end of this mean bastard. To its credit, it does become addictive in the sense that you want to confirm time and again whether it's really that unfair and shaking your head in self-esteem crushing defeat when you realize it is. That's not to say it drags the game down at all, just gives it a Donkey Kong like desire to protect your controllers from "accidental" terminal velocity launchings into walls.

Now picture all this insanity moving in a random pattern and ponder what X-Gene you'll need to get through this. By the by, this is about 30 seconds into the level.

7/10 Initially, it appeared as though the critics were on the money with the "Joust clone" argument and that maybe Sakamoto wasn't wearing his magic shoes that gave him awe-inspiring surges of creativity otherwise but upon repeated playings, the appreciation for this little cart that could constantly gained steam. One of the most important attributes that the early NES titles could boast was replayability and without a doubt, Balloon Fight had that going for it.

I swear I'm not ribbing. The NES version gets one-upped by the Game Boy on this one.

Intresting tidbit time! As with the majority of early titles, there was a Vs. arcade cabinet with little differences and lacking the Balloon Trip mode which easily could've been a stand alone quarter chomper on its own. There was a sequel on the Game Boy titled Balloon Kid and has the rare distinction of being even better than the original on less powerful hardware. It's presented as more of a side scroller with more variety and better controls. Since GBquester will never happen on Earth-616 (for you Marvel geeks), I'd go as far as a 9/10 for that hidden masterpiece. Also worth mentioning was the fact that the Balloon Fighter was extremely close to being in Super Smash Bros but during pre-production was swapped out for those goddamned Ice Climbers, robbing new generations of discovering a decent game like Balloon Fight and instead causing kids everywhere to try out Ice Climber and uttering their first curse words.

There was even a little known version released starring the Zelda character Tingle.

...for those wondering what the hinted to Sakamoto game was that turned the tide forever, read the last line of the second paragraph again...