Retro Paradiso 01: Balloon Fight

I played this on NES Classic.

I played this on NES Classic.

Hello and welcome to my new series, Retro Paradiso. This blog is pretty experimental for me and may or may not work, but I wanted to still post it for feedback. So any and all feedback is appreciated. So, how this blog works is I play a retro game in three thirty minute interval (doesn’t have to be consecutive), and for each interval I write down anything I notice or discover as well as my progression through the game. Part two and three will be the same but may include some changes of opinion on certain aspects I noticed earlier. This blog type feels a bit out of my comfort zone, but I want to see how well this format will work and whether or not I need to tweak anything.

This blog type is inspired by the film Cinema Paradiso (highly recommended and on Netflix), and the film follows a person in three stages of their life, which is why I have three different stages of my experience with the game. I will say that I started playing the game before I had the idea down, so part one for this will be different if this series follows through. Well, let’s see if this will work.

Part One

Balloon Fight is an arcade game that has you floating around the map popping the balloons of your enemies who are also floating around the map trying to pop yours. To reach the next level, you must defeat all of your opponents in the level and the game goes on infinitely (as far as I can tell). One of the first things I noticed in the game is how much fun the game would be as a competitive multiplayer game. Sure, the game offers a cooperative mode, but going head-to-head would probably be a lot of fun in this game. But even if that were the case, I would still play this game alone anyways. The premise of the game is simple yet fun. Go around, pop the balloons then hit the enemies while they’re down, and move on. The game offers a good level of challenge, but I was not fond of the controls. Since the game involves floating around the level, I found the controls to be a bit stiff. Also, the game doesn’t give you extra lives, which I didn’t like all that much. Sure, you technically have six lives (each life has two balloons and each attack takes a balloon), but some things instantly kill you, so earning some extra lives here-and-there would have been nice. Also, at times this noise would come up that I could only describe as digital nails on chalkboard and it gets very annoying.

After playing through the main mode a bit, I noticed another mode called Balloon Trip. Where the main mode is like an arcade endless (going from level to level), this game is more like a modern endless (scrolling from right to left). In this mode you dodge balls of lightning and pick up balloons to get a high score. It was quite interesting to see both a classic endless game and a ‘modern’ endless game in this one package. But let me tell you, Balloon Trip is hard. The default high score to beat is 25,000, and I don’t think I reached even half of that. The difficulty doesn’t discourage me, so I’ll keep trying. Overall, I would say that my hopes on this game is high so far.

Part one high scores: Balloon Fight: ? Balloon Trip: ?

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Part Two

Another thirty minutes, and some more things to write about. I discovered that there is a button (I believe it is the b button on the NES controller) that has you float when holding it. That plus just getting used to the control has changed my thoughts on the controls. Now, they are much more bearable and I feel that I am doing much better because of it. And speaking of things I am getting used to; I’m now fine with not getting free lives. I feel that it’s different because I am used to retro games giving me lives over time, but the lack of doing so made the game feel more like a gauntlet and I liked that. And also speaking of discoveries; I found a strategy. I found that the best time to kill enemies (though not best way points-wise) is to take them out right when the level starts because at that time they are blowing up their balloons which means instant kills for those few precious seconds. Sure it doesn’t get me as many points as properly taking them down, but it’ll do.

I’m beginning to like the music a bit more. It’s a nice chip tune that plays well with the game. One thing I like less sound wise though is that annoying high pitch noise that constantly keeps coming up. It seems like something I trigger in the game, but I just don’t know what. Also, the game didn’t save my high score so I couldn’t say what they were for the first part (but don’t worry, I have my high scores now). And finally to come back to the Trip mode, I find that it is simply too hard to get a good high score. Even after learning about the better flying button, I find it too difficult. Still, I’m gonna bang my head against it until I get something.

Part two high scores: Balloon Fight: 113,000. Balloon Trip: 11,750.

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Part Three

This final part doesn’t have a lot from me. Because of that, I want this last part to be things I just thought about (kind of like how the character at this stage of his life…well, I don’t want to spoil). For the most part, I just got a lot better at the game and by that time I felt done with the game. I don’t mean in a bad way where I never want to play it again, but in a way where I have seen and experienced everything to see and experience and all that was left was to get high scores. The only thing I noticed was that after a certain point the game started re-using stages, which felt pretty cheap. It didn’t even take that long either to start seeing the same stages you played earlier. Also, one thing I forgot to mention was that at every fourth level (I think) is a bonus stage where balloons float up and you try to pop them. I thought the mode was fine, but I wanted to bring it up to talk about another level/ The first level after the second bonus stage is a pain in my ass. Doable, but a pain in my ass worth mentioning.

Another thing I just remembered are the other elements of the level. Some storm clouds hang in the sky and after spending too much time in the level will shoot a ball of lightning that bounces around and instantly kills you if touched. A fish is at the bottom center of the map ready to eat you or other enemies, bubbles occasionally come up and give you some extra points, and some strange spinning thing inhabits the later levels that… knock you back a little? Also, only the fish and bubbles inhabit the endless mode and the bubble stops you from moving (which has screwed me up more times than help me). I found the different elements of the levels (except for the spinny thing), to be scarce but useful. The clouds made me hurry up, the bubbles gave me points, and the fish helped gobble up some enemies if they fell into the water. It’s nothing crazy but it is something worth pointing out. I don’t have anything else that just popped into my head with this game, so I think that is going to end part three.

Part three high scores: Balloon Fight: 320,750. Balloon Trip: 20,970 (so close yet so far).

That is going to wrap up the blog. In the end, I would say that Balloon Fight is a pretty fun game. It doesn’t take long to get into its groove and go for high scores, but after a certain point in the game the game’s difficulty plateaus because of re-used levels. Both of its modes are fun and worth playing. If I ever get a hankering to play an endless arcade game, then this game will be on the list of possible games to play.

I feel pretty positively about this new series, but feedback on it would be very appreciated. I was originally going to do two games per blog (the other one would’ve been F-Zero), but I felt that one was enough (though if you want two let me know). Thank you all for reading and thank you especially for any feedback given.