The player takes the role of the Balloon Fighter, in one of three different modes. Game A, 1-Player Game, is a series of single-screen phases where the player must defeat all of the Balloon Birds on screen to progress to the next. Game B, 2-Player Game, is the same as Game A but with a second player who is able to either cooperate with player one or attack them. Game C, Balloon Trip, is an endless obstacle course scrolling from left to right where the player must avoid Sparks while collecting as many Balloons as they can.
Falling into the water will cause the player to lose a life, of which you can only have at most two extra lives in modes A and B. In Balloon Trip, however, you only have one chance and the game will end if you fall into the water. In the first two modes, if both of the player's Balloons are popped, such as by being hit by a Balloon Bird or touching one of the Sparks that the clouds produce, they will fall into the water.
There are 12 unique phases in total. After every 3 phases there will be a Bonus Round. Each group of three levels is given its own color palette, with the first three having light green grass, phases 4-6 having red grass, 7-9 having blue-green grass, and 10-12 having blue grass. Once the player completes all twelve phases, the counter continues to increase but the game continues to cycle through phases 4-12.
The player is rewarded with points for popping Balloons, whether those are free-floating, held by Balloon Birds, or even the other player. The player can also gain points from popping Giant Bubbles, kicking Balloon Birds while they're on the ground, or ripping their parachutes as they fall. The player is also granted bonus points for popping every Balloon in a Bonus Round.
|Popping a Giant Bubble||500|
|Kicking a Balloon Bird||750 (Pink)
|Popping a Balloon Bird's Balloon||500 (Pink)
|Ripping a Balloon Bird's Parachute||1000 (Pink)
|Attacking the other player||1000|
|Popping a free-floating Balloon||300 (Green)
|Getting a Super Bonus||10000 (First Bonus Round)
15000 (Second Bonus Round)
20000 (Third Bonus Round)
25000 (Fourth Bonus Round)
30000 (Fifth Bonus Round and beyond)
This game has been ported and re-released in various forms following the initial release in 1985, starting with a simultaneously released version for the Playchoice-10. The first ports to exist were officially licensed PC ports developed by Hudson Soft, including versions for the Sharp X1, PC-8801, and Sharp MZ-1500. Although never released, there seemed to be plans to re-release Balloon Fight for the Famicom Disk System, according a to a leak of Nintendo's internal files. The first standalone handheld port was made for the Sharp Zaurus PDA in 2001, followed by both Balloon Fight-e and Famicom Mini: Balloon Fight on the Game Boy Advance. Later the game became a standard addition to the Virtual Console on the Wii, 3DS, and Wii U, as well as being included in the Nintendo Switch Online service. The game also received a complete remake in the form of Tingle's Balloon Fight DS, a Japanese Club Nintendo exclusive game in which Tingle from the Legend of Zelda series replaces the Balloon Fighter. It was also included as one of the 30 games on the NES Classic Edition console. Beyond the official releases, there was one unofficial clone on the Watara Supervision, as well as several hacks of the game.
The game has also been included within several other Nintendo games in a playable form. The first instance of this was Doubutsu no Mori on the N64, where players could play the entire game using a special item. This playable version was retained in later re-releases, as well as the localized version known as Animal Crossing. Trial versions of Balloon Fight which had a strict time limit appeared in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and amiibo Tap: Nintendo's Greatest Bits, both on the Wii U. While the full game is not accessible, short segments of gameplay from Balloon Fight are playable as challenges in both NES Remix and its 3DS successor, Ultimate NES Remix.
- Main article: List of Lost Balloon Fight Games
As of February 2019, the following known ports of Balloon Fight are unavailable to the general public due to services shutting down:
- Sharp Zaurus
- The service through which the game was originally downloadable is now defunct. No known backups exist online.
- Wii Virtual Console
- With the Wii Shop Channel's closure, there is no official way to purchase this version. However, it is still possible to re-download the game if it was bought before the shut down, though this service may not last indefinitely either. It is currently unknown if the game has been backed up online.
It seems likely that the 3DS, Wii U, and Switch Online ports of Balloon Fight will also be lost at some point due to being download-exclusive. There is currently no official word on when these services will shut down, but it seems probable that the next to vanish would be the 3DS or Wii U ports, given that the Switch Online Service is relatively new.
- See also Balloon Fight (NES)/3DS glitches
Vertical Speed Conservation
In all direct-port versions of the game, the player's vertical speed is not reset after the player dies. Usually, most deaths involve having a downward velocity, although if the player is moving upward while being eaten by the fish, the player will "jump" into the air upon respawning, even keeping the standing pose while in the air.
Player 2 Disadvantage
It is possible to start a two player game where player two starts the game with only one Balloon. The following steps seem to trigger it:
- Play Balloon Trip until a Bubble appears
- Pop the Bubble and then hit a Spark.
- Start the two player game.
This glitch may be due to a shared memory location between something relating to death or the Bubble timer and player two's Balloon count.
If the player travels under the water and moves past the edge of the screen without getting eaten by the Fish, they will wrap to the other side of the sea and can escape if they don't get eaten.
Phases A0-00 and up
For Phases 100-255, the phase counter will start displaying the number incorrectly, such as showing "Phase A0" for what should be Phase 100, and "Phase P5" for what should be Phase 255. After this, the counter will reset back to 0, although it will not start the cycle of normal phase designs at "Phase 1" at this point. It will continue with the usual cycle of phases 4-12, but the count will continue to increase regardless.
- There are some leftovers from Vs. Balloon Fight that weren't implemented in-game, such as the "End" ticket and the ceiling barrier tiles.
- Two versions of the cartridge exist: a "3-Screw" version and a "5-Screw" version. In fact, most NES games have a "3-Screw" and a "5-Screw" version, usually having a rarer version. In Balloon Fight's case, the the 3-Screw variant is the rarer one, as it was produced later, likely when everyone who wanted the game had it. Also, the 3-Screw variant had the updated white oval Nintendo Seal of Quality, which is still used to this day. The 5-Screw version uses the older round black Nintendo Seal of Quality.
- Several different labels for different regions such as the European version, the Hong-Kong version, the Mattel-Italy version, and the Famicom version.
- This is the last Balloon Fight game to have the blue Balloon Fighter. The last appearance of the blue Balloon Fighter was Ultimate NES Remix, where he appears in various places, but is in no way playable, since the game is only in single-player challenges.
- The in-game copyright states it was copyrighted in 1984, although it was released in 1986. The copyright shows 1984 because that was the year Vs. Balloon Fight was released, and there likely wasn't space (or really a need) to have it say "1984-1986". After all, Balloon Fight was intended to be a port of Vs. Balloon Fight to the NES.
- In Nintendo Badge Arcade, a free application for the 3DS which allows players to decorate their home menus with badges won in a crane game, there is a series of pixel art badges. One of these badges is of the Famicom cartridge of Balloon Fight.
- According to an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto, the flying mechanics in this game were reused in Super Mario Bros. for when the player character is swimming.
- Because this is the first Balloon Fight game to feature pausing, it is the first game with Pause Slowdown.
- The theme used for Balloon Trip has appeared in soundtracks such as the Famicom 20th Anniversary DVD and Super Smash Bros. for 3DS/Wii U - A Smashing Soundtrack.
|Balloon Fighting Games||Vs. Balloon Fight (Arcade) - Balloon Fight (NES)|
|Remakes||PC-8801 - Sharp X1 - Sharp MZ-1500 - Tingle's Balloon Fight DS (DS)|
|Ports||Playchoice-10 - Sharp Zaurus - Balloon Fight-e (GBA) - Famicom Mini: Balloon Fight (GBA) - Wii Virtual Console - Balloon Fight (3DS) - Wii U Virtual Console - Nintendo Switch Online - Arcade Archives VS. BALLOON FIGHT (Switch)|
|Balloon Trip Games||Balloon Fight (Game & Watch) - Balloon Kid (GB) - Balloon Trip Breeze (Wii U)|
|Remakes||Hello Kitty World (Famicom) - Balloon Fight GB (GBC)|
|Ports||Balloon Fight GB (3DS) - Balloon Kid (3DS)|