Posted on September 16, 2013
Breaking and Entering… Minus the Breaking
Balloon Fight is often treated as Nintendo’s answer to Midway’s arcade classic Joust, but I honestly think it’s the better of the two games.
Sure, it came out three years later, and companies had since learned a thing or two about programming a good-quality arcade game. Still, it was the idea of flying around and popping opponents’ balloons that seemed way more random and fun than being a knight, flying around on an ostrich. It had an even more light-hearted approach, and I can’t help but appreciate that.
When it comes to arcade titles, there are usually only two things that matter to me – controls and music. Every single one of those early games – from Pong all the way to Donkey Kong – had one simple gameplay element that you either liked or didn’t like. Take it or leave it. There was no depth, no “second quest”, no real storyline… if the controls felt good and the music had you humming along, you were all set!
For me, Balloon Fight had both.
You’d be tapping away, steering your little dude around the screen with sweaty palms, often holding your breath as your balloons come within a hair of being popped by those penguin-like enemies. Add some of the catchiest chip tunes you’ll ever hear, cool game modes and bonus stages, hilarious multiplayer and that good ol’ “black box” cover art, I definitely rank it among the most memorable early NES titles!
**So, I just caught that. In Joust, there are birds that can’t fly (ostriches) that are being flown around. Balloon Fight has flying penguins. Way to go out on a limb, Nintendo!**
Whenever I’m driving along and see a house that I used to visit on a regular basis, I can’t help but flash back to what the inside of that house looked like. When I visit my mom’s place, I see the house across the street where Josh used to live, and it brings back quite a few of those memories; watching countless episodes of TMNT in that beige-carpeted living room with the beige-bricked fireplace, or the somewhat dark (but finished and furnished) basement that always smelled like fresh laundry.
The house’s current owners have probably (hopefully) renovated since then, the décor and style common in the late 80’s\early 90’s having run its course. I still can’t help but picture the way it used to be when I go to Mom’s.
Those images are fresh in my mind as I recall that time I actually entered the house when nobody was home…
It was still pretty early in my love affair with the NES, so any chance I had to play a different game, I jumped at. Josh told me a day or two earlier that he had rented Balloon Fight, so I headed over to his place to join in on the balloon-popping fun. When I knocked on their door, however, there was no answer.
I found that incredibly odd, because after all, he had rented a game! My thought process was literally; “C’mon, when you rent a game, you stay home to play it. I think you’re home, and you just can’t hear me knocking.” I stood there for a few minutes, knocked even harder, and patiently waited for someone to answer.
Having waited long enough, I finally decided to check the door to see if it was locked; it wasn’t, which was quite obviously a sign they were home. I strolled into the house, calling Josh’s name, but there was still no answer.
I walked around the downstairs area where the NES was hooked up, revelled in the smell of fresh laundry, but found no sign of Josh or his parents. I went upstairs to the living room, then the hallway where the bedrooms were, and there was still no sign of anyone in the house.
It was at this point that I figured I’d just sit around and wait for them to get home. I could probably go back to my house and wait there instead, but Josh had the TMNT blimp toy! That thing was awesome! I could just play with that while I waited, and they’d be home in no time.
Well, I found the toy, but the blimp part was deflated. I wasn’t in the mood to inflate it, so I left Josh’s bedroom, went down the hall, and was about to leave the house when I noticed a car pull into the driveway. Yay! Josh was home. Let’s get our Balloon Fight-ing on, shall we?
As I waited in the kitchen, in came Josh’s mom… but Josh wasn’t with her.
Obviously, she was quite surprised to see me standing in her kitchen. I, on the other hand, casually said hi, and asked where Josh was. Surprisingly not in an angry tone, she told me he had gone into town with his father.
“OK! Well, see ya later!”
At that point, she told me to have a seat, and that she’d be giving my mom a call. OK… fine, I guess… I could get home by myself. My place was right across the street, so I wasn’t quite sure why she had to call Mom.
Mom came over, apologized profusely, walked me back, and told me all about why it was wrong to go into the house while nobody was there. I didn’t really understand what the big deal was at the time. It wasn’t my fault the door was unlocked! Besides, I was just a four year-old kid, not some crook!
As time went on, I’d obviously come to understand how much of a shock it would have been for his mom to come home to a little kid (that wasn’t hers) standing in her kitchen. I feel bad every time I think it, but had I not done that, I would have one less funny story to share on this blog. heheh