A look at Balloon Fight's brilliant Game Boy follow-up
The NES classic found its full potential realized in handheld form (and also by Hello Kitty).
The problem with the Game Boy Works video series? The Game Boy played host to a lot of games that really weren't all that great. On the other hand, that does mean that when a genuinely great game comes along, it stands out in even higher profile than it might if it were bobbing along as simply another passenger on a sea of perfection.
Case in point: After several consecutive interesting (but not actually good) misses, we have Nintendo R&D1 putting in another appearance and revisiting one of their first great NES creations: Balloon Fight. Balloon Kid takes the basic mechanics of that older game and focuses it specifically on creating a sort of platformer adventure rendition of "Balloon Trip." And it's great.
There's lots to love here, and if you've been paying attention to the NES Works series, you can really see how Balloon Kid brings together a number of different creative threads Nintendo had been tugging at and weaves them into something at once new yet familiar. Even the music is classic Hip Tanaka, reworking the Balloon Trip theme, the "Chill" theme from Dr. Mario, and other Tanaka hallmarks.
Despite having floated beneath the collective radar for many years, Balloon Kid has an interesting (if quiet) legacy: It was reworked for Famicom under a different name, reappeared on Game Boy Color, and even shows up on Virtual Console. Like most people, I didn't really appreciate what this game represents until recently, but I encourage everyone to give it a play. It definitely deserves the attention.
(And thanks to the Retronauts listener who donated this cartridge to the project in the midst of a string of conversations at a Portland meet-up a couple of years ago! I apologize for not writing down your name at the time.)