Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fantasy Smash Bros.: Balloon Fighter

Showing up as my mind's first representative combatant in the Smash Bros. imagination arena is none other than the one, the only, the man whose name you will probably never know: the Balloon Fighterrrr!

Takin' you down old school, yo.
The Balloon Fighter, also known as the Balloonist in some circles, starred in one of Nintendo's most famous early titles: Balloon Fight. The game was launched in arcades way back in the ancient days of 1984. By stroke of the 80's, North Americans were the first to duke it out in the skies of Balloon Land, as the game wouldn't drift onto Japanese shores until its release on the Famicom in 1985.

Balloon Fight isn't merely known amongst older gamesters and Nintendo Nerds. The title is still fairly well known in those crazy Modern Warfare fanatics, and those tykes are barely out of diapers! Its popularity and continual appeal has prompted Nintendo to port the title again, and again, and again, and it shows up in almost every Nintendo Classic Collection series since the 1990's. Everything from the stillborn e-Reader, to the NES furniture set in the original Animal Crossing, to Nintendo's 3DS Ambassador Program has seen this game and all its glory, and it even boasts a pair of sequels, a remake, and a remake of the sequel starring Hello Kitty.

Because Alice just wasn't lame enough.
In addition to all of that, Balloon Fight regularly has guest appearances in the WarioWare franchise, and has even shown up in Tetris DS. The Balloon Fighter himself was even originally planned to show up in previous Super Smash Bros. games, and has shown his face in a Melee trophy. The man-eating salmon that stalks the waters of Balloon Land terrorized Smashers in Brawl's stage "The Summit", the Flipper pestered players in Melee, and the Balloon Trip song, the characteristic theme song for the franchise, has shown up in both Melee and Brawl. Adding the Fighter himself is really a no-brainer at this point.

It's almost like adding Mario!
It's time for Balloon Fighter to stop giving Smash fans a striptease and throw his hat, erm, helmet in the ring. And I'm going to tell you just how well he could do that with style.

The Balloon Fighter, like Yoshi, lacks a proper recovery move. This is made up for by the fact that he can fly almost endlessly by tapping the jump button, much like Kirby, Pit, and Metaknight. The difference here is that Balloon Fighter can fly around for a much longer period of time, and can't molest you with swords or arrows while he's at it.

However, the balloon's gift is not totally endless, and after a while the Balloon Fighter will find himself falling to Earth, Popstar, Zebes, the Mushroom Kingdom, Hyrule, or wherever the hell else he happens to be flying around. Not only will he grow tired, but his balloons, being balloons, are not invulnerable. They can only take so much punishment before bursting, and in Smash Bros. that punishment is tallied by convenient damage percentages, of which each balloon can survive a mere 35%. After that, they burst, and the Fighter is down one whole balloon.

With only one balloon, the Fighter can't carry himself as high, as far, or for as long before he tires out. He also moves quite a bit slower and has a harder time maneuvering himself through the sky. Once an eagle, once you've clipped his wings, the Balloonist will have a hard time getting off the ground. This is even more true when both of his balloons have been popped, at which point he's left to rely on just his measly pair of basic jumps, and those aren't going to get him very far.


Balloon Fighter's special attacks take advantage of his balloons and his cartoonish nature, the two facets of the character that they very well should.

Up + B: Zapper - This move can only be performed if both balloons are intact. Taking advantage of the balloon's famed ability to generate static electricity, the Balloon Fighter rubs the balloons together, creating a small yet effective spark between them. Enemies who are attempting to attack him from above will find their projectiles stopped, and the unlucky ones will find themselves fried with a side of humiliation.

Standard B: Reinflate - The name couldn't be any simpler. If the Balloon Fighter's had any of his balloons popped, he can whip out a pump and blow up a new one by tapping B, an ability demonstrated by bother Balloon Fighter's bird adversaries, and Alice, the star of Balloon Kid (2:52).

However, recovering his recovery isn't the only thing this move can do. If Balloon Fighter happens to have both of his balloons totally intact, he can use the pump to super-inflate them. While this holds no benefit for him when trying to fly off, and it actually reduces the amount of damage the balloons can take, if he manages to inflate them to fruition, the balloons will burst and his enemies will wish they'd had a pin. The explosion packs enough force to bury the Balloon Fighter deep within the platform, not that he should worry, as his enemies have likely been launched into orbit.

Side + B: Water Balloon - A simple name for a simple move. The Balloon Fighter has come packing, and what he's got is the most basic and infamous of latex weaponry: the water balloon. Balloon Fighter hucks the water balloon in arc, similar to Yoshi's egg toss move. While it doesn't move too fast and doesn't do a whole lot of damage, the beneficial effects are endless. The water balloon bursts on contact with an enemy, drenching them with water. If they come into contact with any kind of electrical attack while water is still dripping from their nose, the knock back, damage, and paralysis are all far more punishing.

Down + B: Static Pop! - This move can only be performed if at least one of the balloons is intact. Holding Down on the control stick and tapping B repeatedly will prompt the Balloonist to do one of two things: if he only has one balloon left, he's going to rub it on his head like mad. If he's got both balloons fastened tight, he's going to rub them together. While having two balloons increases the efficiency, the results are the same: one static charged Balloon Fighting fiend. Now coursing with electricity, all of the Balloon Fighter's attacks have electrical properties, which some of his opponents might find quite shocking!

What will I come up with next?
Final Smash: Balloon Trip - Most players familiar with the Balloon Fight franchise are going to be familiar with its nightmarish idea of a fun bonus mode, the "Balloon Trip." In this mode players are forced to fly around a maze of seemingly sentient ball lightnings while remaining stranded over an endless ocean of eternal drowning. Few players survive the game for more than a few seconds.

This concept is swallowed whole in Balloon Fighter's Final Smash attack. Our Ballonist friend is temporarily granted endless flight as wave after wave of ball lightnings rush onto the scene. As long as the player controlling the Balloon Fighter can dodge the swarm of ball lightning, his enemies will find themselves mercilessly molested by the sparkling stars.

Make them feel our pain!
Of course, once the Balloon Fighter is zapped by his own lighting balls, the attack ends. Not only this, but being zapped by lightning is more than enough to burst both of those balloons, so if the player doesn't end the attack over a platform, it will all be for naught. Such is the sad fate of the Balloonist...

The Stats

Size - 4/10
Weight - 4/10
Strength - 3/10
Speed - 3/10
Jump - 2/10

The Breakdown:

Size - As mentioned above, there are some subtle hints that the Ice Climber's world has some in-universe connection to Balloon Land, so while the Ice Climbers might not have have a nostril between them, it's easy to imagine our little Fighter coming in at around the same height.

Weight - Balloon Fighter is light enough to be lifted off the ground by just a single balloon, however there are two things that must be noted: unless the Balloon Fighter is flapping his arms like an idiot, he's heavy enough to be an anchor, and given the fantastical nature of Nintendo properties, it's entirely possible that the balloons are filled with Hyrulian Super Helium. Given that this is the case, the Balloon Fighter's weight is based off the simple fact that he's a human who doesn't eat nearly as much pizza as the famed Super Mario, so I assume he'd weigh in between 100 and 200 pounds, which still makes him a feather compared to King Koopa.

Strength - For all his sequels, spin-offs, and strengths, the Balloon Fighter isn't capable of even popping balloons without the iron fist of gravity backing him up. Left to his own devices, I don't imagine he'd have much like taking at a swing at the ol' King of Swing himself.

Speed - If you've played Balloon Fight (and if you're reading this, there's a good chance that you have), you've seen the Fighter twiddling his thumbs at the bottom of the screen on more than one occasion. That's plenty of time for you to know that the little twerp does not run fast. At all. If he were to race literally anybody, he'd be a tortoise and they'd be a hedgehog.

Jump - With no superhuman attributes to speak of, the Balloon Fighter is little more than an average bloke whom happens to possess an acute ability to maneuver with the aid of helium. Unfortunately, this leaves him a little… weighted down. Without the flying abilities granted to him by his balloons, Balloon Fighter isn’t going much farther than a lead anvil.

The Alternate Palettes

Super Smash Bros. is famous for totally disregarding the concept of "costumes" in favor of Marvel vs Capcom's tried and true way to piss people off: alternate color schemes! Unlike Capcom, however, Nintendo doesn't try to convince us that these palette-swaps are actual costumes, and the subtle nods and references to a character's history or likeness are taken in good stride.

With this formula in mind, I conceived the following palette swaps:

Palette One: This is the standard 1P palette used in the original Balloon Fight game for the NES. This palette serves as the Balloon Fighter's primary color scheme, as well his palette for the Red Team in a Team Vs. match.

Palette Two: This is the typical 2P palette swap used in the NES game. As such, it bears some significance to the character's developmental history. This palette is also the palette used for the Blue Team color scheme.

Palette Three: The Green Team color scheme is inspired by Tingle's appearance in Tingle's Balloon Fight, a parody remake of the original Balloon Fight featuring The Legend of Zelda's misguide man-fairy: Tingle! This costume even includes Tingle's mismatched balloon colors.

Palette Four: This color scheme is a reference to Alice, the leading lady in Balloon Fight's ill-fated sequel, Balloon Kid. While Alice herself wasn't iconic enough to win out over the Balloonist, I thought it would be cool to pay respect to the continuation of the franchise.

Palette Five: This palette never actually saw any use in a game, but it was the one used for the Balloon Fight set of cards in the NES Classics E-Reader collection. I'm not sure who messed up the colors there, but it made filling in the Balloonist's iconic colors that much easier.

Palette Six - The sixth palette is probably also the most recognizable, especially to those who've spent far too long in front of a screen. Balloon Fighter has donned a pair Mario's old duds, namely the ones he wore in Super Mario Bros. I chose to do this because of the uncanny resemblance the two characters shared back in the day...


Each character in the Smash Bros. franchise has a special theme that plays when they've kicked some ass in a VS. match, and I can't think of a better way to end the post than by showing off the Balloon Fighter's. Celebrate, Balloonist, you're the first in my long line of unapologetic admissions of total nerdome.

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