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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Nintendo Franchises That Need to Return Part 2

The Big N gets a lot of flack for relying on it's existing IPs. Sure, they could do well to create some new ones, but let's be honest; Nintendo's currently existing IPs are some of the best in gaming. And yet, there are plenty that have been left by the wayside while the bigger names grab all the headlines. This is Part 2 of Nintendo Franchises That Need to Return.

Part 1

Balloon Fight

Balloon Fight (NES)

Call it a Joust clone if you must, but man, it's a really good one. In Balloon Fight, you play as Balloon Fighter, using two balloons to stay float as you flutter across the screen and try to burst the balloons of your enemies while trying to prevent your own balloons from being popped. Once you've let the air of your adversaries' balloons, they'll hit the ground (or the ocean if you popped them over water) and will get a few seconds to make new balloons, but if you punt them off the screen, you can stop them before they become a problem again. It was simple but extremely fun gameplay that was enjoyable alone or with a friend. As if that wasn't enough, there's another mode called Balloon Trip, a survival mode of where you control Balloon Fighter through an auto scrolling level on a single life filled with all electrified walls on a single life. Balloon Fight was short on music, but the jingles were catchy and so was the longest track in the game, Balloon Trip, which played during the mode of the same name and in bonus stages. Balloon Fight was definitely one of the better early NES games.

Balloon Kid (GB)

Years later, Balloon Fight would get a sequel with Balloon Kid on the Game Boy. It may have been on Nintendo's black and white brick, but Balloon Kid changes things up considerably, like serving up a plot. Jim is playing with balloons and has a bunch of them tied to him. All of a sudden, a strong gust of wind picks up and carries Jim off as his sister Alice watches in a panic. Alice takes up her own set of balloons and sets off on an adventure to find Jim. Gone are the single screen levels of the original Balloon Fight and in their place are scrolling stages complete with obstacles and enemies for you to avoid as you make your way to the goal. You'll even encounter a few bosses here and there. Another thing separating Balloon Kid from Balloon Fight is Alice's ability to drop her balloons which is necessary for certain sections in the game like dropping on a few bosses or giving Alice a running start. Balloon Kid also has a Balloon Trip mode that's very much like the one in the NES game. There's much more music in Balloon Kid than there was in Balloon Fight including an awesome arrangement of that catchy Balloon Trip theme from the original Balloon Fight.

Balloon Kid hasn't seen as many re-releases as Balloon Fight, but it has had a few noteworthy ones. In 1992, Balloon Kid was re-branded with the Hello Kitty license and released as Hello Kitty World on the Famicom. Despite some slight graphical changes, Hello Kitty World was still Balloon Kid with Hello Kitty in the place of Alice. Strangely, the original black and white version of Balloon Kid would go unreleased in Japan until 2000 when the game was released as Balloon Fight GB for the Game Boy Color. Not only did this version have a shinny set of colors, but it also had a save feature, which was pretty convenient seeing as how Balloon Kid can be quite difficult. It would have been nice if Nintendo gave us this version of Balloon Kid instead of the colorless one on the 3DS eShop, but a black and white version of Balloon Kid is better than nothing.

Nintendo hasn't completely forgotten about Balloon Fight to the extent that they have other properties. In 2007, Club Nintendo members in Japan could use points to pick up Tingle's Balloon Fight, a remake of the NES game with enhanced graphics and new music and sound effects along with four player support. The original Balloon Fight was also in the game and even if you don't like Tingle (which is basically everyone on the planet) you could still delight in watching that annoying giant fish swallow him whole in the game's opening. In WarioWare: Smooth Moves, one of 9-Volt's microgames was a 3D version of Balloon Trip. A full version of this mini game could be unlocked and it comes complete with a kickin' remix of the Balloon Trip theme. More recently, Balloon Fight was recognized in Nintendo Land as one of the attractions as Balloon Trip Breeze.

Nintendo Land, Balloon Trip Breeze (Wii U)

I'm very grateful for all the re-releases and the references. Heck, I think it's awesome that Balloon Trip got it's own attraction in Nintendo Land when Nintendo could have included something else in place of it. But, I think the Balloon Fight deserves to have it's own games again. I have no problem with a digital version of a new Balloon Fight. An adventure mode like Balloon Kid, a single player experience like the original Balloon Fight with tons of levels and of course, a level editor and an endless mode in the form of Balloon Trip and I will be one very happy camper.


One of my most fondly remembered racing games that didn't star a plumber or anti-gravity cars, Uniracers was proof that you could go insanely fast using only a single wheel and that you can stuff plenty of personality into a humble unicycle. Where most racing games of the time used mode 7, Uniracers was strictly a side scrolling racing affair. The 2D tracks worked greatly in favor of the gameplay mechanics. In order to advance ahead of your rival, you have to perform tricks while in the air. These can range from twisting after a simple jump or combining the twist with a few rolls. The better and longer lasting combination of stunts you successfully pull off, the bigger burst of speed you'll get in return. Tracks are constructed with loops, hills, big jumps and just about everything else you could imagine to give you serious air time to pull of sick tricks.

Along with Mega Man X, Donkey Kong Country and Final Fantasy VI, Uniracers was another reason 1994 was such an amazing year for SNES owners. Sadly, Uniracers saw a limited release of only 300,000 units. DMA Designs, the developer of Uniracers was sued by Pixar because they claimed that Uniracers ripped off their computer generated unicycle from their 1987 computer animated short film, Red's Dream. Unfortunately for DMA and Nintendo, an idiot judge ruled in Pixar's favor and no more than the initial print run of Uniracers carts was ever produced. Nintendo hasn't touched Uniracers since and a Virtual Console release seems unlikely. 


One look at a screen shot of either StarTropics game and you'll more than likely be convinced that these are Zelda clones. That isn't a far off assumption. The StarTropics titles are filled with dungeons, overworld maps, puzzles and lots of exploration just like the Zelda series. But hey, Nintendo made Zelda so, you can't really blame them for ripping themselves off. Besides, for what they are, StarTropics and StarTropics II are some pretty good clones.

StarTropics (NES)

In the original game, you play as Mike Jones, a teenager who's looking for his missing uncle, who in actuality was kidnapped by aliens. Mike defends himself with weapons like a yo-yo and a baseball bat. Some of these weapons can be upgrade, like the yo-yo turning into a morning star, but these upgraded weapons are dependent on Mike's heart count. If his hearts drop to a certain number, the weapon will revert back to what it previously was. The controls are on the stiff side, operating on a grid system. StarTropics may be a Zelda clone, but the controls are far more limited in this game than in the original Legend of Zelda. There's a slight delay in Mike's movements and he cannot move while jumping. Because of Mike's clunky movements, it can take longer than it needs to to get across a room full of tiles. The awkward control scheme can make StarTropics a tough game to get into and the game gets quite punishing later on, but it's still one I recommend giving a try.

Zoda's Revenge: StarTropics II fixes many of the control issues that the original game had. Mike can move while jumping and he can walk around dungeons in eight directions instead of four.
Zoda's Revenge: StarTropics II was released very late in the NES' life, being one of the last games to hit the system. As such, most attention was on the SNES and Genesis, which could have been factors for the game being overlooked. Even marketing the game with Mega Man 6 and the top loading NES couldn't save StarTropics II from poor sales. But if you're interested, both games can be purchased on the Wii's Virtual Console.

Zoda's Revenge: StarTropics II (NES)

Perhaps it's due to the series having so much in common with Zelda that Nintendo sees no reason to revive it. One could argue that Zelda's very existence makes StarTropics unnecessary. But there are still those few differences that separate from Zelda. Breaking the games up into chapters makes it more liner and the weapon system is also unique (I love using the yo-yo). I'm interested in seeing what a developer like Alpha Dream (Mario & Luigi: Dream Team) or Intelligent Systems (Paper Mario: Sticker Star) could do with the adventures of Mike Jones. 

Battle Clash/Metal Combat

Battle Clash (SNES)
Metal Combat: Falcon's Revenge (SNES)

You know what the Super Scope 6 is, don't you? It's that gray bazooka in Super Smash Bros. Melee/Brawl that you pick up and either spam shots or charged up for a more power packed blast. Well, it's also a real life peripheral. I think you can count the number of SNES games that used it on one hand. Yes, the Super Scope was one of those accessories that you used with the game it came packed with, tossed it in your closet and then forgot you ever had the thing. But if there was a reason or two that made the Super Scope worth owning, Battle Clash and it's sequel, Metal Combat were it. Look at the screen shots for both games and tell me you aren't hyped. Both Battle Clash and Metal Combat place you in control of a giant mecha, battling it out with other giant mechas in first person view. The Wii was the perfect console of choice for another entry with these games. The Wii Remote is much more preferable than a big piece of plastic over your shoulder. Talk about a missed opportunity. Well, there's always the Wii U, but I'm not holding my breath.


F-Zero (SNES)

More recognized than any game on this list, if there's one series that's gotten the short end of the stick by Nintendo, it's F-Zero. This franchise has done a lot for the company and to see it go unused is heartbreaking.

Back in the 16-bit console wars when SEGA was waving the Genesis' superior speed in Nintendo's face with blast processing (it meant jack squat), Nintendo had a game that showed gamers and the competition that it was not a slug. Utilizing incredible mode 7 effects and a sense of speed that rivaled that of Sonic the Hedgehog, F-Zero introduced many gamers to the world of futuristic racing on tracks such as Mute City, Big Blue, Sand Ocean and Death Wind.

F-Zero X (N64)

Seven years after the release of the original F-Zero, F-Zero X was released on the N64. F-Zero X certainly wasn't a visually impressive game, but there was a reason for it's simplistic cosmetics. You see, F-Zero X was the first racing game in history to have thirty racers on screen at once and run at 60 frames per second. The jump from 2D to 3D can be rather rocky for a lot of franchises, but in F-Zero's case, it was extremely beneficial. Tracks had hills, loops, corkscrews, half-pipes, and cylinders. The breakneck speed from the original game was intensified even further and you could even attack the competition to eliminate them from races.

F-Zero GX (GCN)

F-Zero: Maximum Velocity was a return to the series mode 7 roots and while it was a fun racer, the next big entry wouldn't come until F-Zero GX hit the GameCube in 2003. One of Nintendo's biggest supporters once SEGA went third party was none other than SEGA themselves. F-Zero GX was developed by one of SEGA's second parties, Amusement Vision, the same company that makes the Super Monkey Ball titles. F-Zero GX is a gorgeous game even by today's standards and has a phenomenal techo/rock soundtrack. It also has a difficulty that is 100% unapologetic in everything cruel thing that it does to you, whether you're playing Story mode or Gran Prix mode. Yet, for as much as it seems like GX hates the player and all of humanity, fandom looks back on it as the crowning achievement of the F-Zero legacy. I can't help but agree.

It's been nine years since we last saw an F-Zero game. F-Zero GX bombed at retail and the last F-Zero title to see a release outside of Japan was F-Zero: GP Legend on the GBA with F-Zero: Climax being exclusive to Japan. Those that waited for an F-Zero game on the DS were sorely disappointed and there was nothing on the Wii. The most attention F-Zero has gotten as of late is an attraction in Nintendo Land in the form of Captain Falcon's Twister Race. Maybe Nintendo thinks that due to F-Zero GX not selling well that the demand for a new F-Zero game isn't high. Personally, I want a new F-Zero game more than I want a new entry in the Zelda franchise, or any Nintendo game that I've mentioned in both parts of this feature.

Part 1


Chris Clash said...

I remember clearly reading the Uniracers (Unirally in Europe) reviews in the magazines back in the day and wanting the game. I have been able to play the game in recent years and it's really great. Thanks for introducing me to the StarTropics series, I had never heard of it and it seems cool. Nintendo needs to make new F-Zero games, but can they still do it right ? I mean they've been so lazy these past few years, revamping Super Mario Bros for the xxth time, putting up a lame A link To The Past "remake"... Even Skyward Sword was a huge disappointement to me.

Reggie White Jr. said...

Glad I could introduce a fellow gamer to a different series. =)

I wouldn't call Nintendo lazy, per say. Lots of companies rely on strong name brands. Sony and Microsoft have God of War and Halo. Only makes sense for Nintendo to keep pushing Mario.

Chris Clash said...

I don't mind pushing established licenses, I'd love to have 20 new Marios per year if these were great games. But milking Super Mario Bros like they're doing these years is pityful. And don't get me started on the Wii edition of Super Mario All Stars... this is where Nintendo lost me.

The WiiU is also a pathetic excuse for a new console, making gadget ideas that were already executed in the GameCube era the main selling point. It gets some temporary hype and they make it more about this than about the games themselves, and Nintendo is going to pay a price for that eventually.

Skyward Sword was all about the Wiimote. It was great on paper and I was excited about it, but Wiimote in hand it is a huge disappointement, and I think it's going to be one of the few Zeldas I'll never finish.

It is really a shame because Nintendo has a very rich universe and range of brands, but they're making it poor by always milking the same franchises.

Hope this all makes sense, I'm French so please forgive me if there are grammar flaws or something :)