Balloon Fight was developed and published by Nintendo. First released in arcades in 1984, the NES version was released in 1985. Gameplay consists of either one player or two-player co-op mode, and the goal of the main game is to defeat all enemies on screen to clear each level. You are given three lives at the beginning of each game.
The player character is a person with two balloons strapped to their back. You hit either the A or B buttons to flap your hands to fly about the stage and attack enemies by landing on their backs, popping their balloons. Enemies are defeated by popping both of their balloons, and then landing on them while they are on the ground (in order to prevent them from filling another balloon). There is also a body of water in the center of each level. If an enemy or player falls into the water or floats too close to the water, a large fish jumps from the water and eats the character. A spinning bumper-blade appears in the later levels as an added obstacle.
Between every three normal levels, a bonus stage occurs. In the bonus stage, the player attempts to burst a large number of balloons as they float up from the bottom of the screen. If all 20 balloons are collected, a large bonus is added to the player's score. Following each bonus stage, the player is also rewarded with a full complement of two balloons. In 2-player co-op games, it is much easier to complete bonus stages, as each player only needs to patrol one half of the screen (although "every man for himself" is also a completely valid option!)
The game also features a single-player mode called "Balloon Trip" where the player moves across a side-scrolling level, avoiding lightning bolts and gathering balloons. You only have one life in this mode, and there is no ground to land on. Players begin the trip at a rank of 50 and as more balloons are gathered, their rank decreases. Nothing special happens if the player stays alive long enough to reach rank 1 (the game simply continues on indefinitely). In the closing part of Iwata Asks about Tecken 3D for 3DS, now Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, who was the programmer of Balloon Fight, stated that they made the Balloon Trip mode in the last 3 days of development.
Balloon Fight was one of the first NES games ever released, and in many ways does not receive the amount of respect it deserves. While the game clearly adopts many elements of the classic arcade game Joust, it refines them in a way very typical of Nintendo, resulting in something fresh and new. Balloon Fight is a very charming, simple, and addictive game that is fondly remembered by gamers of the NES generation.
The entirety of Balloon Fight was included in the 2002 title Animal Crossing where the game cartridge was fetured as a hidden title. Once a player found said cartridge they could play the game any time they wanted to within the game.In 2007, Balloon Fight was released for the Wii Virtual Console. The franchise also saw a spiritual successor in the form of Tingle's Balloon Fight DS, a rare Japanese Club Nintendo exclusive DS cartridge released in 2007. Balloon Fight also serves as the theme to the "touch" mode in Tetris DS.
On January 23 2013, one day after the 28th anniversary of its release on Famicom, Balloon Fight was announced to be the first Virtual Console game released for Wii U. It was released that day worldwide as part of a special promotion celebrating 30 years of Famicom, before even the Virtual Console service proper was released.