A semi-classic Nintendo arcade game turned pick-up-and-play fun with it's re-release on Virtual Console.
Balloon Fighter presents itself pretty simply. The graphics are dirt simple: a few pixelated balloon-carrying men in flight, some clouds and grass-covered platforms on a plain black background. The sound is limited and there's no real music during game play aside from some brief phrases after certain events and a cool little tune during bonus stages. It's pretty typical of an arcade game of its era, just enough but it works.
The main game features one or two player modes. The two player mode is cooperative but you compete for high-scores. Each board is a single screen, which wraps around so that if you exit the screen on the left, you reenter on the right. Each player controls a little man carrying two balloons. The goal is to float around and pop the enemy characters' balloons and advance to the next level. The first levels are easy but the number and speed of the enemies increases rapidly and the action gets pretty intense rather quickly. If you don't finish the level fast enough, there are clouds that begin shooting instant kill lightning sparks which provides incentive for aggressive game play. Every three levels you get a bonus round where your goal is simply to collect balloons and score points and serves as a breather.
The way you float around is by hitting the A and B buttons and controlling your direction w/ the d-pad. A flaps your arms once and B keeps them flapping continuously. I find my self using B pretty much exclusively. When you're on the ground you walk back and forth normally but when you're flying, you can only move when you flap your arms. This is a bit tricky to get a hang of but the game is simple enough you'll be going strong w/in a few minutes. The controls feel a bit inexact and floaty but that is the whole point, you are in a ballon fight after all.
Additionally, there is a game mode called Balloon Trip which is one player only. It is a right to left auto scrolling game featuring the same controls as the other playing modes but where the object is to avoid the instant sparks and collect balloons in order to get a high score. This is very significantly different than the main playing mode and a really nice bonus.
In this day an age, a game like this can't help but remind me of simple mobile games you might download to play on your cell phone. To be fair though, it is much better and more addictive than most games you would get that way. Historically, I'd would call this an also-ran in the grand scheme of Nintendo games but it's a fun also-ran and definitely worth spending a few dollars and a few hours to aquaint yourself w/ it if it seems interesting to you. The controls are responsive, gameplay is fun, it is just not really a standout and one must wonder why Nintendo chose to give us this when there are all manner of classic NES games available.