The Do-Want List | Arcade Archives: Vs. Balloon Fight

  • Developed by: Nintendo and HAMSTER
  • Published by: Nintendo

My interest in Arcade Archives: Mario Bros. is equal parts nostalgia and historical relevance. I’m sure I’ll have fun with it for a time, but finding someone else to play it with that’s willing to put up with its stiff controls and damnably hard difficulty curve will be few and far between. I’ll be able to trick my kids into a match or two, but getting killed by an enemy your partner inadvertently knocks back upright as you’re standing next to it is only funny a couple of times.

Whereas Mario Bros. will be a part of my library as a historical footnote, Vs. Balloon Fight will be that and the game my family will actually play.

I have an upcoming Backlogged NES post coming up on the original Balloon Fight so I’ll keep most of my thoughts on it contained there, but the gist of it is that it’s a blatant but ultimately better version of Midway’s Joust. What Vs. does is not as substantial at first blush, not unlike Vs. Super Mario Bros., but in the end makes for a different experience.

The conceit is the same: take your floaty protagonist and pop the balloons of flightless birds before they pop yours. The difference here is that they aren’t single screen affairs: levels are much more vertical this time. It’s a slight difference, to be sure, but one that makes for a thinly veiled excuse to dive back into it. I can’t gush enough at how also having the ability to play games with another person instantaneously on the Switch is such a boon.

If Nintendo’s willing to make this deep a cut in their gameography, I can’t wait to see what they have coming down the pipe.

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The Do-Want List | Arcade Archives: Vs. Super Mario Bros.

  • Developed by: Nintendo and HAMSTER
  • Published by: Nintendo

I have a lot to say when it comes to Super Mario Bros., but for the sake of keeping it relevant to the post at hand the thing I’d like to point out is how it’s become a total “comfort food” game. It’s concise, which makes it easy to get in and out of quickly, but the way it builds upon itself is like what I imagine a master class in game design would look like. It’s a reminder of why I love games, which sometimes you just have to go back to remember that fact.

That being said, I know the game inside and out so there isn’t anything that truly surprises me anymore when I play. I enjoy it for the experience, not the challenge. Which is why I love, love when I find variants on familiar games. I’m very much a second quest kind of guy.

Even using Super Mario Bros. as a springboard there’s been a lot of remixes. Super Mario Bros. Deluxe for Game Boy Color added hidden Yoshi eggs and red coins that change up the flow of the game. NES Remix gave you specific challenges to try and beat certain scenes in the game as well as add newer ones that’ll take your sensibilities for a loop. As if that wasn’t enough of a mind melt, NES Remix 2 added a reverse version of Super Mario Bros. starring Luigi that had you going from left to right instead.

I know for a fact that when I was a kid a passed Vs. Super Mario Bros. right up when I saw it on a Play Choice 10. Not because it was a bad game, but because I assumed it was the same game that was packed in with my NES that I’d already played ad nauseum. The point of a Play Choice 10 wasn’t to play what you had, it was to play what you hadn’t. The fact that I now know better bums me out that I skipped it initially, but for some weird reason I get a second chance to give it a go.

Right from the start the familiarity will kick in as the flow of the game isn’t wholly unsimilar to vanilla Super Mario Bros. At first there’s a few deviations; power-ups in different spots, extra enemies here and there. But then you hit world 1-4, the first Bowser’s castle stage, and things take a turn into crazyville.

The game is much harder, perhaps for the sake of challenge but also to eat your quarters, which is something I’m looking forward to. I don’t want to breeze through the game, I want my mind and my reflexes tested by something new in a familiar setting. Apparently there are also stages from The Lost Levels mixed in for good measure, but I won’t complain because I’m one of the few that actually enjoyed that game for what it is.

It’s easy to overlook Arcade Archives: Vs. Super Mario Bros. because it has that samey feel; but for someone who adores the original game and is looking for something new to do with its brilliant design, this looks to be the most exciting of releases in Nintendo’s new arcade releases.