Sunday, March 3, 2013

This blog is moving to a new URL!

Hey guys, thanks a shitload for all the support and pageviews. But before I get too entrenched as "SimplyAwful" I gotta move to a different URL. I've got a few problems with the current name of this blog:

• The name was chosen on the spur of the moment, and while I'm still of the opinion that a lot of the stuff I post here is awful, the name "SimplyAwful" isn't really evoking anything to me, except...

• ...Something Awful. You'd think that I would have made the connection, considering I've been reading Something Awful since late 2000 sometime. I knew I had to change my name when someone gave my blog a video shout out a few months ago and told everyone to visit "somethingawful dot com". That was a good sign that I needed a more unique name.

• If you've been paying attention to a lot of the Famicom carts I post here you'll see the name "Ribbon Black" come up often in some way or another. It's kind of the name I've been using for years in other projects of mine and I really should've just gone with that to begin with.

THE BOTTOM LINE: I'm at now! Please continue to support me there. If nothing else, I made it look a lot nicer than this layout. Thanks again!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Minna no Balloon Fight (Famicom, 1990)

What, no manual?
 Released as a budget title in 1990, Minna no Balloon Fight (Everyone's Balloon Fight) was a sort of four player battle royal version of the 1983 original. As you might have guessed, it is a special edition of the game that supports four simultaneous players. To take full advantage of this you would need something like Hori's "4 Players Adaptor" (, scroll down a bit) or a modified NES Four Score. There is no single player normal mode in this one, although Balloon Trip supports one to two players.

The back of the box proclaims "the 'FAMILY' BALLOON BATTLE OF THE WORLD begins!". It sure does.

The graphics are definitely higher quality than Balloon Fight! The characters, while still low in detail, are a bit larger as well. You would think that larger characters would be a bad idea in a game built around four people sharing the same screen,  but Nintendo took a page from VS Balloon Fight and added vertical scrolling to the playing field! This is something I always missed in the NES version, it would have added so much to the gameplay.* (see end of article for more boring talk about this)

In Battle Mode (2-4 players) the playing field spans two screens stacked vertically. In Balloon Trip Mode the screen may move either vertically, horizontally or diagonally. This makes Balloon Trip in Minna no Balloon Fight quite a bit trickier.

Unfortunately this copy doesn't include a manual, so there's no information on the playable characters shown on the box art. The fact that they were given specific looks and personalities (even if the in-game graphics are almost identical) was an interesting touch. Color-coding the players by balloon color makes it easy to see what's going on even when things get hectic.

You can see the bonus stage in the background there (don't be like me and use widescreen TVs to play Famicom games). Compared to the original Balloon Fight bonus stage it's a colorful brawl and you can get some pretty crazy points here (popping your friend's balloons to take them out of the game for a few seconds is still the best tactic here). The game was a fairly bare-bones affair in the days of blockbusters like Super Mario Bros. 3, but that's really the point--a throwback to/celebration of the Famicom's arcade style roots. Pretty topical, considering the attention Balloon Fight has been getting from Nintendo in the last year.

So there you go--Minna no Balloon Fight. It's fake. Thanks for looking! You'll be able to find more photos if you're interested on my Tumblr.

*Incidentally, the reason vertical scrolling was removed from the NES version of Balloon Fight was because the NROM pcb Nintendo used in the earliest days of the Famicom could support only vertical or horizontal "mirroring" (mirroring is beyond the scope of this little writeup so let's just call it "scrolling"). So if we had gotten vertically scrolling stages in the NES version, we wouldn't have had the side scrolling Balloon Trip mode, and that would have been unacceptable. I'm not very well versed in NES development so I might be wrong here and Nintendo had other reasons for omitting the second screen, but that's my only guess.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Retro Rally 2: Warpzone Wildcard (poster)

Nothing too ambitious this time, just a fun little poster design for the second "Retro Rally" event. Last time we had a 15 minute point battle in Balloon Fight's "Balloon Trip" mode (I won), and this time we'll choose a random world in Super Mario Bros. 3, take a warp whistle there and have a good old fashioned race. I got another copy of SMB3 on ebay for was much cheaper than the second copy of Balloon Fight.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Koichi Sugiyama made two very similar video game themes

Another tale of mild interest! I was playing THIS

From Jesus Christ Himself To Your Own Famicom
and noticed a striking similarity between its menu song and that of another famous game.

Even if you've only played modern Dragon Quest/Warrior games that tune should be unmistakeably similar to this one:

Right? Right?? Okay, if you were already familiar with the work of composer Koichi Sugiyama maybe it wasn't such a revelation, but I'd never played any other games he composed for, so it was a real "a-ha" moment for me. I feel smart when I figure things out myself. Wonder if his other work has such similar themes.

I also found out that Sugiyama is a right-wing Japanese nationalist who denies that the Nanking Massacre ever occurred! So... that's interesting.