As seen in: Balloon Fight (NES)
Distinguishing feature: Sensible-yet-dorky safety gear.
Strengths: Can honestly say he just flew in from L.A. and boy are his arms tired.
Weaknesses: Trapped in an existence of goofy warfare.

Profile by Bob Mackey | December 12, 2009

Similar to the early days of animation, the humble roots of the video game industry were focused entirely on shameless and relentless plagiarism—and the Balloon Fighter is an explicit example of this unscrupulousness. Clearly, someone at Nintendo liked the game Joust, but didn’t like the fact that John Newcomer’s odd ostrich-riding sim wasn’t making them any money. So they plucked the humble protagonist off his steed and gave him a colorful makeover and an even less reliable method of flight: Balloons.

Hence, Balloon Fight, a title that misled many children into thinking Nintendo had crafted a game based around the water balloon battles that had eaten up so many listless summer days.

Still, even though he’s the Fred Flintstone to the Joust knight’s Ralph Kramden, Balloon Fighter has his charms. Everything about him is goofy in that distinct 1980s video game sense: Bulbous nose, overalls, and some dorky headgear—it’s almost as if someone shaved Mario’s trademark ‘stache and cancelled his Mushroom Kingdom-saving plans for the sake of bringing peace to... some tropical locale of never-ending darkness. But even though he was designed with the same appealing affability as Mario -- the dude even gives you that same trademark hapless expression when your last balloon goes bye-bye -- Balloon Fighter didn’t see much work outside of his single starring role.

And in the few additions to the Balloon Fight franchise, Balloon Fighter didn’t even make the cut; first he was replaced by a little girl in the overlooked Game Boy sequel, then by pan-sexual man-thing Tingle in a Japanese Club Nintendo exclusive remake. What you hear is the sound of karma catching up with a character who entered this world as a shameless ripoff to begin with.

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