European Mega Drive box, the only version of the cover art for the original game that depicts in-game characters fighting.
|Platform(s)||Sega Genesis, Super NES, 3DO|
|Mode(s)||Single player, multiplayer|
Ballz is a two-player 3D action fighting video game for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, the Super NES (SNES) and the 3DO. It was developed by PF Magic and published by Accolade in 1994. The 3DO version was released as a director's cut in 1995. Ballz offered three difficulty levels over a total of 21 matches. Its distinguishing quality was that each of the characters were composed completely of spheres, granting a pseudo-3D look.
Development and publishing
The opening PF Magic developed for the game stated "To be the champion, you gotta have Ballz!". Due to its racy double-entendre ("balls" may be used as a slang term for testicles), Nintendo demanded the wording be changed for the SNES version. The SNES version of the game states "...you gotta play Ballz", while the Sega version uses the original intro. The game was also notably bizarre for its lineup of fighters, which included a farting monkey, a jumping clown, a sumo wrestler, an ostrich, a caveman, a bodybuilder, a ballerina, a rhinoceros and a "superhero".
These are the characters in the game's lineup of fighters:
- Boomer: A clown from the circus. His air jumps and the tricks up his sleeves make him the most humorous fighter.
- Bruiser: A bodybuilder who gets quite a workout. His buffed-up body and powerful blows make him a formidable fighter.
- Crusher: An enraged rhinoceros who prefers to charge at his opponents directly.
- Divine: A ballerina dancer who twirls around gracefully. She's the only female fighter and will sometimes give a spanking.
- Kronk: A caveman from the dawn of civilization. He uses his club to cut his opponents down to size and hits them like a baseball.
- Tsunami: A sumo wrestler who enjoys leaping on top of his opponents.
- Turbo: A superhero who glides along the arena and blows as strongly as a hurricane. He is the only fighter who uses ranged attacks.
- Yoko: A monkey who often breaks wind. He enjoys ganging up on you and slapping you silly.
- Zombie: Only appears in the director's cut version of the game. He stalks and slashes at his enemies.
These are the bosses who appear in One-Player mode. Each boss defeated earns a different colored belt, and these change the fighter's coloring scheme.
- Guggler: The first boss in the game. Guggler is an ostrich who pecks at her opponents and tosses them around with her beak. Her "jump and kick" ability also makes her a boss to be reckoned with. Defeating her wins the Red Belt.
- Bounder: The second boss of the game. Bounder is a kangaroo who wears boxing gloves and uses punches and kicks. He often jumps around and balances on his tail while using his legs to fling opponents across the arena. Defeating him wins the Green Belt.
- T-Wrecks: The third boss in the game. T-Wrecks is a gigantic dinosaur who relies on an aggressive temperament as an attack. He will grab opponents in his jaws and creates devastating ground shock waves with a powerful tail. Defeating him wins the Blue Belt.
- Lamprey: The fourth boss of the game. Lamprey is a mystical genie whose swift attacks and magical powers make him a formidable foe. He possesses the ability to turn himself into any creature, such as a bull, a scorpion, or a snake. Defeating him wins the Black Belt.
- The Jester: The ultimate boss. The Jester is the one who challenged the fighters to duel in the tournament at the start. He dons a black-and-white outfit and can be seen juggling balls in the opening. As the final boss, he is the most difficult character to beat. He can disassemble himself and move about the floor, and has physical attacks that are very strong. The damage he does can take off much of the player's health. After being defeated for the first time, he reassembles and comes back for more. When the Jester finally falls, he grants the fighter's wish - to play as the bosses.
On release, Famicom Tsūshin scored the Super Famicom version of the game a 28 out of 40. Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the Genesis version a 6.2 out of 10 average, commenting that "The fighters were interesting, with their various taunts and other poses, and the whole idea is innovative, but in the end it just never really came together for me." GamePro gave the Genesis version a positive review. They praised the balanced gameplay, smooth scaling effects, and humorous sound effects, and concluded, "Ballz takes the increasingly routine genre of fighting games and gives it a new bounce, injecting a wicked sense of humor into the action." They were less enthusiastic about the SNES version, saying that the graphics are better than in the Genesis version, but the irritating new soundtrack, overcomplicated control configuration, and especially the frequent slowdown combine to make the game much less enjoyable. The four reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly had mixed reactions to the SNES version. Two of them praised its original design and good graphics, and the other two praised the humorous sounds, but all but one felt the game was not as enjoyable as other fighting games, with the biggest problem being the fighters' limited set of moves. They gave it a 6.75 out of 10 average.
GamePro gave the 3DO version a highly positive review, applauding the additions and improvements such as enhanced graphics, increased play speed, rendered backgrounds, new character, character-specific theme songs, and arena rotation, as well as the humor and "non-conformist attitude" of the game itself.
Ballz was ranked seventh in a 2011 list of Top Ten Fighting Games We'd Like to Forget, compiled by Game Informer. The author of the list, Dan Ryckert, widely criticized it for including what he claimed to be "sexual innuendo" references, and having its design representing more of a 2-D look.
Next Generation reviewed the 3DO version of the game, rating it two stars out of five, and stated that "If you accept its looks, it plays fine, but this is as much yesterday's technology as any sprite-based fighter attempting to get away with digitized characters. It's almost too bad, but it's just a game out of time."
- "How The Post reported on gender and video games in 1994". Washington Post. Washington Post. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
- "Who Has the Edge?". GamePro (62). IDG. September 1994. p. 57.
- NEW GAMES CROSS REVIEW: 3次元格闘 ボールズ. Weekly Famicom Tsūshin. No.333. Pg.30. 5 May 1995.
- "Review Crew: Ballz". Electronic Gaming Monthly. Ziff Davis (63): 38. October 1994.
- "ProReview: Ballz". GamePro. IDG (72): 56. September 1994.
- "ProReview: Ballz". GamePro. IDG (75): 134. December 1994.
- "Review Crew: Ballz". Electronic Gaming Monthly. Ziff Davis (65): 38. December 1994.
- "ProReview: Ballz: The Director's Cut". GamePro. IDG (85): 72. October 1995.
- Ryckert, Dan. Top Ten Fighting Games We'd Like to Forget. Game Informer (April 2011). Retrieved 2011-06-02.
- "Finals". Next Generation. No. 9. Imagine Media. September 1995. p. 90.