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SummaryThe greatest game nobody played
The GoodThis game was a great product. I actually worked for Accolade when they were in the process of publishing it (I was in QA at the time, a game tester). Even though the characters in this game were composed of merely spheres, they each had a distinct personality. Unfortunately, it was impossible to convey the way they moved and the accompanying sounds in still images or in print. The only way to really understand what made the game so great was to actually play it.
Everyone in QA loved playing this game. Like many fighting games today, each character had its own set of special moves (that were given in the game manual). The chimp could hang from invisible monkey bars, the ballerina could deliver a graceful and artistic "smackey". And of course, defeating an opponent would have them burst apart into their constituent spheres: much more creative than simply having the opponent fall to the ground at one's feet.
Also the sound effects added a lot to this game. Each character had its own set of sound effects, which gave them even more personality. Unfortunately, for the Sega version, some had to be removed (see below).
After playing this game for a few seconds, you forgot that your character was just a bunch of spheres, but saw them as individuals, their whole much greater than the sum of their parts.
The BadUnfortunately, this game bombed due to botched marketing. Accolade never figured out how to properly convey that Ballz was a fighting game. The cover just had a bunch of balls on it. Everyone figured it was some kind of Tetris clone. Even some adds with eye-catching phrases ("Tell your mom you want Ballz for Christmas.") failed to convey what kind of game it was, or why anyone would want it.
The intro sequence to the game had a great double-entendre: "To be the champion, you gotta have Ballz!" Nintendo demanded that the wording be changed to "... you gotta PLAY Ballz" which effectively washed out the punch of the line.
Another strike against this game was the Sega version contained too much sprite breakup. Sega wouldn't approve it with the breakup, so a DSP chip had to be added to circumvent the problem. Because of the extra expense of the extra chip, some sounds had to be removed (the sounds were contained on a chip). So the Sega version doesn't have the full complement of sounds as originally envisioned.
But as for the game itself, there wasn't much to complain about. It was a great fighting game, developed in an innovative way to maximize the system's capabilities of the time.