Ballz 3D is a fighting game developed by PF Magic and published by Accolade for the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, and 3DO in 1994. At the time different takes on the genre were cropping up faster than zits on the foreheads of the violence-starved adolescents who clamored for them. Unfortunately some of these games were about as appealing as the aforementioned zits and twice as irritating. Ballz 3D* is one such game.
*Disclaimer: To maintain my integrity as a writer, I feel I should make some effort to avoid obvious genitalia-themed puns while reviewing this game. I can't promise I'll try, but I'll try to try. Besides, the developers already beat me to the punch with their tagline, "To be the champion, you gotta have Ballz!" Stay classy, PF Magic.
Not much of a story to be had, but such is not uncommon for fighting games. They are, after all, the bad porno
of the gaming realm, for those who want to skip the niceties
and get down to business. However, each of the playable characters (who, by the way, are all made entirely of multi-coloured balls
not unlike those in a children's ball pit
) does have his or her own backstory, even if it is just a brief description of who they are and what they do when they're not
kicking each other in the ballz
engaging in combat. The characters come from all different backgrounds, from circus clown and bodybuilder to sumo wrestler
and, my personal favourite, a female ballet dancer who likes to spank her opponents. Speaking of spanking, there is also a monkey character who just happens to be rather flatulent
. I'm sure gonna miss those brain cells
Game...play? What is this "gameplay" you speak of? In theory it seems pretty unlikely that a fighting game could be cocked up. You have your kicks, you have your punches, you have your special moves. You take them all and there you have...well, in the case of Ballz 3D, you have a mixed bag. On the one hand Ballz 3D adheres to the traditional fighting game formula of balls to the wall brawling. It has the requisite punches and kicks and every variation thereof. Additionally, each character has his or her own unique fatality move a la Mortal Kombat. They are about 99% less bloody than Mortal Kombat's fatalities, but they make up for it by being equal parts gross, stupid, and bizarre. Yes, the monkey will fart on you. Yes, that is his fatality. Gives the old silent-but-deadly a whole new meaning, eh? Were this an otherwise fun and interesting game I probably would have just slapped on a ventilation mask and told Gasbag McGee to let 'er rip. Sadly, this was not meant to be. Ballz 3D simply has too many things going against it for any one thing to absolve it.
Far and away the most maddening gameplay nuisance is that the characters walk PAINFULLY slow. When I played this game I wondered if my controller was on the fritz, but other reviews I have read assure me that this is indeed the game's fault. I'm going to suspend disbelief for a moment and presume they are all retired MMA fighters who refuse to give up the ghost and the occasional friendly sparring match is their Sunday drive. This actually doesn't matter all that much because it is not as much to blame for the frustrating gameplay as...
...The graphics. I am tempted to skip this section altogether since the graphics can be summed up with two words: fucking Mode fucking Seven. Or in common parlance, Mode 7. Oh, and I guess that was more than two words. Nuts. Anyway, a little background on Mode 7: it is the SNES's built-in 3D rendering mode. It is not entirely bad. In fact it was truly a treat back in the day, when it was used right. It gave us some truly innovative effects during the salad days of the console. Remember flying the airship in Final Fantasy VI? Didn't that kick copious amounts of ass? Yeah that's not even remotely happening here, so now our friend Mode 7 now has a blemish on its resume in the form of Ballz 3D. But then again it takes some real cojones to set out in any established field with anything that deviates from the norm.
That is not to say the game doesn't look good, mind you. It looks...decent. It's definitely striking. But a game shouldn't require a Master's degree in mathematics to calculate the trajectory needed to hit an opponent. That being said, the 16-bit 3D project was still in its infancy at the time, and since fighting games intrinsically lend themselves to two dimensions it was perfectly acceptable to sacrifice glitz for functionality. Ballz 3D was not interested in the tried and true, however, and paid the price for its ostentation. Alas, a neatly wrapped turd is still a turd, and the quest to be a trailblazer for 3D fighting games only ensured that Ballz 3D's already difficult and frustrating maneuvers would become even more so. Like that needed to happen. But as time passed and more technologically advanced consoles came out the 3D fighting game concept was honed and eventually became something you could take home to mother. Ballz 3D, on the other hand, is the proverbial pothead boyfriend.
As for the sound, well...I'll put it this way. I am a big fan of video game music. For me it's the
frank and beans meat and potatoes of any game, so when the sound guys phone it in I feel almost insulted. Okay that's a bit of a stretch, but it doesn't change the fact that music is often THE saving grace for otherwise shitty games. Ballz 3D received no such pardon. Perhaps not surprisingly, the game once again gives the finger to a gaming staple and proceeds to screw the pooch with yet another misfired implementation. In this case it's the stupid and annoying techno themes paired with THE most obnoxious voice samples ever. The title and character select screens are backed by irritating, cartoonish club music and voiceovers of a man and a woman speaking some fucked cipher language. Specifically, the man grunts "Oi!" and the woman responds with a spot-on impersonation of a bad porno actress. Again with the porno. Le sigh.
Fighting games have, by their very nature, practically infinite replayability. Unless they suck. And "suck" is Ballz 3D's middle name. Ballz Suck 3D, Esq
. Eh...okay, maybe not. In all seriousness though, the game is quite literally a chore to play, which is, I dunno, the freaking antithesis
of what video games are for?! It is tedious and nerve-wracking and, as strange as it sounds even as I write it, too long. There are eight levels and 21 matches in Ballz 3D, which sounds pretty modest, but with battles that drag on forever, or at least when the characters are through tarding around all over the place, it might as well be eighty. A person would have to be truly hard up
for entertainment to pick this thing up. Kingdom for a copy of Street Fighter II
If you like fighting games, you may find at least one thing redeeming about Ballz 3D. I'm not that into them myself, but I stayed more or less objective for the duration of this review. And I can safely say this game does nothing to change my opinion on the genre. I've said it before: every genre of game will eventually become stale, necessitating either a little bit of recycling ideas from other games or setting out on a new and different path altogether. But, as the old saying goes, there is such a thing as trying too hard. Ballz 3D tried so hard it gave itself a hernia. But at least it tried. And that right there takes some...balls. I couldn't hold it in any longer. Sue me.
See Boomer and friends having a ball here.