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King & Ballon

Alberto 'Kazuya'
Fixed shooter arcade game that was released by Namco in 1980. It runs on Namco Galaxian hardware but with an extra Z80 processor to drive a DAC for speech. Save to the King!
King & Ballon

About the game

Created, developed and published by video gaming giant Namco, King and Balloon was one of the first arcade titles to feature recorded voices. Because the game never gained much popularity neither in Japan or The United States, no ports were developed or introduced to the market until 1998. Debuting in 1980, King and Balloon came out the same year as another famous Namco title; Pac-Man.

It runs upon the Namco Galaxian hardware, based on the Z80 microprocessor, with an extra Zilog Z80 microprocessor to drive a DAC for speech; it was one of the first games to have speech synthesis, and it still holds up better than most contemporary examples. The king says "Help!" when is captured, "Thank You!" when rescued, and "Bye bye!" when he leaves the screen. The game actually uses different voices for both the Japanese and the USA version, having the Japanese one a slight Japanese accent.

Protect the King from being captured and carried away by one of the balloons.

Graphics and sound

A title from 1980 that shows its limitations, which nowadays can be analyzed from a historical and cultural point of view due to the possibilities at that period. The plaque that runs the game, as mentioned earlier, is a 'Namco Galaxian', which is previous to the great technological advancement that supposed the 'Namco Pole Position' from 1982. Therefore, the black background predominates with few colours on the screen.

Gameplay

In King and Balloon, the goal is to keep the King safe from an invading fleet of hot air balloons. A large cannon flanked by two foot soldiers while the King is guarded just below the platform that they stand on. If a hot air balloon descends below the foot soldiers, the King is captured, and he will begin to float away. You can still shoot the balloon after the King has been lifted up into the air, but you will only have a limited number of tries. Having the King captured and carried off screen is equivalent to losing a life. However, you will not be penalized if the balloon is shot before he disappears.

The cannon can be destroyed infinite times; it is the King that must be saved.

When a balloon carrying the King away has been shot, he will drift back down to land using one of his umbrellas. All players start with three lives per game. Essentially, your objectie is to pop all of the balloons on each level before they can get to the King. Once you have eliminated all of the balloons on a stage, a new round will begin with a new set of balloons. The same number of balloons appears on every stage, stacked in color coordinating rows. At the top are the red balloons, then there is a row of orange, a row of yellow and a row of white balloons below.

Conclusion

One of the first titles from Namco's prolific career. If we analyze the progression of the company during the 80's, probably we could say it's one of the most relevants due to the creation of styles and mechanics. King & Balloon is a minor title, forgotten by most players due to the period when was launched and its relevancy to the genre. Nevertheless, the game deserves some recognition for its technical ideas and gameplay offered in a time where any new ideas opened tons of possibilites for the players. Simple and addictive, do not hesitate to try it for at least a few hours.

5 | FAIR