The SNES birthed genres. If there is anything I’ve learned from playing and watching a bunch of the old SNES games, it is that this console is where the genres began to diversify and develop systems of rules and distinct identities, and games from different publishers still seem to be in the same family if they share a genre. Fighting games and beatemups and shootemups and racers, etc, all seem to have their own genetic code, each one with an identifiable strain. Battletoads and Double Dragon are brothers, as are Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat.
If the SNES is a console of birth, then Ballz 3d is what you see on posters at abortion protests. It is a mess of dismembered limbs and half-formed infant faces, jutting from a quivering mass of soft flesh and twisted bone, mewling piteously and bleeding out on the cold steel table as its incomplete arteries gape open and twitch uselessly. It lies in a pool of its own viscera, wanting to scream for death but unable to vocalize from its ruined throat-hole, with the trailing remnants of its malformed body spilling out of the violated orifice whose owner is trapped in a paroxysm of self-loathing for having spawned such an unspeakable abomination.
There’s no excuse for Ballz 3d being as horrible as it is. In an era where games were cannibalizing each other in the misty primordial jungles that came before the towering skyscrapers of intellectual property, the developers had plenty of meat to hunt and consume. Street Fighter 2 was released in 1992, with the various Hypers and Turbos being added in 93 and 94. Clayfighters was released in 94 as well, if similarly silly crap is necessary for inspiration. Ballz 3d was released in 1995. Okay, to be fair, the Genesis version came out first in 94, but even so, there’s no excuse for…this.
Let me explain. Ballz 3d is a game where you play one of six or eight fighters (the number is unimportant) composed of balls. The battlefield is a Mode 7 flat area with a static background which displays stupid 90s-style sports slogans. You have a punch button, a kick button and a jump button, and you move up, down, left or right with the same speed, with the battlefield rotating wildly around you and making little difference in your relative positions, leaving you feeling as though your character is trapped in a hampster ball full of molasses, and balls.
There is no dodge button, there is no dash, and there is no block. Your defensive options include 1) your opponent missing, 2) interrupting his attack using a frame advantage, and 3) sometimes jumping. Special moves are performed as in Mortal Kombat. They don’t look any different from normal attacks. One projectile consists of the character tilting forward and making some kind of vague motion, whereupon the opponent jerks stiffly and falls over. Something flashes, maybe. I’m not sure.
When scrolling through the options for characters, I selected the hip-thrusting clown. I faced a character who was clearly supposed to be a black man, with a brown face-ball and brown hand-balls. His combat style consisted of doing “cool” things like black people were supposed to do in the 90s. In the rest of the meager character selection, two of them were big ape-like bruisers. All of them were made of balls. When you lose, your sigh of relief is accompanied by the dissolution of your character into a pile of balls that collapse lifelessly, animated only by gravity and the inherent physics of spheres. It seems like a release; nature once more resumes its course, and the coloured balls are free from whatever sorcery has aggregated them and forced them into straining, jerking automatons that fling themselves against each other in a mockery of skillful combat.
There is no music in these spheres; there is only a wrongful cacophony.