When looking back at what can possibly be the worst fighting game of the golden age, there's a ton of garbage to sift through. A lot of the Mortal Kombat knockoffs, Pit-Fighter (strong contender), the often lambasted Shaq-fu (still not the worst). Ballz 3D tries, it really tries, but I can't even call it a fighting game. It's the feeling of having your fingers smashed with a hot iron cultivated and cultured in a video game cartridge.
The developer of Ballz 3D, PF Magic, had a strange beginning. They were essentially founded after a joint venture between Sega and AT&T that would have used a peripheral to connect gamers to the internet via telephone eventually fell through the cracks. They would go on to find some success coining the concept of virtual pets with the hit Petz. But they got their start with Ballz being one of their initial big commercial releases, hitting the 3DO, Sega Mega Drive, and the Super Nintendo in 1994.
Ballz 3D aims to be a fighting game, much less a 3D one. It executes four-directional movement by having you traverse through the foreground and background with up and down on the D-pad. Faintly similar to what Soul Calibur would implement years later with its 8-way run. I'll give it that they were aiming to be ambitious, but from the first time I moved, everything felt wrong. General walking feels so delayed, I thought my controller was broken. Blocking is inconsistent, and the sheltering sky is faster than the response time between attacks. The special moves make little sense, and because so much programming went into the animation, these horrible model lumber around and pretty much do what they want. The key to making even an average fighter somewhat engaging is the ability to pick up and play it, but it's easier to give an ocelot a bath than adequately playing Ballz 3D the way it want you to.
The graphics, while the tech going into it can be considered impressive, the fact that you're cycling through some of the dumbest character designs this side of time Killers remains paramount. The nine playable fighters are all made up of rendered balls, composing humanoid or animal shapes, and to this day I've burned through brain cells trying to decide who exactly thought this was considered funny. Is the joke simply...they're balls? This reminds me of ClayFighter, but whereas the parodies in ClayFighter might garner a mild smile from a hospice patient, Ballz 3D is a comedian bombing on stage. These concepts are eveything that misfied about the 90's. Like playing as Jacky Bryant or Chun-Li? Well, with Ballz 3D.
- Yoko, a farting gorilla
- Divine, a Ballerina
- Boomer, a clown
- Kronk, a caveman
- Turbo, a superhero
No really, my sides are splitting, my lungs are in Wyoming. Keep them coming, Ballz, my will to live remains intact. The rendered and mapped stages are impressive for their time, but the obnoxious commentary from the projector screen in the background are as welcome as dabbing at your own court hearing.
No, Ballz 3D isn't the worst fighting game. It's too forgettable, uninteresting, and lacks the panache to carry that mantle. The controls may be absolute trash, but every fiber of one's gaming sense will immediately reject it before you even register just how unfun it actually is to do virtually anything. The visuals have the personality of a room temperature glass of milk, it's nearly impossible to truly distinguish special attacks from normals, and I forget there's even a jump button.
Pointing at a bottle of ketchup or getting into an argument with a bot account on social media will provide you with a more enriched experience than trying to pull anything out of Ballz 3D. Letting this game vaporize into the ether of gaming history is its greatest contribution.