0 to Z of Playstation 1 Games - BallBlazer Champions

BallBlazer Champions is an action sports game developed for the Playstation by Factor 5 and published by LucasArts in North America while CTO SpA published the game in Europe. The game released first in North America on the 10th of March 1997, with the European release in October of that year, the Japanese release was in March of 1998.

The game is a remake of the 1984 title BallBlazer which was developed by Lucasfilm Games and released first on the Atari 8-bit family before being ported to Atari 5200, Apple II, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, MSX, with later ports to the Atari 7800 and the Nintendo Famicom.

The BallBlazer championship takes place in a rink like structure with the player piloting a rotofoils a small spaceship, with the aim to use your ship to manoeuvre glowing balls called a plasmorb into your opponents goal.

The game plays out like a one on one indoor football (soccer) match with the major difference you opponents are heavily armed, the game is played out over three rounds of 4 minutes with the aim to win two of the three by scoring as many goals past your opponent.

Each of the 8 playable characters on offer have their own individual ships, each of these come with their own stats with strength and weaknesses, these stats are speed, handling, launch and energy, take for example Zack his ship has excellent speed and energy reserves but has poor handling and speed.

Ships can also be upgraded before a match these are done by using credits with things like launch, engine, turbo and handling upgradable for a credit cost. During the course of a match the player will be able to get picks up from around the arena, with items such as cloaking, plasma guns and homing missiles.

The game is made up of three different modes, the first is a split screen 2 player mode, as well as a single player freestyle mode, the games main mode is the tournament mode in which the player faces off against the other seven competitors for the Interstellar BallBlazer Conference

Basic movement in the game is done by using the D-pad no input from the analogue stick for movement, the X button is used for a Roto-Snap which rapidly changes your direction to face the Plasmorb without losing momentum.

You’re engine turbo can be activated using the O button for a sudden burst of speed while the square button is used to shoot the Plasmorb or knock it away, the triangle button is used for your ships weapons or power ups, while strafing can be done by using L1 or R1. Power ups can be switched between by using the L2 and R2 triggers.

The game takes place on an asteroid where the intergalactic BallBlazer competition takes place, a competition between four former warring species the Zaltecs, Thilibies, Mandalars, and Kraytons. The competition was created as part of the peace treaty between the four species to end the bloodshed.

BallBlazer was the result and each year since the peace treaty a 2 week competition takes place with each race sending their best rotofoilers to determine which species is the best, over the years since the treaty other races have joined the  Interstellar BallBlazer Conference as well.

Critically the game received one good review with the vast majority rating the game as above average, at the other end of the scale we have a dismal review score from one review and one average review score. As usual though we will start with the best which comes from GameSpot.

Who scored the game at a very good 86, with the review excited by the remake of the Commodore 64 classic BallBlazer, filled with everything that made the original great, along with better graphics, sound and control that the Commodore ever could have delivered. The review concluded with BallBlazer Champions has everything that a remake you could want.

The next highest review score comes from Consoles News, the French publication scored the game at a 79, after this review the scores take a slight dip with a 71 up next from German publication Video Games, with the review saying fans of the thirteen year old original will have fun with the 32-bit remake.

They compared the Factor 5 remake of BallBlazer with other Sci-Fi themed sports games and concluded this is the best both playfully and technically. They did have some issues with some of the stadiums though, finding them on the cluttered side, but the clean polygon look makes up for this.

NowGamer rated this remake at a 69 along with Game Players, the former found the game needed more attention on the 2 player mode, which they find this is where 2 player sports games are at their best. The review also praised the graphics which they called crisp as well as some gorgeous lighting effects and good frame rate.

Game Players praised the updated graphics however were critical of the gameplay not being updated (it’s a remake of the original why wouldn’t it have the same gameplay). From here the games reviews take a jump down to a 60 where we find three reviews from Mega Fun, IGN and Edge.

The penultimate review comes from French publication Joypad who scored the game at an average 50, the lowest review which scored the game at a dismal and humiliating 0 comes from The Video Game Critic. The review was critical of the game shooting mechanic which allowed you to shoot from any distance in the original, they were also critical of the audio quality which they called horrific, with bad music and annoying announcer yelling mindless drivel.

This is the part of 0 to Z where is visit four online retailers and see what the availability of the title is, and what price you would be looking at if you wanted to pick this title up, the sites that I will be using for this are Amazon.com, eStarland.com, retrogames.co.uk and Gamedude.com I know the last one is very location specific, but from a podcast I listen to, I’ve heard they have a huge stock of older games, Ebay has now been dropped unless the game is unavailable at other retailers.

So lets get down to business with Gamedude where this game seems fairly common, with Gamedude paying just 25 cents if you are looking to trade in your copy of BallBlazer Champions. On the other hand if you are in the market for a copy of the game, then one can be picked up pretty cheaply at $3.

Retrogames.co.uk are up next with the site neither stocking or listing this game so we will quickly move on to eStarland.com where we find just one copy of the game currently available. This copy is a complete used copy of the game and can be picked up from eStarland for $6.18, they also offer a trade in for the game with up to $2 paid for a complete copy, this will fluctuate depending on the completeness of your copy, with a disc only copy worth just 45 cents.

Lastly we have Amazon.com where we find a decent supply of copies available with very good condition used copies available pretty cheaply, with one able to pick up a very good condition copy for $5.99. The very good quality used copies are all priced between this and a maximum of $8.26.

A couple of like new copies are available as well, the first is priced at $16.58, technically this is a new copy with the description saying it is factory sealed. The second like new copy is much too overpriced with a $49.59 asking price.

This copy is much too overpriced especially when you look at the few new copies on the market with prices starting at $14.81 with a couple around this price range. Another new copy is priced at $23.98, from here the new prices take a couple of significant jumps up in price with a $49.95 new copy and a $79.59 new copy as well.

Written by

P J Gibbon


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