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CREATED NOV.14.2007
UPDATED NOV.15.2007
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TEXT WRITTEN BY
MARTIN NIELSEN
AIRBALL FOR THE MASSES
RETROZONE RELEASES PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED NES GAME
As a follow up to the great success of the Nintendo World Championship reproduction cartridges as well as the simply and no less than amazing PowerPak which enables you to play an entie collection of NES games from just one cartridge.

What better way to keep surprising people than releasing a previously unavailable to the masses of NES gamers and collectors all over the world. The game I'm talking about is Tengen's Airball game which was canceled due to the fact that NES games at the time wasn't bringing in enough cash to generate another production run of a NES game.

Although the game wasn't completely lost, over the years no less than 4 prototypes have been discovered and are now in the hands of collectors. Brian Parker supposedly got in contact with one of the prototype owners and secured a deal to release the game, which technically makes it a pirate release, but it's also the first NES release massproduced for well over a decade.

It should be no secret that I was extremely excited (in a non-sexual way) when the PowerPak was released, but it also felt like something was missing to complete the feeling of buying a brand new product. What I'm talking about is a nice looking box with screenshots and a stupid text to trick people into buying the product. I mentioned this in a forum lately where Brian was present and he told me about an upcoming project which would include the whole package.

And here it is and I couln't help but burst out a gigantic "WOW!", the packaging really does give it the little extra kick that brings it over the top, now had it been shrinkwrapped then it would've brought the true feeling of a brand new product to the buyer. Though a small yellow round sticker, like the one Nintendo used to seal games, is used to compensate for the missing shrinkwrap, and it features a picture of RetroZone's very own mascot, Sealie (when does he get his own video game by the way?).

The packaging, or box if you like, is the same size as the first generation of European NES games that came packed in small boxes which is the same size as a NES cart. Even though Tengen's games never came in such small boxes and with the fact that the release is made to look like a Tengen release, it looks a bit odd, but even with that in mind I absolutely love the box, it looks really professionally made, good job there.

A lot of people have mentioned that the cartridge should've been shaped like the good old Tengen games were, but not only would a mold for a new cartridge case cost a fortune and would be pretty much useless for anything else than Tengen releases, I have to say that I like the transparrant NES cartridge the game comes in, so I'm not complaining.

Back in the days, about 5 years ago or something like that, a rumor said that Airball required a special and very expensive PCB and it was believed that this was the reason why Tengen decided to scrap the game. Fact is though that the game uses nothing more than a standard UNROM board, meaning that the board probably couldn't get any cheaper to manufacture.

No one really knows if Airball was completed before the idea to release it was scrapped so the game could be incomplete, but it runs very well at least. The game seems to be very well made and one of the first things that caught my attention was the very catchy title tune.

While most games were developed in-house at Tengen, Airball was developed by Novotrade and licensed from Michigan based Michtron who were responsible for developing Airball for several other video game systems.

It's an isometric game which makes it a little hard to play with the Nintendo D-Pad, to be completely honest with you I really suck at playing this game, but I had a good laugh when an extremely deep voice told me "well done ball" when completing the first level in easy mode.

The story of the game goes like this... You have been turned into a ball of air with a slow leak by an evil wizard. You must find the Spellbook and the ingredients for the spell. Without these, you will never turn back into a human again.

Just like the PowerPak and other RetroZone NES games, the Airbal release is compatible with NES systems around the world, thanks to the CiClone.

If you've always wanted to be a pink ball in a video game, then you must buy this one (Link to RetroZone). The current price is US$35 + shipping.

Have fun! ... and remember ... GET THE SPELLBOOK! :-)

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