Accolade had the right idea. Sensing that Sega's Virtua Fighter was the future, the California-based publisher decided to set out to make their own 3D fighting game. Unfortunately, they decided to do this with the limited hardware of current 16-bit consoles. Their solution was Ballz, a clever workaround that successfully mimics the sensation of 3D fighting on an outdated system. That's all well and good, but I wish they could have figured out how to mimic good gameplay.
From a technical level, Ballz is something to behold. The idea is admittedly innovative, tricking the system and our brains into thinking that it's a real 3D experience. Each fighter is made up of a collection of multi-sized balls, all shaded to give off a three-dimensional look. The balls use cartoon physics, bouncing around when they get hit and snapping back into place as if they are connected by elastic. It's a unique visual that was borne out of dealing with outdated hardware.
There are eight characters to choose from, all of which kind of resemble things you see in real life. You get a caveman, clown, ostrich, rhino, body builder, sumo wrestler, monkey and ballerina. None of these characters look all that much like what they're trying to represent in still images, but in motion it's uncanny.
The one-on-one fights take place in a large open arena. It spins around you to simulate 3D movement, similar to what you found in early Tekken games. There's a large screen spitting out mocking insults and helpful information. Monitors line the walls showing images of robots and other animated figures. It's an interesting background, but won't distract you from the action inside the arena.
Speaking of the action, Ballz often boils down to mashing the punch and kick buttons. Each of the eight characters have a number of moves to learn, but I found many of them were too difficult to pull off and not very effective in practice. I was also disappointed to see that a lot of the move animations repeat from one character to the next. It's also disappointing that there's no way to bring up a list of special moves inside the game.
Ballz is chaotic to a fault. Even when players are using special moves as they are intended, there is simply too much happening on screen at once. I was easily confused and stopped having fun the moment I realized I could win most battles by mashing the kick button over and over. This is a really creative workaround that feels a little undercooked.