King and Balloon: Classic Arcade Game Video, History & Game Play Overview


Created, developed and published by video gaming giant Namco, King and Balloon was one of the first arcade titles to feature recorded voices. Because the game never gained much popularity in either Japan or the United States, no ports were developed or introduced to the market until 1998. Debuting in 1980, King and Balloon came out the same year as another famous Namco title; Pac-Man.

Using a 2x Z80 processor, Namco also used some of the same elements found in previously released titles to create King and Balloon. For instance, a few sound effects from Galaxian were borrowed. The major difference between the Japanese and U.S. release revolves around the voices and pronunciations. Although the King speaks in English, his accent is heavy in the Japanese version. A different voice actor was hired for the U.S. version. There is no theme music in this game.

The first port for King and Balloon was not sold by itself, but instead featured in the Namco Museum Encore collection. This game was not available outside of Japan. The next home version of King and Balloon, the Namco Museum Battle Collection was released for the PlayStation Portable, which is a hand-held video gaming device.

The latest home video game system to feature King and Balloon is the Xbox 360. One or two players can play King and Balloon, although they can only play one at a time.


Game Play Overview

In King and Balloon, the objective is to keep the King safe from an invading fleet of hot air balloons. A large cannon flanked by two foot soldiers while the King is guarded just below the platform that they stand on. If a hot air balloon descends below the foot soldiers, the King is captured, and he will begin to float away.

You can still shoot the balloon after the King has been lifted up into the air, but you will only have a limited number of tries. Having the King captured and carried off screen is equivalent to losing a life. However, you will not be penalized if the balloon is shot before he disappears. When a balloon carrying the King away has been shot, he will drift back down to land using one of his umbrellas. All players start with three lives per game.

Essentially, your goal is to pop all of the balloons on each level before they can get to the King. Once you have eliminated all of the balloons on a stage, a new round will begin with a new set of balloons. The same number of balloons appears on every stage, stacked in color coordinating rows. At the top are the red balloons, then there is a row of orange, a row of yellow and a row of white balloons below.

Red balloons have the highest value as they are the furthest away from the foot soldiers. Shooting a red balloon while stationary will give you 50 points. If a red hot air balloon is in movement, it is worth 100 points. Orange balloons in a stationary position are valued at 40 points, and charging orange balloons are worth 80.

Shooting a cannon ball at a yellow balloon while stationary yields 30 points. Moving yellow balloons are worth 60 points. White balloons, which make up the bottom row, have the lowest point value. You will get 20 points added to your score if you destroy a non-moving white balloon. Flying white air balloons are worth 40 points.

Special Features

Striped balloons appear throughout King and Balloon, and while they are somewhat of a nuisance, they have a much higher point value than the standard hot air balloons. In addition, it takes three shots from the cannon to destroy them.

When a striped hot air balloon is formed, several colored balloons will come together and form a 'super' enemy. Striped hot air balloons come in four different varieties, but you can tell them apart by the color of the basket. Besides having differences in colors, they all have different point values.

The white 'super' striped balloon is worth a total of 1,000 points. The first shot will yield you 200 points, the second will give you another 300 points and the last hit rewards players with 500 points. Yellow striped balloons are worth 300 for the first hit, 500 for the second and 700 for the third hit.

Orange striped super balloons start off at 400 points for the first cannon ball hit. The second and third hit will give you 600 and 1,000 points, respectively. The last and most valuable super-hot air balloon is the red variety. You will receive 500 points for the first hit, 1,000 points for the second and 1,500 when it is destroyed.

King and Balloon doesn't feature any power-ups, but you can get an extra life when 10,000 points are scored. One extra life is given per game.


King – This is the character that you guard with your cannon and foot soldiers. The King is completely defenseless, but he will warn you with his calls for help if he is captured.

Colored hot air balloons – These are your main enemies. It is not known what or who is piloting the army of invading hot air balloons, but they are capable of striking stealthy attacks. Pop the balloons in order to guard the King, and accumulate points as you defeat your foes.

Canon – The canon is the sole weapon of the foot soldiers. This huge cannon is moved left and right by two defenders of the King.

Striped hot air balloons – There will be far fewer striped balloons than regular balloons, which is a good thing, considering how difficult they are to destroy. Striped hot air balloons are nothing more than three regular balloons that have joined together to launch a large scale attack. These balloons take three hits to defeat.

Foot Soldiers – Two green colored foot soldiers stand atop a platform directly above the King. They fire the cannon when the action key is hit, and they cannot be killed.

Umbrellas – Umbrellas are used to safely transport the King back down to the ground after he has been kidnapped by a hot air balloon.

How to Play King and Balloon

Namco designed King and Balloon to have 48 stages of play. However, this title is widely considered to be an infinite play game. For one, there are not counters or markers that indicate the current level. Secondly, if you do make it to the 48th level, the game will continue to go on as if you were still on an earlier stage.

Considering that you can only have a maximum of four lives in King and Balloon, there is really no sense in trying to turn the game over. Achieving a top five score is much more important as you will be able to type your initials and achieve a record score.

Only two controls are needed to play King and Balloon. The foot soldiers manning the canon can move left and right. The action button will shoot a cannon ball in the air. Canon balls go straight up in the air, so it will be necessary for you to get directly underneath of your target if you want to guarantee a hit.
The canon cannot be fired again until the target is either hit, or the cannon ball itself disappears from sight.

Hot air balloons are arranged into a formation, consisting of four rows. Eight white balloons make up the bottom row, and 10 yellow balloons sit above. On top of the yellow balloons is another row of 12 orange balloons. Lastly, there are 14 red balloons stacked on top.

At the beginning of each round, all 44 balloons appear at the top of the screen. The formation will sway back and forth gently, firing shots at the two foot soldiers. Although the King is impervious to gunfire, he can be picked up by hot air balloons in a few different ways.

The most obvious attack on the King will come in the form of a diving balloon. If this balloon is able to make it past the foot soldiers and the canon, it can grab the King, and ascend back up into the sky. Several hot air balloons can attack and dive at once, and then settle on the bottom floor of the castle. Because the King paces back and forth, a balloon that has settled on the bottom floor can easily pick him up if he gets too close.

The canon and accompanying foot soldiers can be destroyed if they collide with a hot air balloon, or are hit by gunfire. However, the foot soldiers and canon automatically regenerate after just a second or two. Unfortunately, many balloons can attack the King during this small window, so try to avoid getting hit.

Striped balloons always form while they are still in the sky, but if you don't hit it with three cannon balls in time, it can capture the King. In the event that a striped balloon gets to the ground floor of the castle, it will separate back into its original form, leaving one, two or three hot air balloons next to the King.

When the King is captured, he will yell “help!” When you are able to shoot the attacking balloon holding the King hostage, he will say “Thank you!” as he floats back to the castle. The King will utter “Bye-bye” if you are not successful and he is hoisted off screen.

Although it may not be wise to purposefully allow the King to be captured, players do get a great opportunity to take out a bunch of opportunities while the King is lifted off the ground. For as long as the King is being hoisted away, none of the hot air balloons will fire or attack. Use this time to sniper a couple of nearby enemies, but don't forget to rescue the King.

When all of your lives are gone, the game will be over. This occurs when the King is permanently kidnapped and flies off screen either three or four times.

Hints and Tips
- Hot air balloons that are in 'attack' mode are worth more than the balloons that remain in their formation. If you can, fire the canon only at attacking balloons so that you can accumulate the initial 10,000 points needed for the extra life.

- Since only one cannon ball can be in the air at a time, try to aim for the balloons nearest you first. This will allow you to fire off more shots within a shorter time period.


We hope you enjoyed the video and the information shared on this classic arcade game.

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