Sunday, 8 March 2015

Kaze no Notam (Playstation)

You might have already seen the boxart and title screen for this game posted on tumblr before. For some reason, though, no-one seems to have actually taken any in-game screenshots, and with the exception of a miserable, point-missing review on GameFAQs, no-one seems to have written on the game, either.

So what you probably aleady know is that it's a game about riding around in a hot air balloon. It's a product of Artdink, who seemed to be having something of an experimental period in the mid-90s, with this along with other non-traditional games like Aquanaut's Holiday and Tail of the Sun. So, what you might be wondering is how they made a game out of Hot Air Ballooning, and the answer is: they barely did. 

The biggest unique point of Kaze no Notam is its controls. The player can't just steer their balloon about as they like, and are instead subject to the whims of the winds. A column on the right side of the screen shows the direction of the wind at different altitudes, and the only direct control the player has over their balloon is to ascend and descend to try and keep themselves in their desired air current. 

There are a few different game modes: finding a target on the ground and shooting it, shooting at three widespread points to make a huge triangle, and shooting down other balloons. None of them are particularly engaging though, but that's okay, since they only seem to be included as a token concession towards traditional videogamery, and the aforementioned controls mean that trying to beat times or play efficiently is a fool's errand. 

The real point of Kaze no Notam is to just leisurely fly around the maps, sightseeing and relaxing. The maps are huge, and full of cool stuff to see: futuristic cities, mountain-topping mansions, ruins of lost civilisations, and so on. The game lets players pick any of the maps right from the start, and also gives a choice from a few different times of day and weather conditions. As if to really hammer home the point that the game is more about aesthetics and mood than it is about mechanics and challenge, neither the time nor weather options actually affect the gameplay at all.

I definitely recommend that you seek out and play Kaze no Notam, for two reasons. The first is that it's a perfect example of how a videogame can be more than just its mechanics, and the second that it's a great little time capsule of a time when the advent of textured polygons was widening the scope of the kinds of games that could exist, and before the risk-minimising homogeneity of large-budget game development had sanitised and narrowed the scope back down.
   This game is also known as "Notam of Wind"


  1. Replies
    1. I found this video but it's not too great

  2. I quite like this game though the lack of control can be maddening. There's a narcotic serenity to it that, at the end of a taxing day, makes a good (and healthier) substitute for a drink or a tranquilizer.

    1. i think that's probably the best use for it (which i mean in an entirely positive sense)!