OtB1.bmp ['Parallax Memories' is a (trying to be more) regular column by Matthew Williamson, profiling classic '16-bit' games from the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, and other seminal '90s systems. This week's column features legendary developer Taito’s On the Ball for the SNES.]

Mode 7 has always reminded me of early CGI in film: it looks crappy a few years later and it's a noticeable gimmick at the time of release. Sometimes it's not so bad, or even a forgivable experiment for the time, but mostly Mode 7 seemed like a complete waste in the games that used it. Recently replaying games like Contra III and Final Fantasy 6 (3 for the SNES) just solidifies this feeling for me. On the Ball has possibly one of the best uses of this gimmick, though.

After constant (read also: incessant) prodding from a friend that I should play On the Ball I finally caved in and bought it around the time that I started this column. It's the home equivalent of the arcade title Cameltry, developed by Taito. The SNES version was released in November of 1992, some three years after the arcade counterpart.


When I first popped the game into my SNES I was greeted with a training course that got me indoctrinated quickly. The game is very abstract, considering that it could be summed up by saying that you guide a ball through a course with obstacles.

It's more than just that, though, it's a physics game all about momentum and trajectory (though, that's too simple on the other end of the scale). The closest I could come to accurately describing the game is that it's like taking a pachinko machine and spinning it freely to try to navigate the ball through a maze.

The ball is constantly falling and the player is always rotating. Sitting still will run out the ongoing clock and make later levels nearly impossible to finish. That's the key - to be constantly turning, twisting, and navigating the world around the ball. The player isn't doing much with the ball outside of making it jump or go faster: he's keeping the the ball's momentum by controlling the outside forces.

I kept playing the game for a while when I first got it. I really enjoyed the challenge and arcade format of the game, but slowly the feeling set in. The feeling is much like sitting in a room with paint drying for too long: nausea. So ultimately I can't play this game that I enjoy so much, because after about fifteen to twenty minutes I want to return my last meal from my stomach to a porcelain dish.


On par with the times, On the Ball is a bit of a downgrade from the Taito F2 arcade board hardware that Cameltry ran on in both the video and audio department. The music retains a unique and otherworldly quality, while the sound effects are suitable if not a bit bland. The visuals aren't honestly that bad, but this can mainly be chalked up to their general simplicity. It works well on the SNES even if it has an abstract quality from the previous generation.

Aside from some minor downgrades, the game did receive something far more important in the upgrade department: rather than the 20 levels for the arcade, the SNES port has 100. It makes the game much more suitable for home play, while also expanding on the already excellent level design and challenge of all the original levels.

On the Ball (well more specifically Cameltry) received a sequel on the DS titled Mawashite Koron. The game is mostly the same mechanically, with the addition of touch screen controls and a very abuseable damage button. Surprisingly the game is listed on the Nintendo US website and also has an ESRB rating. Unfortunately I doubt it will ever actually get released.

Some people consider Kororinpa (subtitled Marble Mania in the US) for the Wii a spiritual sequel to the Cameltry series in 3D, and it just so happens to also be very excellent. And just in case you've been living under a rock and really love On the Ball, the U.S. is going to finally get the Taito Legends 2 collection on the PS2, which will contain the original arcade Cameltry, this month.

[Matthew Williamson is the creator of The Gamer’s Quarter, an independent videogame magazine focusing on first person writing. His work has been featured on MTV.com, 1up.com, Chatterbox Radio, Entdepot, and the Fatpixels Radio Podcast.]