Friday, August 24, 2012

Bubble Bobble for NES

The record for arcade translations on NES is pretty spotty. Some, like Gyruss, are faithful to the arcade version, and a lot of fun to play. Others, like Xenophobe, don't hold a candle to the arcade original. Fortunately, Taito's Bubble Bobble falls squarely in the former category. It may not bring anything new to the table, but it retains the arcade version's simple, addictive gameplay and its cheerful aesthetic.

Bubble Bobble is a one- or two-player cooperative puzzle platformer. It stars Bub & Bob, two cute, buck-toothed little dinosaurs on a quest to rescue their respective girlfriends from an army of cutesy characters in a game spanning over 100 levels. Their only means of attack is a flip-top head that squirts out enemy-trapping bubbles. Once an enemy is immobilized, Bub or Bob can dispatch it by popping the bubble, turning it into a piece of fruit (or sushi or candy or a necklace or any number of objects) that can be eaten for extra points. Once the room is cleared of baddies, Bub & Bob automatically descend to the next room in the game.

Yes, let us.
 Bubble Bobble's simple gameplay may make it one of the most accessible game in the NES library, but for those who wish to plumb its depths, there's plenty to be found. As I mentioned, there are over 100 levels in the game, (each level is directly accessible with a mercifully short password) but that's just the beginning. Finishing the game unlocks Super Bubble Bobble, which contains an additional 100+ unique and more challenging levels. Power-ups in Bubble Bobble are triggered when you perform certain actions, such as popping a number of bubbles or taking out a bunch of enemies at once. There are loads of power-ups too, which can turn every enemy on screen into fruit, skip you ahead several levels, double your rate of fire, or just grant you a whole mess of points. There are even multiple endings, the "worst" of which is seen by simply finishing the game, and the others by unlocking secret items and/or finishing the game with both players.

Bubble Bobble's presentation lost very little in its translation to the NES. The arcade version, with its flat-black background, wasn't exactly a feast for the eyes, but its characters were colorful, nicely detailed, and well animated. The NES version looks nearly as good, with only minor concessions to its more limited color palette, as well as some flickering when too many objects are on-screen at once. The background music is the same single tune as the arcade version, and played on an endless loop. It's a cheery little earworm that will bore into your skull and lay eggs of whimsey in your brain.

 Bubble Bobble is a whole lot of fun, and just as much game as you want it to be, whether that's a marathon run through hundreds of levels, or just a few minutes of classic arcade action.

Thanks for reading my review! Up next is another entry in the Bubble Bobble canon: Bust-A-Move.

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