Every once in a while, there comes a game that becomes an instant classic. Games like this last for years without dying down as they are enjoyed by people of all different ages. Bubble Bobble turned out to be one of these games. Taito originally released this legend as an arcade game in 1986. Due to its increasing popularity, Bubble Bobble was later released on many different computers and systems, including the NES. While the NES port suffers in a few areas, it still deserves a high score for its unique and enjoyable gameplay.
Okay, so Bubble Bobble's story is one of its suffering areas. The evil Baron von Blubba captured two brontosauruses from a peaceful forest of dinosaurs. Bub and Bob, friends of the two abducted dinosaurs, received word of this horrible deed and set off to rescue their buddies. This isn't so easy, though, because Baron von Blubba sent hordes of beasts into the forest to stop anyone who would attempt to halt his sinister act. All hope is lost, save for Bub and Bob, whose bubble-blowing abilities are the only thing that can save their friends from a horrible fate. They cannot let their buddies down.
Bubble Bobble can be played either in one-player mode or in two-player mode. In one-player mode, you play the small, green dinosaur, Bub, as you set out on your quest alone. In two-player mode, a second player will join in as the blue dinosaur, Bob, as both players play simultaneously to help each other out. For either mode, you have the option to start from the beginning of the game or to enter a password to start at any one of the game's many levels.
The total number of levels that this game contains slightly exceeds one hundred. Each level is small and takes up the whole screen at one time. In these one-screen levels, there will be platforms, some spelling certain words or forming an interesting pattern, that you can jump on from underneath. Small enemies are placed at specific locations on the screen, and you must eliminate every one of these maniacal baddies to proceed to the next level. To kill these enemies, you have to blow bubbles at them. No, the bubbles aren't poisonous. No, they don't contain hidden secret weapons. Instead, an enemy will become trapped inside one of these bubbles when it is blown at that enemy. When an enemy is captured within a bubble, you or the other player must pop the bubble by jumping into it. When an enemy-trapping bubble is popped, the enemy will be gone and a food will fly out from the popped bubble. But if a bubble is not popped in enough time, the enemy will fall out and run around the screen very quickly out of anger. If all the enemies aren't eliminated in enough time, the music will become very fast and an invincible shark will follow you around the screen to try to take one of your lives.
Certain objects will randomly appear throughout the levels for the purpose of helping you along. There are many of these objects, so I'm just going to give you examples of them instead of describing each and every helpful item. Sometimes, bubbles that contain letters will float onto the screen; the letters of these bubbles come from the word "EXTEND". If you can collect these bubbles until you completely spell "EXTEND", you will be pushed ahead one level. If you grab a parasol, you will be pushed ahead seven levels. Another helpful object is the piece of candy, which makes you blow bubbles faster and farther. Shoes will make your dinosaurs very fast as they run around the screen to dispose of the enemies. Some other special items include rings, which will desroy the enemies of the level when collected, and necklaces, which will either help to give you more points or help to eliminate the beasts. Many other objects will also help you along, but there are too many to mention here.
The control in Bubble Bobble is almost as good as you're going to get. The controls are extremely simple. All you have to do is jump around and blow bubbles. There's not much more besides this, making the game very simple to play. The buttons used for the game are very responsive and the dinosaurs are easy to control. Just about the only evident control problem is the dinosaurs' lack of speed. They seem sluggish, as if they've eaten too much food. It makes sense that the characters should be a bit slow in a game like this (they don't want to make it too easy), but they could have been just a tad quicker. Other than that, this game does very well in the control area.
The graphics of Bubble Bobble are good but should have been given a little more work. The platforms are very detailed, with their interesting patterns; but the background is nothing but a black screen. The characters and baddies are the most elaborate sprites in the whole game, being very clear and well-done, even though the dinosaurs may seem too cutesy. The bubbles that you blow are just clear, round circles with a thin outline that seems to be of many different blinking colors, giving it a nice realistic touch. Unfortunately, the characters and objects may slow down or annoyingly blink due to the massive number of sprites the NES tries to handle when a lot of bubbles or enemies are gathered in one spot. If the detail in the platforms and the background had been a little more balanced, this game may have had some of the best graphics on the system.
Only two songs are heard throughout the whole game. One song is heard when defeating the boss at the end of the game. The other song is heard for the whole entire time you play through each level. Many find this endless song to be very annoying after hearing it for a while. I actually find the song to be very catchy and fun to listen to. I don't mind listening to that one song throughout the whole game, though others may mind. While a lot of people get annoyed by this Bubble Bobble theme song after hearing it through every level, I very much enjoy it and consider it to be one of the great songs of video gaming history. Great, now I can't get the song out of my head.
The sound effects in this game are definitely not the best that have been heard on the NES system. Actually, just about the only sound effects in the game are the sounds you hear when you jump, when you collect an object, and when you lose a life. The enemies make no sound whatsoever, except when certain enemies throws items at you. The first two sounds I mentioned are nothing more than beeps or little dings. The other sounds vary, most being long-lasting beeps or sounds, some which slightly raise in tone during the sound's little life. The only sounds that vary from these are the sounds you hear when the enemy Stoner throws a red blob at you and when the enemy Super Socket tries to zap you with a laser. The red blob makes a strange sound when it hits a wall; this sound seems somewhat like crumpling paper, only with a deeper tone. The laser of Super Socket makes a very high-pitched noise that can become annoying after enduring a level with it.
Bubble Bobble is a very tough game, maybe even a little too tough as to discourage someone from playing it. As you proceed through the levels, the time given to you for popping enemy-containing bubbles and for eliminating all the enemies in each level slowly diminishes. The level platforms become more complex as the enemies become more difficult to get to. After playing a few dozen levels, the game may become too hard for any casual gamer to endure.
Despite some of the game's design glitches, Bubble Bobble still has a high replay value. Based mostly on the unique gameplay, the entertainment of this game doesn't fade easily. The game is a ton of fun to play and is very enjoyable as you blow bubbles and battle bad beasties (try saying that ten times fast). Games like this are hard to stay away from and have a greatness that lasts for a long time.
Even though there are some problems in the game, it doesn't steal from the fun of the game at all. Bubble Bobble is, without a doubt, one of Taito's greatest releases, starting from arcades and evolving to even the Playstation system. The NES version of this game has always been one of my favorite video games and it always will. Don't expect Bubble Bobble to find the Video Gaming Graveyard soon. It has lasted for over 12 years, and there is no reason it shouldn't last another twelve.
- Story (4/10): Some evil guy captures two dinos from a cute valley and the dinos' friends must save them.
- Gameplay (10/10): This great game is totally unique and is very different from many other games.
- Control (9/10): The controls are, for the most part, very simple and responsive.
- Graphics (8/10): The platforms and characters are very detailed, but the backgrounds lack much.
- Music (8/10): Many dislike the song that plays through the whole game, but I find it very good.
- Sound (5/10): Too many missing and low-quality sound effects dominate the game.
- Challenge (7/10): This game can get very difficult, especially in the later levels.
- Replay (8/10): This is a very fun game and has been enjoyed by many people for years.
- Overall (9/10): Bubble Bobble is a great game that sure won't die out quickly.
My Score: 9/10