Review by Black_Crusher
The steepest difficulty curve in the history of man, right here!
I had just posted today on the NES general boards about my times with Bubble Bobble with my brother from way back and realized "HEY! I never wrote a review for that game here!" Well, that's going to change now, and I figure since I'm on the eve of my week's vacation, what better time than today? And so, without further ado, my hopefully entertaining... BUBBLE BOBBLE REVIEW!!
Hooray! A whopping 2 points for including one at all! It seems our heroes, the aptly-named "Bub" and "Bob", had their girlfriends kidnapped by Super Drunk. I'm not even kidding here, his name is Super Drunk!! SUPER!! And before you ask just what would two lovely ladies be doing with two bubble-breathing dragons, I believe they've been turned into these dragons by some form of devilish magic by said Super Drunk. The story is not what you'll play for anyhow, so it doesn't matter.
Years after playing this, the NES version of Bubble Bobble, I had managed to nab a copy of a GBA Japanese import remake of this called Bubble Bobble Old & New. In it, they give you the chance to play the "new" remade game, or the "old" one, which is the same as the NES game. Playing both of them gave me a lot of respect for the old, ORIGINAL graphics of this game, because the simpler, the better. Black backgrounds really do this game a big favor, because they help the rest of the sprites stand out. In the new version of that game, they put these crazy backgrounds in and it just made everything else look awful. (The squashed sprites didn't help either, but that is a tale for another time.)
So, you have your dragons, which are green (player 1) and blue (player 2). They look great. There are also various enemies found throughout each level that will try and kill you, and they too look pretty good. The levels are always simplistic in appearance, and many of them have a theme of some sort such as walls that spell different words or are of one big picture. There's even a level that looks like an umbrella because that's the first level you can get an umbrella on. Bien!
Sound & Music: 10/10
The theme song gets the 10 all by itself. This is the song you'll hear about 99% of the game, but it's so well composed and catchy nobody gives a rat's ass that you'll hear it about 20,000 times before the end. I recently learned how to play it on my bass, and it's actually a lot harder to play than you may expect at first. There are only about 2 or 3 other songs in the entire game (bonus level & Super Drunk level). When you linger on a level for too long, the music will speed up a lot, warning you that Baron Von Blubber is coming to kill you soon.
Sound effects match the overall look of the game, which is very cute and cartoony. Thankfully the awful voice effects found in Bubble Bobble: Old & New are not present in the original! That also helped to kill that game.
Bub and Bob control fairly well, although they are pretty slow for the most part. They tend to fall really slow as well, which in the long run ends up helping the player reach some of the platforms a bit easier since you have more time to attempt the landing. There's a maneuver in this game that must be mastered in order to win called a "bubble jump". This is accomplished by pressing and holding the jump button while hopping onto a bubble. Sometimes this must be done in a narrow area where the walls continuously break your bubbles. This is maddening when you see that the whole time there are also enemies trying to kill you, not to mention the time limit they give you before Baron Von Blubber appears. This alone hurts the control score.
But the most important part of any game is of course how fun it is to play. Bubble Bobble is very fun. It's also very easy to get into and learn what to do right away for anybody. Its cuteness draws you in, its plethora of different fruits, vegetables, and other goodies keeps you interested for hours. And the method of taking out your enemies is truly unique as well.
Your ultimate goal for each level is to destroy all the enemies. You can do this in a number of amusing ways, but none more common than by trapping them inside one of your bubbles blown from your very own mouth! Once trapped inside the enemy will float about like a hapless dope, following the unseen wind current that is unique to each level. Most levels have an end point to this current which deposits all the bubbles into one massive blob. THIS is when you want to rush in and pop these bubbles, because the more you pop that are touching, the more points you'll get. Enemies killed in this way also turn into better fruits and vegetables that are worth more and more points.
When you kill enemies squished together in blobs, you may also get a special bonus bubble or bubbles to appear from the outside of the level that sort of floats on in. They are differently colored from your own bubbles and have a letter on them. When you spell "EXTEND", you'll get an extra guy! It should be noted that which of these letter bubbles you get is random, and that there are two different color "E" bubbles that you need in order to properly spell EXTEND. If the level you're on doesn't have a space for these outside bubbles to appear from, they will continually be carried over until you're on a level that does.
To help Bub and Bob out, you should keep an eye out for various power ups that also appear from time to time. By far the most common is the candy power up. These can make you blow bubbles rapid-fire style, or increase the range of the bubbles you blow. And best of all, the powers stack so they won't replace each other when you get a different one. Aside from candy, the next most common power up is the shoe. Getting this will let you run and jump MUCH FASTER than ever before. I personally don't like the shoe because the speed boost also messes with the gravity of your jumps and falls. You won't be able to jump as well with them on. And since like all power ups the effects stay with you until you die, this can screw your jumps up over several levels or so. Far less common power ups include the aforementioned umbrella that lets you skip multiple levels, and magic crosses that kill all the enemies by either lightning or drowning. Nice!
Other cool things to be found in the game are elemental bubbles. You can unleash their powers by popping them open. Fire bubbles' flames drop down and fry anything on the platform below. Any enemy caught in a water bubble's blast is carried away and killed quickly. And my personal favorites are lightning bubbles. These are sort of tricky because popping one will shoot a lightning bolt across the screen in the direction OPPOSITE to the way you're facing when you pop it. Any enemy killed by an elemental bubble will turn into awesome prizes like diamonds or crystals.
The path to victory isn't going to be an easy one I'm afraid. Each enemy you encounter has a unique way of trying to kill you. Some are very hard to avoid without getting hit and dying. I think immediately of the one level with 10 or so robots at the top, constantly firing their lasers downwards at you, waiting for you to climb to the top and kill them. Or those levels where you need to bubble jump against a current that goes downwards and away from where you need to go! Or the infamous level 99! And if this wasn't enough, when the game decides that you're taking too long it will send out Baron Von Blubber (BVB). BVB looks like an undead version of the normal blue-purple whales you've already seen, only this one is a lot meaner. He starts off slowly coming at you, going right through walls and other obstacles with ease. And then he gets faster. And faster. He can't be killed. AT ALL. The only way to escape him is to hurry up and kill the remaining enemies before he catches and kills you. I guess BVB is this game's version of the crazy happy face guy from Berzerk! (A very old Atari game)
In the end, should you get that far, is your battle with Super Drunk. Super Drunk is HARD to defeat, but not impossible. You will likely get killed about 20 times before you beat him. This time is not time wasted, however, since during which you will learn his movement pattern and how often he throws bottles at you. He is also one of two enemies impervious to your bubbles. (The other being BVB). To beat him, you need to first jump up and grab one of the two lightning potions on the platforms in his room. This allows you to breathe your very own lightning bubbles! The best tactic I know of is to blow massive amounts of lightning bubbles on one side of the screen, then jump up to the top quickly and fall onto them, breaking the lot open and sending tons of lightning bolts towards Super Drunk. Just make sure you're facing the opposite direction (i.e. towards the wall) before you pop them!
The best way to play this game if you can is on the original NES console with a friend. It seems to me like a lot of the levels were specially designed to be completed with 2 players anyhow. You can still play and win the game solo- it's just nowhere near as much fun as with somebody else. Technically, if there aren't two players at the end when you defeat Super Drunk, you can't really win! There's a trick to this though, and that is to pause the game and press select to get Bob (player 2) to appear. THEN you can kill Super Drunk and win. Doing this costs Bub (player 1) one life, so be careful!!
Infinite continues is the only reason this game has been won at all by anyone. Nobody could finish it otherwise. Nobody! Like I said before, the game is very easy to get into and learn how to play, and it is. You will likely be good at it very quickly and crank up a pretty high score for awhile. You might not even get killed for levels and levels. And then it hits you like a cinder block to the base of the skull- *BAM!* And you die. And you keep dying. A lot. Remember how you once had a score upwards of 300,000? Well, those days are gone buddy. Each time you start over the score resets you know! There will come a point for everyone when they hit the challenge wall, and it will be a lot sooner than you'd expect from a game that boasts over 100 levels' worth of play. I think for me it was around level 20-25. The difficulty curve is way too steep for this game, in my opinion, and so when I give it a "10" I don't mean because they made the difficulty just right, I mean it's harder than it should be.
You may need to give it some time after playing it all the way through, but eventually you'll come back to ol' Bubble Bobble for some more punishm- um, FUN! Because despite it's severe challenge about midway through it really is a fun game to play. Just remember that in this game, "halfway through" is about 50 friggin' levels!! The sheer amount of different collectibles found within boosts the replay score as well, although because the score is always reset when you start over, it's not by very much.
+Great cartoony graphics
+Awesome theme song
+Easy to learn and master every move
+One of the best 2-player NES games available
+Varied treasures and power ups to collect
+Varied levels to play through
+A whole LOT of these levels!
+His name is Super Drunk. Instant win!
-Extremely Hard for most of the game. It hits you like a ton of bricks.
-Some levels seem to be designed for 2 players, which is bad if you're solo.
-The running shoes screw up your jumps, which hurts more than the speed boost they give.
-Randomized letter bubbles sometimes never give you the ones you need to spell EXTEND.
-Baron Von Blubber sometimes comes out too early in the latter levels, the ones that are already next to impossible!
FINAL SCORE: 9/10
As you can tell from the score, this is in no way an average. I feel that the 2 player experience shoots the score way, way up. The game looks great. The game sounds great. It's really fun to play, and you'll find a lot of different bubbles, fruits, crosses, and other treasures while doing so. But man, does it ever get hard after awhile! I wish more time had gone into balancing the game's difficulty where if one wanted to play through more than 1 level at a time before getting killed off and starting new they could. Just take my advice and bring a friend to help you play- You guys can both take turns banging your heads on the wall in frustration together that way, and that's always more fun!
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
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