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First Impressions: Rainbow Islands Towering Adventure!

Posted by Sean Aaron

Rainbow Islands has been selected as the 3rd of Taito's Collection on WiiWare; it seems natural given that it's the arcade sequel to Bubble Bobble, the previous release

I'm old enough to have seen the arcade game, but I guess I frequented the wrong arcades because I never laid eyes on this game until I bought the Bubble Bobble collection on the original Playstation. It's a rather unique platforming game in which you travel vertically rather than horizontally through worlds subdivided into stages a la Mario World. Each world had a different theme like Bug World, War Toy World and Monster World (I never could beat that third boss...) for a total of 7 worlds with associated bosses.

The WiiWare game is called Rainbow Islands: Towering Adventure! It's quite massive compared to Bubble Bobble Wii clocking in at 295 blocks, but the same price at 800 points. There's no downloadable content and no online leaderboards unlike the previous two Taito's Collection games, but let's focus on the game itself.

After creating your game save you can jump into one of three game modes: Story Mode, a Ranked Mode and Time Attack Mode. Story Mode starts out with a little dialogue between Bub and Bob, now transformed back into boys -- but much taller and less cute than in the original arcade game. In the middle of this dialogue an old fellow floats down and seems to be giving them a hard time. He then floats away and a menacing machine comes up from the ground. Then the game begins and you progress upwards on your little rainbows, jumping to different platforms trying to escape this thing until a showdown at the end of the level.

Players familiar with the arcade game will notice several similarities in this game: rainbows are used to attack enemies and travel between platforms that are too far apart for jumping and enemies from the Bug and Toy levels will be seen. What is immediately different is the graphical appearance. Like Bub and Bob the characters are rendered in 3D and a bit less cutesy. Backgrounds are quite detailed with bits of city seen in the background rather than the sky of the arcade. In the arcade game you could cause your rainbows to fall and eliminate enemies and get pick-ups below by simply jumping upon them after casting them; now you need to jump under them which makes for a more challenging game and provides a slight learning curve for experienced Rainbow Islanders. The bottom of the screen has a timer counting down seconds from 300 and a counter for the number of vertical metres you've jumped, which is reminiscent of Mr. Driller and Crazy Climber.

The last major change is that there are no lives: you play until you run out of time; every enemy collision costs you 30 seconds and some power-up strength. In the course of play you will be clobbering caterpillars and little tanks with rainbows; when this happens you'll have various power-ups released to upgrade your character speed, rainbow speed and rainbow range (all tracked by separate bars in the upper right corner). You'll also see large and small gems released. The large gems are in the colours of the rainbow. In the arcade game getting all of them would get you a 1up; since there are no lives, instead you just keep your power-up levels when you collide with an enemy. The little gems get you seconds added to your timer and become more important than anything else as the game goes on.

Every 1000m you fight a boss and end the level. In the arcade game boss fights happened in separate closed screens with little platforms similar to a Bubble Bobble level; not so here. In this game you have platforms on the sides and continue up to the finish whilst the boss shoots at you. The first boss fires giant missiles straight up; the second webs. Running back and forth above the boss on rainbows is a bit risky, so you'll find yourself jumping up to cast rainbows and then jumping again to make them fall on the boss. Not quite as interesting or engaging; besides you hardly see any of the boss since that would mean your doom. Clobbering the boss takes you to the level Finish complete with power-ups and time gems. In the arcade this was the end and you then started fresh at the bottom of a new stage; here you had better grab some gems because the game just continues upward without resetting your time clock. The effect is a bit deflating -- especially if you were down to your last 60 seconds on the boss! On the positive side you can play again starting at the last level reached in any of the three modes.

Playing the second mode I'm calling "Ranked" skips the opening dialogue, but is otherwise the same game as Story Mode. The only other difference is that the result is tracked in a couple of graphs showing you how high you've gone from game to game and the time taken to reach the level finish. These graphs can be viewed by choosing the second option from the opening menu. I guess this is supposed to give you some incentive to better your performance, but I don't see why there's a separate mode for this -- surely the same data could be tracked from the Story Mode? This mode and the Story mode can be played with one or two players; the second player can jump in at any time. Since you both share the same timer (and therefore run it down by hitting enemies) it's not clear this will result in better progress, but it's nice to see the same multiplayer co-op aspect as the arcade game.

The third mode is Time Attack and tracks how fast you can clear a level. Unlike the other two levels this one is only single-player. You can choose from levels that have been previously unlocked, so I've not tried this extensively, but I don't see the point of this really. I mean I play the game to see how far I can get not how fast I can complete one level. Still, it's an extra and I cannot complain about that when you're otherwise just looking at the one game.

Overall the game is decent; it's Rainbow Islands in general look and feel. What is missing is a lot of the charm of the original and the themes of the different worlds. I've only been to the first two levels, so maybe there's new stuff further on, but I couldn't see much different in the enemies of the first two levels. It's not a bad game, but it falls short of the appeal of the original arcade classic and is therefore not as satisfying an experience as Bubble Bobble Wii was. I could enjoy it for what it is, but unlike Bubble Bobble or Drill World, I don't feel the desire to play; it just doesn't grab me. If you're a big fan of the original (and I'm more of a Bubble Bobble fan) I think you'll get something out of it, but if you feel like waiting to see when the PC Engine port on the Virtual Console is coming out, I wouldn't blame you.

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User Comments (15)

Ferret75

#2

Ferret75 said:

The graphics are really odd to me.
Bub looks like Mr. Waldo with different shirt. x_x

And the gameplay doesn't look that great either.
I'll pass.

CorbsAdmin

#3

Corbs said:

I've already got the PC Engine CD version which I love so I might at least try this one if it ever sees the light of day over here in the US. Great impressions as always Sean. Keep 'em coming! :D

SmaMan

#4

SmaMan said:

I'll have to try the original if they put it back on GameTap Free again. I remember seeing it there but I never actually played it.

Objection

#5

Objection said:

That was quick! Anyway, thanks for your thoughts. It's nice to get these "previews" of Japanese games before they make it over.

themortalangel

#7

themortalangel said:

Never played the original so the graphic style doesnt bother me. When are all these Taito (Enix) games gonna hit the wester world?

Pegasus

#8

Pegasus said:

I think I'll pass. I loved Rainbow Islands on the Amiga, but this remake doesn't seem all that hot; about as lackluster as the Bubble Bobble update. Too bad.

Sean_Aaron

#9

Sean_Aaron said:

The blackbirds of the Bug World have been replaced by bats (a la Monster World), so I'm having my doubts about the later stages having new enemies. Famitsu has screenshots of pretty much all the other levels. It looks like the last one is up in the straosphere and there's Space Invaders visible. The bosses all look more or less the same: big machine climbing up from the bottom -- this is my biggest gripe because they're just a chore. Having no enemy variety from stage to stage means the only new stuff to see is the background.

I'll give this game a little more time, but I'm thinking Parasol Stars (the story of Bubble Bobble 3 -- not to be confused with Bubble Memories: Bubble Bobble 3) might be a more fun game and that's currently out on the Japanese Wii (and hopefully coming to a Hanabi festival near you).

I really think they would have been better off doing like Bubble Bobble: giving it minor facelift and then adding a ton of new levels. This would have kept the core gameplay intact and given fans of the original something new to check out. Either that or do a completely new game that has elements of the original. This just feels half-baked, like a quick and easy update. I hope further Taito's Collections will see a little more effort put into them.

Terra

#10

Terra said:

Firstly, Great First Impressions again Sean. I'm just curious though. What are the controls like?

Ratengo

#11

Ratengo said:

There are Invaders from Get Even outspread among the enemies in the seventh (and last) stage, which takes place in the Space. Please welcome the invaders because they often give you time gems if being hit, and these gems is well needed because the final level is annoying hard…! :)

You have to make your way to the top and fight the machine that appears from the bottom like in the earlier stages. If you reach the top without beating the level boss, the game will end and the staff roll comes instead. If the level boss is beaten, you will face the last boss (a robot machine created by the mad scientist). After the robot is destroyed and the scientist flees, a new guy appears from nowhere. You have to continue even higher and hunt him while avoiding the homing balls the guy is throwing against you - not good because the timer is already low and if the task is failed, you have to restart the level from the beginning and do all over again. Ouch. After several attempts, I still have not completed the game. Sigh…! :(

@Sean:

I do agree with your thoughts plus that the game would be even better/easier if there were options to shut down the interfering background and/or a 15-seconds reduction instead of 30 if being hit by any enemy. If you are planning to clear the game - Good luck…! :)

Sean_Aaron

#13

Sean_Aaron said:

@Terrangima: Controls are fine: wiimote on the side, Classic Controller or wiimote+nunchuk. I always opt for the former when given the choice if a game is only two buttons and a d-pad like this one.

@Ratengo: I've already deleted it. Last night I played the game on second level, the boss clobbered me (again). I then got on the shop and downloaded Parasol Stars (the PCE sequel to Rainbow Islands) and Liquid Kids (another cute Taito platformer from the arcades, though I don't recall seeing this one either). Both were great classic arcade platformers with fun play mechanics.

I then played this WiiWare game again and made two more attempts at the boss and that was it for me. The main problem with this game is that you just don't have the sense you're getting anywhere; there's no feeling of accomplishment and the constant clock ticking down creates added frustration rather than challenge. By the time I get up to the boss I have maybe 60 seconds on the clock. Add to the fact that the second boss has legs that twirl so they reach halfway up the screen and it feels very much balanced against me. If it was an arcade game and I was out 50p I could forgive it, but as a home console game it fails, I'm sorry.

The original having lives which removes some of the time pressure and being broken up into stages before reaching a boss gives you a decent amount of play time to feel like you're getting somewhere; the boss fights are enjoyable because you have more freedom to analyse enemy attacks without an egg timer to worry about in the corner. It's just a really bad design decision on their part. If the game had lives instead of using a clock I could probably forgive it some of its other shortcomings.

And why the hell is it so huge? I also will be waiting for the arcade port; hopefully the PC Engine had a good one.

Ratengo

#14

Ratengo said:

@Sean:

You have made a very good choice by downloading both nice Taito games, but you should be warned that they can be difficult too (I used at least 30 credits to clear Parasol Stars and I got to learn where short cuts were located in Mizubaku Daibouken). My entire VC and WW collections can be found here.

What next WiiWare game are you planning to put your thoughts into? I may suggest either Bakutan (a pretty game with 100 puzzles for one single player) or Tataite! Mogupon (a cute whack-a-mole game for 1-4 players and online leaderboards are available). They cost 500 Wii Points each. I already own both and enjoy them, but I don’t know if the games will ever be made available for Western audiences.

Sean_Aaron

#15

Sean_Aaron said:

I'm fairly limited in my appetite for puzzle games and have no interest in another whack-a-mole game (Namco Museum Remixes Gator Panic has me covered if I ever get the urge), so I'll pass on those.

I'm unaware of anything upcoming on the Japanese service I'm on the lookout for. It's all a surprise, which is kind of nice in a way.

Ai Cho Aniki is probably going to be my next Japanese VC purchase, though being a CD game it's on the large side; I'll probably wait for Super Shinobi to come out to get that. I don't have a problem with the arcadey games being difficult as long as they're fun. I didn't find Rainbow Islands to have enough fun in it; when it's just difficult I lose interest quickly.

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