Review: Bubble Bobble Plus! (WiiWare)

Space Invaders Get Even proved that drastically changing a classic Taito franchise works very well. Bubble Bobble Plus, however, is more of a flat-out remake - is it a good one?

Bubble Bobble's one of the most well-known arcade games - If you so much as hum the theme song to someone it's very likely they'll recognize it. As such it's really a no-brainer to have on the Wii Shop. But wait a minute - the NES port of the original game is already available on the Virtual Console! Surely remaking it for WiiWare and making it cost more would just be a waste of time? Thankfully, Taito proves everybody wrong!

A quick recap of the gameplay for those (unlucky) people still unfamiliar with Bubble Bobble: you are presented with a stage the size of the screen. A number of enemies will appear on it, and your objective is to trap each one in a bubble, then pop it to defeat them. Defeating enemies or doing certain (secret) other things will also make items appear. Most of these just give you points, but some of them will give you temporary boosts, such as increased speed or the ability to spit insta-kill fireballs.

Bubble Bobble Plus! has a whopping six different gameplay modes. In Standard Mode, you (or you and one other friend) can tackle all 100 original arcade stages. These are completely unaltered and play exactly the same as they always did. There's also a remix of the original music, and, as always, it plays during all 100 stages! The graphics are almost unchanged, although all characters are now 3D models instead of 2D sprites. They look a little jagged, but are otherwise pretty good.

Arrange Mode drastically changes the whole game however - You can not only play it alone or with a friend, but also with two or three friends! It has 100 completely new stages, which take advantage of a single new gameplay element - Slopes! These did not exist in the original game, but they're all over the place in Arrange Mode. If you stand on these you'll be aligned diagonally - This allows you to spit bubbles in diagonal directions, which can prove very handy sometimes. Arrange Mode also has some other changes, although these don't really directly affect the gameplay, such as there being new items. There's also completely new music, with a new song playing about every 20 stages.

Super-Standard and Super-Arrange are basically just as their name implies - harder versions of Standard and Arrange Mode. The only thing that really changes here is that weaker enemies are gone entirely - you'll start encountering the strongest enemies right away, making it a challenge from the offset.

Following on from Space Invaders, there's some downloadable content as well. It's much cheaper here though: there's two packs, and each costs 200 Wii Points. These unlock "Expert-1" and "Expert-2" on the main menu. These are a bit of a mix between Standard and Arrange Mode - each has 50 new levels, which use both the classic enemies and the new ones. The slopes from Arrange Mode also appear, and there's two new bosses, one in each pack. For the most part these levels are much harder than those in the other modes, so if you like a challenge these are definitely worth the price.

If all of the game's modes weren't enough, there's even more replay value in two extra features. The most obvious is online leaderboards, a particular challenge seeing if you can beat the best scores of the Japanese players who've already had the game for months! A bit more surprising is an item catalogue, which can be found under Options: here you can see all the items you've collected, along with the special requirement to make them appear (if there is one). If you're a completionist the urge to fill up the whole catalogue will be irresistible!

Conclusion

On the surface Bubble Bobble Plus! looks like a simple remake of the original arcade game, but a ton of new levels and a few new gameplay elements make it a far superior experience, which is worth buying even if you already bought the NES game. Taito played it safe by keeping the gameplay exactly the same, and that turned out to be a good decision, because the game is just as enjoyable as it always was.