With the upcoming release of the Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition (NA) / Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System (EU), we're going to provide short profiles of all 30 games included on the system. Now we turn our attention to Bubble Bobble; don't forget to check out the first entry in this series, in which we look at Balloon Fight.
When we wrote about Balloon Fight we highlighted how the NES played host to a number of arcade-like experiences, with ports delivering addictive, intense games into the living room. Bubble Bobble is another game to fall under that category, yet it's far from being a simplistic coin guzzler - much of its appeal originates in its secrets and quirky mechanics that make every playthrough interesting. The gameplay is a lot of fun too; that always helps.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let's outline some key facts:
- The arcade arrived in August 1986 and became a critical and commercial success.
- Though many think of it as a 'NES' game, it arrived on a staggering range of platforms as Taito made the most of the game's popularity.
- It arrived on the NES in North America in late 1988, but it arrived nearly two years later (October 1990) in Europe.
A critical and commercial hit, Bubble Bobble on NES was one of the stronger conversions from the original (the Master System version is also rated highly). The core concept is both simple and bizarre - two dinosaur brothers called Bub and Bob have to fight through 100 stages by shooting enemies with bubbles before destroying them. The stages are single-screen affairs, but basic mechanics don't hide underlying complexities. In fact, it's in secrets and hidden extras that Bubble Bobble truly shines.
For example, some enemies drop power ups that can make you faster or have more powerful attacks, and achieving combos - of sorts - can bring access to more points and more hidden goodies; for score chasers this game has a lot to offer. The list of power-ups is surprisingly long, and there are more rewards for collecting 'EXTEND' letters (as just one example, triggered by putting those combos together). While a first playthrough may focus on simply clearing 100 levels, it's in subsequent enforced playthroughs where things get really interesting.
Taito pulled a trick seen in some other classics of this era, where simply clearing the game once isn't enough. Intriguingly - and in a move that could suit the NES Mini well - you get a 'Happy' ending if you play through it with two players, and there are more secrets (and another 'Super' playthrough to earn) besides. We're unsure how many to share here (various Wikis have the answers), so perhaps we'll produce a mini guide once the system arrives. There are even 'codes' that you can input for extra features and quirky events in the game.
In any case, the incentive to beat the game in co-op is very real, and this could be a particularly entertaining option in multiplayer on the miniaturised system. Whether playing solo or with a buddy, this will likely be one of the most compulsive games on the Mini NES; the controls and smart design mean it scores highly in some 'best NES' games lists. It's a title that showed impressive development skill from Taito, too, with air currents and various power-up mechanics shaking up play; by NES standards it was a hugely accomplished effort.
It's not just the excellent control and gameplay that shine in Bubble Bobble, but also the quirky humour. Some of the memorable aspects are found in enemy names. The Japanese name for Willy Whistle units is translated as 'Drunk', while a boss called Grumple Grommit was called 'Super Drunk' in the Japanese text. The localisation team certainly had fun; if you take too long to clear a stage a foe called Baron Von Blubba appears and chases you. This is a game that, through its overall presentation, forces you to smile.
Back in the '80s and beyond Bubble Bobble was widely ported, to systems as diverse as the Amiga and ZX Spectrum. There's a Game Boy version that's tricky due to the fact the stage can't fit on the screen all at once, so requires scrolling. It's even arrived in more recent times on the Nokia N-Gage - yep, even the N-Gage had a version.
Also worth highlighting is Bubble Bobble Plus!, an updated take on the game that arrived on WiiWare; we rather liked it in our review at the time.
All told, this will certainly be among the stronger titles on the Mini NES. A hit when it was released and critically acclaimed, the addictive and well constructed arcade gameplay means it remains hugely fun to this day. As a title that not only supports co-op but actively encourages it, we expect it to be a go-to title when trying out the Mini NES with a buddy.
LOVE this game, ever since owning it on the Master System back in the day.
Bubble Bobble is an all time classic. Great memories of playing 2 player and memorising all of the levels. Some levels are very unforgiving with their level design. I will definitely be getting the new mini. The xbox360 arcade version of Bubble Bobble is a great updated version of the classic game with additional extras.
I loved it back then on the C64. I found an ancient list in where I rated my games back in 1991. Bubble Bobble was in the top twenty as one of the best games I ever played at the time. I was 10.
If you want an enhanced 4-player & 200-level Bubble Bobble, I recommend Bubble Bobble Plus on WiiWare.
@Tsurii Um... it didn't start on the NES. It was an arcade game, with the NES receiving one of the many, many ports at the time (though, to be fair, one of the better ones).
Rainbow islands the sequel to Bubble Bobble was great too and was also on the Nes, Amiga, Amstrad etc. There was a second sequel called Parasol Stars.
Interestingly, despite Square Enix owning Taito, they're keeping the Taito branding separate. It's a Sega/Atlus situation.
Anyway, I hope this is an indicator for Taito to revive their intellectual properties for a contemporary gaming audience!
Would be awesome if Taito had a resurgence I agree. I wish Konami would also revive Bomberman franchise in some form. Gutted that they aquired Hudsonsoft.
One of the best games ever made.
A timeless classic. No better game to play with your better half.
Bubble Bobble is amazing. I say it's even better than Mario Bros. when it comes to two-player co-op fun!
This game was great. Loved it. Played it first on the master system. This is a great game especially with a friend. One of the best co op games on the nes mini.
Anyone that's played it back in the day will still remember the theme tune as they hear bubble bobble
@RyanSilberman I have to agree. 2 players was great.
I remember playing with my brothers. <3
Never played the NES version but had it and loved it on the Mastersystem.The Wiiware remake was great too.
I remember playing this back in the 80's with my then best mate. We were 11/12 I think.
Best thing about this game is the Brentalfloss "with lyrics" song...
Absolutely love this game. Shall be looking forward to completing this with a friend on the mini NES. I remember playing it on the Spectrum back in the day. Not the best version of the game it has to be said.
I just keep hearing the game corner music from Pokémon.
I like Bubble Bobble, but I'd trade it in a heartbeat for Faxanadu or Crystalis.
Classic game right here. Lots of memories with this one.
I think that a glitched version made it to the DS.
Never played this till I got my Wii. Great game!
One of the better games (along with contra) I had back then when the desktop PC had a weird NES emulator with built in games. I have to thank that for knowing of this game.
Used to play this a lot with contra. Most memorable level is 57. Spent many tries trying to figure out how to complete it.
Still, got a bit frustrated once I completed the game that I needed a second player to see the true ending...
The 2nd game is pretty nice too, with expanded gameplay and enemies.
I really love this game. My older brother and me would play this all night. The Wii version is quite fun, but this is great nostalgia. I remember I played with the 5 digit passcode and got to level 99. I only really got to 71.
The WiiWare version is generally superior, but due to some really weird design flaws (Level 72 is almost unbeatable due to how the bubbles work in Plus and a few of the items I think are unobtainable due to how the conditions for them overlap with more common items) I'd say this version isn't totally obsolete. Especially if you only want to play with two players!
The Wii version in one of the few WiiWare titles I actually purchased.
I played a game on my PSP called bust a move deluxe and this looks so similar
I remember jamming to this in the arcades and on my TI-83+
Still the go-to co-op game when my friends and I are feeling the need to play an old school game.
Loved playing this with my sister when we were little.
I've actually been waiting forever for it to come out on 3DS or WiiU (it's been out in Japan for both for years!) so I'm glad it's coming out finally in some form.
Cue the music THAT NEVER STOPS!
Oh YES! I played this to death on my Commodore 64, 10 minute loading time by tape, and then getting up to level 98 and dying, GAH! Loved it all, especially when you pop a multi coloured bubble and it poured down the screen.
A true classic which is just as fun now as it was then. It's an example of a game which received many positive reviews scoring it around the 85% mark on release but which has long outlasted many of the games which scored more like 95% and were seen as the system sellers. It's not a nostalgia thing either as the PS1 version of this (packed with Rainbow Islands) was one of my most played games on that system too.
never forget the tune to this game!
@Captain_Gonru I mentioned it loads of times in my head while writing this, but to be honest it had been a long day!
Oh the amount of screen time in my childhood spent with this game.
Also one of the games that we truly have had OH GOODNESS!!!!! moment with my brother when we found the super secret passage.
Now I only wish that Ninty would have made orchestrated versions of all the musics
edit: Gotta love those OH GOODNESS!!!! -moments. There are plenty of them but less and less nowadays.
@Timppis No profanity, thanks.
I loved begging for quarters to play this at the bowling alley when I was a kid. The music "pops" in my head from time to time and i find myself whistling it.
@gcunit Sorry. Was too excited to notice that.
Great game for the period, but hard as nails, even with 2 players. I remember barely managing to complete 100 levels with my mother and got a Good Ending, 20 some years ago... Only to be told there were 100 more that were even more challenging! (The Super Rounds) That's when we threw our controllers up and called it a success, all things considered.
I'm glad I didn't have to do that alone... This game one of the worst "Screw you" endings of all time for 1 player! They may as well have had Bub shoot up a bunch of bubbles in the shape of a fist with the middle finger up, then flip you the bird himself!
Too bad it's not on the Wii U VC
@leo13 The mini NES's screen color/brightness is better though. This will be the first game I play when I get one.
Japan has a 3DS VC version though, and it would be nice to have a portable version... Shame Nintendo won't allow NES & GB games on 3DS anymore.
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