Promotional US flyer for the original arcade iteration of Bubble Bobble
|Publisher(s)||Taito and Romstar|
|Mode(s)||One player or 2 players simultaneously|
|Arcade system||Main CPUs: 2x Z80 (6Mhz), Z80 (3Mhz), M6801 (1Mhz)|
|Sound||Sound CPU: YM2203 (3Mhz), YM3526 (3Mhz)|
|Display||Raster, standard resolution 256×224 (horizontal), 256 colors|
Bubble Bobble (バブルボブル Baburu Boburu?) is an arcade game by Taito, first released in 1986  and later ported to numerous home computers and game consoles. The game, starring the twin Bubble Dragons Bub (Bubblun) (バブルン Baburun?) and Bob (Bobblun) (ボブルン Boburun?), is an action-platform game in which players travel through one hundred different stages, blowing and bursting bubbles, dodging enemies and collecting a variety of items. The game became very popular and led to a long series of sequels and spin-offs. The main goal of the game is to rescue Bub and Bob's girlfriends from the Cave of Monsters. It is an early example of a game with multiple endings, which depend on the player's performance and discovery of secrets.
"Baron Von Blubba" has kidnapped the brothers' Bubby and Bobby girlfriends and turned the brothers into Bubble Dragons, Bub and Bob. Bub and Bob have to finish 100 levels in the Cave of Monsters in order to rescue them.
In the game, each player controls one of the two dragons. The player can move along platforms, as well as jump to those above and to the side, similar to most platform games. Each level is limited to a single screen, with no scrolling.
The player can also blow bubbles. These can trap enemies, who are defeated if the bubble is then burst by the player's spiny back. Bubbles that contain enemies can be popped at the same time resulting in different foods being projected around the level. Each enemy trapped in a bubble equates to a different food. Food is consumed and transferred to points (an increasing scale of 1000 points is awarded for each enemy burst in tandem with another meaning: one enemy burst equals one food item worth 1000 points, two enemies burst equals two food items worth 1000 and 2000 points, three enemies burst equals three food items worth 1000, 2000 and 4000 points, and so on), which results in earning lives. These same bubbles also float for a time before bursting, and can be jumped on, allowing access to otherwise inaccessible areas. Players progress to the next level once all enemies on the current level are defeated.
Enemies turn "angry" — becoming pink-colored and moving faster — if they are the last enemy remaining, escape from a bubble after being left too long or a certain amount of time has been spent on the current level. A monster will also become angry if either player collects a skull (the only negative item in the game), and the monster is hit by the resulting comet crossing the screen (however, this is a rare occurrence).
After a further time limit expires, an additional invincible enemy appears for each player, actively chasing them using only vertical and horizontal movements. These do not need to be defeated to complete the level, and disappear once a player's life is lost.
Contact with enemies and their projectiles (rocks, lasers, fireballs, etc.) results in death.
On level 100 you face the final boss, the "Super Drunk" (an enlarged version of one of the games monsters the "Drunk"). It has to be defeated by catching a "Lightning Potion" that allows you to shoot lightning bubbles and in turn burst them to deal damage to the boss.
The game was one of the first video games to feature multiple endings. If the player completes the game in single player mode, they will get the "Bad ending", with the remark: "Try again with your friend". If it is finished with two players, they get the "Good" ending, where the brothers are changed back and reunited with their girlfriends. Also a code is revealed that has to be deciphered that enables "Super" mode. "Super" mode is enabled by inputting a special code (Start - jump - Bubble - Left - Right - Jump - Start - Right) at the title screen. On the US version it can be accessed directly from the title screen. "Super mode" is effectively a faster and more difficult version of the game. Completed in "Super" mode with two players, on top of the results of the "Good" ending, the players get the "True" ending, in which it turns out that the final boss of level one-hundred, the Super Drunk, was Bub and Bob's parents under a spell. They are released and everyone lives happily ever after (at least until the events of Rainbow Islands)
The popularity of Bubble Bobble led Taito (or its licensees) to port to many home computers and video game consoles. Ports of the game were released for the Commodore 64, Sinclair ZX Spectrum, Amiga, Atari ST, MSX2, Amstrad CPC, Sharp X68000, PC (DOS, 1989 and 1996), Apple II, FM Towns Marty, Sega Master System, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Nintendo Entertainment System, Famicom Disk System, Sega Game Gear, mobile phone (Sprint PCS) and UltraCade's Taito Arcade Classics. The Sega Master System version is noted for having two hundred levels (in effect the normal and super modes consecutively) and is considered one of the best conversions available. Of the original 8 and 16 bit ports, the NES and Game Boy ones were made by Taito themselves. Sega converted Bubble Bobble for the Master System (although this version was not released in North America). The Commodore 64 and Spectrum versions were published by UK-based Firebird Software, and most of the other computer ports by US-based Novalogic.
Commodore 64 coder Steve Ruddy recalled in Retro Gamer:
It wasn't daunting originally, as it looked like a fairly straightforward platform and sprite game. However, once you start playing you noticed how the bubbles followed air flow patterns and how they all gathered in fixed places - lots of sprites on the same line meant a sprite multiplexer wasn't suitable. Fortunately, having worked on the BBC Micro and Mystery of the Nile, I wasn't averse to using software sprites. ... We didn't understand all of the secrets so we just implemented the game to mimic what we did notice. So how the pick-ups appear isn't the same as the arcade on the C64, but it should be very similar to how the pickups appear after the machine is powered up.
In 1996, Taito announced that they lost the original source code. As Probe Entertainment was in charge of the home conversions, Taito sent them a Bubble Bobble arcade PCB so they could play the original game and reproduce its mechanics. This led to the release of Bubble Bobble also featuring Rainbow Islands for Saturn, PlayStation and PC (DOS) in 1996.
In the Game Boy and Game Boy Color versions, since the Game Boy is in its nature a single player device, the storyline involves Bub looking for "Moon Water" to cure his brother, they are known as Bubble Bobble, and Classic Bubble Bobble respectively.
At the end of 2006, a new port for mobile phones in Europe and Japan was released.
Clones and remakes
The Arcade version of Bubble Bobble was widely bootlegged in its day, but due to a security chip installed by Taito (known as the PS4, based on a Motorola 6800) none of the bootlegs played exactly like the original. Through a technique called "decapping" the MAMEDEV team has been able to reverse engineer the workings of the chip and emulate it perfectly. Following that, project Bubble Bobble REDUX has been able to implement an exact version of Bubble Bobble on bootleg boards.
A version also exists for the BBC Micro in the public domain though never officially released. According to one of the creators it was coded by them independently in 1988 as a clone of the C64 version, but when they approached publishers it was deemed that it would not be financially viable to release a licensed product for the BBC micro at that time.
In 2012 a pair of "hackers" released the Bubble Bobble: Lost Cave project where they have created a new version of Bubble Bobble with 100 new levels that runs on the original arcade hardware. The levels are not created from scratch though, they have been selected as the cream of the crop from the various official ports of the game, since Taito granted almost every Bubble Bobble version some kind of unique content.
Mean Machines gave the Game Boy port of the game a score of 91%, noting that while some changes had been made, the game played identical to the original arcade port and "provides much addiction and challenge". The Spectrum version was also voted number 58 in the Your Sinclair Readers' Top 100 Games of All Time. GamesRadar ranked it the 24th best NES game ever made. The staff praised its advancements over other platform games of its time and its use of multiple endings.
Bubble Bobble inspired many sequels, including:
- Rainbow Islands: The Story of Bubble Bobble 2 (1987)
- Rainbow Islands Extra Version (1988)
- Parasol Stars (1991 originally released for PC-Engine/TurboGrafx-16, converted for NES (Europe only), Amiga, Atari ST, and Game Boy (Europe only)
- Bubble Bobble Part 2 (1993 Nintendo Famicom, Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy)
- Bubble Bobble II (World) / Bubble Symphony (Europe, Japan, U.S.) (1994 Arcade, Sega Saturn (Japan only))
- Bubble Memories - The Story of Bubble Bobble III (1995 Arcade)
- Rainbow Islands - Putty's Party (2000 Bandai Wonderswan)
- Bubble Bobble Old & New* (Remake, 2002 Game Boy Advance)
- Rainbow Islands: Towering Adventure (2009 WiiWare, Xbox Live Arcade)
- Bubble Bobble Evolution (2006 PlayStation Portable)
- Bubble Bobble Revolution (2005 Nintendo DS) aka Bubble Bobble DS in Japan
- Rainbow Islands Revolution (2005 Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable)
- Rainbow Islands Evolution (2007 PlayStation Portable)
- Bubble Bobble Plus! (2009 WiiWare on the Wii) aka Bubble Bobble Neo! (2009 Xbox Live Arcade on Xbox 360)
- Many of the characters and musical themes of Bubble Bobble were used by Taito in a tile-matching video game Puzzle Bobble (a.k.a. Bust-a-Move) and its sequels.
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- Bubble Bobble at the Killer List of Videogames
- Bubble Bobble at the Arcade History database
- Bubble Bobble guide at StrategyWiki
- Bubble Bobble Level Guide A detailed level guide (arcade version).