Promotional US flyer for the original arcade iteration of Bubble Bobble
|Publisher(s)||Taito and Romstar|
|Release date(s)||August 1986|
|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. Players can move along platforms, fall to lower ones, and jump to higher ones and over gaps. Each level is limited to a single screen, with no scrolling; however, if a screen has gaps in its bottom edge, players can fall through these and reappear at the top.
Each level has a certain number of enemies that must be defeated in order to advance. The players must blow bubbles to trap the enemies, then burst these bubbles by colliding with them. Each enemy defeated in this manner turns into a food item that can be picked up for extra points. Defeating multiple enemies at once awards higher scores and causes more valuable food items to appear. All bubbles will float for a certain length of time before bursting on their own; players can jump on these and ride them to otherwise inaccessible areas. A player loses one life upon touching any free enemies or their projectiles (rocks, fireballs, lasers, bottles).
Enemies turn "angry" — becoming pink-colored and moving faster — if they escape from a bubble after being left too long or the players spend a certain amount of time on the current level. They return to normal if either player loses a life. After a further time limit expires, an additional invincible enemy appears for each player, actively chasing them using only vertical and horizontal movements. These disappear once the level is cleared, or when a player loses a life. When there is only one enemy left, it immediately becomes angry and remains in this state until defeated.
Magic items appear from time to time, granting special abilities and advantages when picked up. The appearance of these items is governed by the number of times that a player has performed different actions, such as falling through the bottom of the screen or running from one side to the other. Special bubbles occasionally appear that can be burst to attack enemies with fire, water, or lightning. Furthermore, if a player collects letter bubbles to form the word EXTEND, he/she earns a bonus life and both players immediately advance to the next level.
In the 100th and final level, the players must defeat the game's boss, the "Super Drunk." They must pick up a potion that allows them to blow lightning bubbles, then burst these bubbles to shock the Super Drunk.
This game was one of the first to feature multiple endings. Completing Level 100 in single-player mode reveals a message stating that the game has not truly ended and a hint to the player: "Come here with your friend." If two players complete the game, they see a "Happy End," in which the brothers are transformed to their human selves and reunited with their girlfriends. This ending also includes a code that, when deciphered, allows the game to be played in the faster and more difficult "Super" mode. If this mode is completed with two players, a second "Happy End" is displayed in which Super Drunk is revealed to be the brothers' parents under the control of some outside influence. The brothers return to normal and are reunited with their parents and girlfriends.
The game's music was written by Japanese team Zuntata. Ports for home computer versions were made by Peter Clarke (Commodore 64), David Whittaker (Amiga) and Tim Follin (Atari ST, ZX Spectrum). The music is based upon a popular folk song called "Sing Jemima Sing".
The popularity of Bubble Bobble led Taito (or its licensees) to port the game 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.
During Christmas of 2011, a new version for the Amstrad CPC, entitled Bubble Bobble 4 CPC or BB4CPC was released for free by programmer CNGSoft, as an update to the original/official CPC version.
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 four reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly stated that the Game Gear version is a faithful conversion of the original which works well in portable form. They particularly praised the simplicity of the gameplay concept and the graphics, and the two-player link option.
The Spectrum version was 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)
- Packy's Treasure Slot (1997 Medal Game)
- Bubble'n Roulette (1998 Medal Game)
- Bubblen No KuruKuru Jump! (1999 Medal Game)
- 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) a.k.a. 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) a.k.a. Bubble Bobble Neo! (2009 Xbox Live Arcade on Xbox 360)
- Bubble Bobble Double (2010 iOS)
- 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
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- Bubble Bobble Level Guide A detailed level guide (arcade version).