|Platform(s)||Arcade, Nintendo Entertainment System, Amiga, Commodore 64, Game Boy, Game Gear, Sharp X68000, Game Boy Color, Sega Master System, Sega Saturn, PlayStation|
Bubble Bobble[a] is a 1986 platform arcade game developed and published by Taito. It was distributed in the United States by Romstar, and in Europe by Electrocoin. Players control Bub and Bob, two dragons that set out to save their girlfriends from a world known as the Cave of Monsters. In each level, Bub and Bob must defeat each enemy present by trapping them in bubbles and popping, who turn into bonus items when they hit the ground. There are 100 levels total, each becoming progressively more difficult.
Bubble Bobble was designed by Fukio "MTJ" Mitsuji. When he joined Taito in 1986, he felt that Taito's game output was of mediocre quality. In response, he decided to make a game that was fun to play and could rejuvenate the company's presence in the industry. Mitsuji hoped his game would appeal to women, specifically couples that visited arcades. As such, he decided to make Bubble Bobble focus largely on its two player co-operative mode. He made bubbles the core mechanic as he thought they would be a fun element that girls would enjoy.
Bubble Bobble became one of Taito's biggest arcade successes, and is credited with inspiring the creation of many similar screen-clear platform games that followed. It was acclaimed by critics for its character design, memorable soundtrack, gameplay, and multiplayer, and is often listed among greatest games of all time. Bubble Bobble was followed by a long list of sequels and successors for multiple platforms; one of these, Puzzle Bobble, has become successful in its own right and spawned its own line of sequels.
In the game's plot, "Baron Von Blubba" has kidnapped the brothers Bubby and Bobby's 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. Magic items appear from time to time and grant special abilities and advantages when picked up. 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 extend, a bonus life is earned and both players immediately advance to the next level.
A player loses one life upon touching any free enemies or their projectiles (rocks, fireballs, lasers, bottles). Enemies turn "angry"—turning pink in color 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.
In the 100th and final level, players face a boss. This is one of the first games 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 (the defeated boss) 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.
Bubble Bobble was designed by Fukio Mitsuji, a Japanese game designer at Taito. A fan of arcade games by Namco, specifically Xevious, Mitsuji felt that Taito's output by comparison were lackluster and of poor quality, hoping that he could help push the company to produce higher-quality arcade titles. His first game was the four-screen racer Super Dead Heat in 1985, followed by the shoot'em up Halley's Comet the same year. After work on these two games was completed, Mitsuji set out to make his next project a platform game, featuring cute characters and a more comical setting compared to his previous works.
Mitsuji wanted the game to be exhilarating and to appeal towards a female audience. Thinking about what kind of things women like to draw or sketch, Mitsuji created an extensive list of over 100 ideas, and after a process of elimination selected bubbles as the core game mechanic. He liked the idea of the screen being filled with bubbles, and thought that popping them all at once would provide a thrilling sensation to the player. His initial idea was to have the player control a robot with a spike on its head to pop bubbles — Mitsuji disliked it for not being "cool", instead preferring dinosaurs with ridges along their back. He liked to write down ideas on paper as soon as he thought of them, often flooding his office with stacks of paper filled with potential ideas for game mechanics.
Mitsuji constantly tried to think of new ways to make the game better than it was before, saying to have lost sleep while trying to figure out how he could improve it. He often worked on holidays and late at night to come up with new ideas for the game and to perfect it. Several of the enemies were taken from Chack'n Pop (1983), an older Taito game that is often considered a precursor to Bubble Bobble. Mitsuji intended the game to be played by couples, leading to the creation of the multiple endings, which differ based on player performance. Bubble Bobble was released in Japan in September 1986. Alongside Arkanoid, Taito licensed the game to Romstar for distribution in the United States later that year, and to Electrocoin Automatics for Europe.
Bubble Bobble was ported to many home video game consoles and computers, including the Commodore 64, Amiga, Nintendo Entertainment System, MSX2 and Sega Master System — the last of these has two hundred levels as opposed to the arcade version's 100 levels, and was released in Japan as Final Bubble Bobble. A version for the Sharp X68000 was developed by Dempa and released in 1994, which includes a gamemode paying homage to Mitsuji's later arcade game Syvalion, titled Sybubblun. Conversions for the Game Boy and Game Boy Color were respectively released in 1991 and 1996, the GBC port being named Classic Bubble Bobble. A version of Bubble Bobble was also produced for the unreleased Taito WOWOW console. In 1996, Taito announced that the source code for Bubble Bobble had been lost, leading to all subsequent home conversions to be reverse-engineered from an original arcade board.
In Japan, Game Machine listed Bubble Bobble on their November 1, 1986 issue as being the most-successful table arcade unit of the year.
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.
Bubble Bobble has been listed by numerous publications among the greatest video games of all time. Your Sinclair magazine ranked the ZX Spectrum version at #58 in their "Top 100 Games of All Time" in 1993 based on reader vote. Yahoo! ranked it at #71 in their "100 Greatest Computer Games Of All Time" in 2005 for its charming premise and cute character designs. Stuff magazine listed it as part of their "100 Greatest Games" in 2008, while GamesTM magazine listed it in their "Top 100 Games" in 2010. Stuff.tv ranked it at #47 in their Top 100 Games in 2009, saying "today’s kids might laugh, but this was gold in 1986". GamesRadar+ ranked it at #95 in their "100 Best Games Of All Time" list in 2011, praising its multiplayer and secrets. GamesRadar+ also labeled it the 24th greatest Nintendo Entertainment System of all time in 2012 for its advancements over other games of its genre and its usage of multiple endings. Hardcore Gaming 101 listed it in their book The 200 Best Video Games of All Time in 2015. Game Informer placed it in their "Top 300 Games of All Time" in 2018 for its long-lasting appeal and multiplayer.
At the end of 2006, a new port for mobile phones in Europe and Japan was released.
On December 24, 2007, the NES version of Bubble Bobble was released in North America on Nintendo's Virtual Console service for the Wii. The Famicom version of Bubble Bobble was also released for the Nintendo eShop on October 16, 2013 for the Nintendo 3DS and on January 29, 2014 for the Wii U.
- Rainbow Islands: The Story of Bubble Bobble 2 (1987)
- Rainbow Islands Extra Version (1988)
- Parasol Stars (1991 originally released for TurboGrafx-16, converted for NES (Europe only), Amiga, Atari ST, and Game Boy (Europe only))
- Bubble Bobble Part 2 (1993 Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy)
- Bubble Bobble II (worldwide) / 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 EX (2001 Pachislot)
- Bubble Bobble Old & New* (remake, 2002 Game Boy Advance)
- Bubble Bobble Revolution (2005 Nintendo DS, called Bubble Bobble DS in Japan)
- Rainbow Islands Revolution (2005 Nintendo DS)
- Bubble Bobble Evolution (2006 PlayStation Portable)
- Rainbow Islands Evolution (2007 PlayStation Portable)
- Bubble Bobble Plus! (2009, WiiWare on the Wii) also known as Bubble Bobble Neo! (2009 Xbox Live Arcade on Xbox 360)
- Rainbow Islands: Towering Adventure (2009 WiiWare, Xbox Live Arcade)
- Bubble Bobble Double (2010 iOS)
- Bubble Bobble for Kakao (iOS, Android) - June 15, 2015 (this game was published for KakaoTalk messaging app and fully Taito licensed)
- Bubble Bobble 4 Friends (2019, Nintendo Switch in Europe; February 20, 2020 in Japan; March 31, 2020 in North America; November, 2020 PlayStation 4 in Japan)
- Many of the characters and musical themes of Bubble Bobble were used by Taito in a tile-matching video game Puzzle Bobble (also known as Bust-a-Move) and its sequels.
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