Friday, July 10, 2015

Friday Night Rentals: Bubble Bobble

Wait!  This isn't the good start screen!  You must play from the end to get the good one.
So. Stupidly. Close.

I could practically taste video game victory when my mom and I were playing Bubble Bobble on the NES.  It was probably the third of fourth time we had rented the game.  We still had the passwords written down from the last time we had rented it, and finally we had made it to the end boss.  My mom had lost her last life, but we knew we were close to beating him and then--PRESTO!  He was beaten!

Or was he?


What fresh frippy was this taunting text?  You both have to survive to get the "True Happy Ending?"  Oh, we'll just do it again then.  THIS!  This would be the time we won!  We both made it through alive!  Surely victory was nor ours!  Then...then the unthinkable happened...

The adventure claimed it still wasn't over yet!  But as far as my mom and I were concerned, we'd beaten the game.  I hadn't beaten Ghouls and Ghosts, so this was only my second encounter  (the first being Super Mario Bros.) with the whole "beat the crazy-hard game twice in a row" thing that seemed to pop up from time to time in NES games.  Bub and Bob the dinosaurs had a lot of apologizing to do as far as I was concerned.  Sure, the dynamic dino duo were cute and all with their bubble attacks and cutesy colors, but I like leaving a game (that has an ending) feeling like I've closed the book on it.  Not getting the "true ending" fills you with a little regret from time to time.

Years have passed since that day, but Bubble Bobble still remains one of my favorite games of all time.  So when I saw the game as part of a Nintendo bundle on Craigslist, I was ready to give Bub and Bob their second chance.  So what did those dippy, delightful dinos do with their second chance?  Was it a happy reunion or a revisiting of regret?

Music and Sound

 Did I mention the cute factor?  This game just has it seeping out of its pores, and the music and sound are no exception.  We can get the music discussion out of the way quickly because, there isn't much in the way of variety--okay, it offers no variety whatsoever.  This is pretty much what you'll be hearing for the majority of the game:

It's a cheerful, peppy little tune that had a cutesy feel which matches the game well.  However, it can get wearing after a while.  Super Mario and Legend of Zelda had music that looped like this as well, but for my money, Taito just didn't do this as well.  Perhaps this is because the game was an arcade port so they didn't figure people would sit there for a couple of hours trying to beat the game in the arcades.  The only real variation comes in if you take too long to clear a stage and Baron Von Blubba, an invincible, evil looking white whale creature, appears to chase you until you die or clear the stage.  The Baron gets his own few seconds of theme song which are lower notes and nicely "da-da-da-dum!" in nature.

Not much can be said about the sound either.  The sounds made via the power-ups and the bubble barfing noise made by the critters are also appropriately cute, and they work well for the port, but there isn't anything here to blow you out of the water.  I will say the sound that's made when you pop a water or electro-bubble are well done, but again, not much variety here.

Graphics and Style

What's there to say?  Each level presents a new challenge and a new layout of the same basic blocks.  Sometimes these blocks are arranged to resemble enemies from the game, sometimes they are arranged so you have to puzzle out how to reach the enemies in order to defeat them and move on.  Bub and Bob are cute little green and blue dinosaurs respectively, and the bubbles that they shoot are rendered pretty well for an NES game.  Though I suppose a little white circle with empty space isn't too hard to draw.


Bubble Bobble...  Sure it seems simple enough to start.  "Oh, I'm a cute little dinosaur that blows bubbles, this should be easy," was likely your first thought on renting a game like this.  I know it was my first thought.  The illusion that this was easy vanished quickly though as each level ratcheted up the difficulty.  Why do you blow bubbles?  How in the word are they industrial strength enough to hold the enemies?  Do I exhale helium, is that why these things float?  Those questions don't matter really because by the time the boss rolls around, you are hopping around like mad trying to clear the bad guys with your bubble barfing dino-butt trying not to die.  It's just how I remembered it, only the game feels slightly easier as an adult.  I guess I've gotten better as I got older.  Either that or more patient with the whole dying and restarting thing.

Some levels were much harder than others
Whatever the case, I popped it in and managed to persuade my wife, who really isn't that much into video games, to do the two player mode with me.  It looked like she had a fun time blowing bubbles, popping enemies and grabbing food.  She had protested a little at first complaining that she usually dies pretty quickly when playing video games, but the controls for the game are user friendly and make using them a joy.  Funnily enough, most of the time she would outlast me too!  I guess slow and steady wins over reckless random bubble blowing.  

Final Thoughts:

If you don't already have this one in your collection because it looks too cutesy or too simple I'd recommend grabbing it.  Sure, the music can get old, but the popping enemies and trying to grab the fruit before getting dropped to the next level is addicting even after all these years.  It doesn't really suffer from being an arcade port nor does it feel like a watered down experience which, all too often, can happen with games like this. The advantage and disadvantage of this particular arcade ported game is that you can play just for score, which is good if you end up having to play Bubble Bobble alone, because you will never see the true ending if you play alone.  I have to say this was one of those games that I was not only happy to come back to and finally own as an adult, but was happy to realize that I didn't need to resign myself to playing alone and just going for score.  My wife can't really play modern games as the 3D can make her sick.  Even parallax scrolling can get to her at times.  Good ol' Nintendo games though?  Those have playability to her.  I can't really express how nice it was seeing that my wife was actually getting into the game after only a couple of minutes playtime.  We reached somewhere in the mid 20's level-wise before she was ready to call it a night and turn off the game, and we only quit because we had already continued several times on this one level.  I guess that's a testament to the game too.  

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