Bubble Bobble Feat. Rainbow Island

Bubble Bobble Feat. Rainbow Island
Game Name: Bubble Bobble also featuring: Rainbow Island
Media: 1 CD-ROM
Publisher(s): Acclaim
Developer(s): Taito
Genre(s): Platform
Release Date: 1996
Serial Number: T-8131H-50
Region: PAL

Bubble Bobble ScreenshotOne of the reasons Taito are still around is a little game they put out back in 1986. It was an odd little game that stuck out at the time as it was probably the first game in the cute genre. The game was Bubble Bobble – a 2 player simultaneous puzzle/platformer that has you and a friend jumping around disposing of enemies and picking up bonuses and powerups.

The basic gameplay consists of you capturing enemies by firing bubbles at them – once they are caught in a bubble, you burst the bubble – disposing of the enemy and leaving a bonus to pick up. This basic mechanic takes place over 100 single screen levels , the layout of which become quite complex and almost puzzle like.
The initial simplicity of the game soon falls away to reveal hidden depths – there are hundreds of bonuses and hidden features to find among the 100 levels in the game and the optional 2 player mode sees gameplay start off cooperatively until the end of each level when there are bonuses to chase. The game is a work of genius, is one of the all time greatest arcade earners, and gave rise to a series of games called Puzzle Bobble (aka Bust a Move) that have kept the money rolling into Taito’s coffers ever since.

This Saturn title delivers a solid version of this game. It is not a direct port – the visuals have been retouched – and I am in no position to state if the games’s many bonuses and featured are perfectly replicated. All I can say is that the ones I am aware of are there.

Rainbow Island Screen ShotThe game looks great – better than the arcade original – and control is slick. The sounds have largely been left alone which is no bad thing as they were part of the game’s charm – that famous Bubble Bobble soundtrack is there is all its glory.
This is all well and good – but this is quite an old game we are talking about here – and despite its depth and size isn’t really a full Saturn title (this was a NES title after all).

Bubble Bobble is accompanied by its sequel – Rainbow Islands. This is another great Taito puzzle platformer and though it has a similar feel to its predecessor in some ways it is quite a different game.
This time your character must race to the top of a vertically scrolling level ahead of a rising level of water by creating rainbows upon which you climb up the screen toward higher platforms (some of which you can reach by jumping).
Again, there are enemies to dispose of. You can trap them beneath rainbows and then jump on the rainbow or just use the rainbow creation feature to zap them as if it were a firing weapon. There are powerups and hoards of bonuses and secrets to find too. Each batch of levels are grouped together on an island that has a particular theme.

Again, the graphics are great – you can play the original version which is pretty much a direct port of the arcade original, or a retouched version which looks gorgeous but plays the same – though the slightly busier background may obscure enemies initially. Multi-player mode is alternate turns with this game.

This is a nice package that frankly is spoiled by the fact that there is no facility to save your progress (the NES version of Bubble Bobble has a password system) and given the fact that these games are big means that most players won’t be able to see the later levels. You can select the number of continues you have but there is no excuse for this. This is made worse by the fact that it doesn’t even save high scores and given the nature of the bonus and secret hunting gameplay is a real shame.

This title’s presentation outside the games is pretty poor as well – there is a ropey pre-rendered intro sequence that appears on boot up and even the main menu where you select Bubble Bobble, Rainbow Islands or Rainbow Islands Enhanced looks dodgy too. Very poor.
The fact that these games are now part of Taito compilations for more modern consoles (PS2 et al) makes this kind of redundant. There is the retouched look which really is nice and I understand that the music on Rainbow Islands is the original – a cute rework of “Somewhere over the rainbow” which other ports don’t have due to licensing wrangling.

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