I remember the original Bubble Bobble. It was one of my mom’s favorite Nintendo games; she loved it because she got to blow away bad guys in a number of minutes. Although my mom has moved on and played other various puzzle games over the years, I think deep down she still has a soft spot for Bubble Bobble, a precursor to modern-day action puzzle games. Now, after 20 years, the original game has been released on the Wii’s virtual console, and Bubble Bobble Plus has been released as a WiiWare title.
Bubble Bobble Plus is essentially a remixed version of the original. There are two baby dragons whose parents have been kidnapped by a mysterious and evil witch. So you travel into the dangerous cave to put her in her place and rescue the dragons’ parents. That’s it. There is no plot or character development. It’s all about the gameplay.
The way the game works is rather simple: The dragons shoot magical bubbles that trap monsters. With the monsters trapped in the bubbles, you are then free to jump on them and finish the job. Be warned, though! Once a monster escapes from a bubble, he is pretty ticked off and moves faster than the average monster. The good news is that there is more than one way to “pop” a monster. Some levels have water bubbles that drop torrents of water in the form of a wave, cleansing the monsters. Some levels have thunder balloons that shoot lightning when popped. And then there are the fire balloons, which briefly leave napalm flames that monsters just hate. Of course, there are some major awesome power-ups, such as the gum that increases the rapid fire of the bubbles and the length they’ll travel. But if you die, you lose whatever power-ups you have gathered.
In case you didn’t know, the main lure of the game is multiplayer. The original Nintendo game required you to have a second character alive to access the final level and destroy that evil witch. Whether or not that second player’s character lives is another story. In Bubble Bobble Plus, you can play through the original levels on your own or with a friend. There also are 100 more levels for you to play through via Arrange. The rules have not really changed in this new mode, though the main lure is the addition of 45 degree angle platforms. This play mode lets you play with up to three other people. The problem? You or your friends have to provide extra Wii-motes. With a current price tag of $40 per remote, it is an expensive game to play with others. There is no Game Cube controller compatibility at all. Why not include that compatibility when the original (via the virtual console) has it?
Graphically, the game can be considered an upgrade from the original version. The original was a bunch of 8-bit graphics. It was cute, adorable, pixilated and got the job done back in the day. The Bubble Bobble Plus version, on the other hand, is much glossier. The various characters are well-animated and 3-D inspired. The only time it lags is when three or four monsters fire bullets at once. Thus, it is a very different feel than the original. It’s still cute, but not as much as the original, and I feel like my nostalgia is being played with. I shouldn’t complain too much, though. It still has that Bubble Bobble feel.
The game has all the proper sounds from the original. The bounces, the bubbles and their pops, electricity, fire, and water sounds are all there. The music also has been remixed. The original tune is there in all its remixed glory along with a new tune to listen to as you play through Arrange mode. The only downside to all of this is that it takes a while for it start once you load the game. Other than that, it’s pretty good.
Overall, Bubble Bobble Plus is a really solid game. What makes it work is the simple fact that it keeps the unique premise intact. Nothing extraneous has been added. This means that for 600 Wii Points (or about $6) you get 200 levels to play through. Add in the two 50-level deep expert challenges for an additional 200 points each, and you have one of the longest arcade-inspired games to grace WiiWare. Add in the factor for great multiplayer, and you could have a pretty decent excuse for a Wii party night (or day). The only major problem I have is that Bubble Bobble Plus promises to store your high scores. I have yet to see this, even though it claims to be “saving.”
Bubble Bobble Plus may not make everyone happy, but I think it’s a fun game. But it is also a difficult game. Provided you are willing to practice, it’ll get easier as time passes. The main issue is which game to get.
If you have uber-fond memories of the original and a GameCube controller or two on hand, that might be the way to go. This way your nostalgia will not be ruined, and you’ll be able to easily play with a friend — the way it’s meant to be. On the other hand, Bubble Bobble Plus has twice the value for 100 points more than the original. Add in the two expert builds and it has three times the content for twice the price of the original game on the virtual console. Obviously, you are getting your money’s worth by purchasing the WiiWare version. Personally, I am rather happy with Bubble Bobble Plus. While I wish multiplayer was more accessible, it quickly earns its keep. It might pop my bubble of fun from time to time, but at least I get to pop the bubbles of monsters.