Retro Video Game Review: Bubble Bobble (Nes)

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Overall Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Bubble Bobble was released in 1988 by Taito, a developer who was responsible for both some hits and some misses on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Bobble was an interesting, stage-by-stage game that followed a humble green protagonist who shot bubbles at adversaries until none remained, then advanced to the next level.

With its eternal background music now immortalized in classic remixes and its main character remaining subconsciously recognizable, Bubble Bobble has somehow emerged as one of the classic games of the 8-bit generation. But does it deserve this hallowed attention?

Gameplay

One button jumps, another shoots bubbles, and each stage essentially becomes a screen-sized platformer level. For each level, the player must bubble all the enemies, then advance. Gathering fruit and jewels garners bonus points, while running into certain colored bubbles grants different effects, including turning into a whirling dervish that runs rampant across the blocks.

Play is very repetitive, even if different types of enemies begin appearing after a while. This is very much like an old PC or Atari game, in its simplistic nature, with only the fun quality of its cast saving it from staleness altogether. There is, though, a password function that allows departed journeyman to later return to where they left off, which is a nice touch. But would anyone bother to conquer the dozens of puzzles to reach the disappointing ending?

Graphics

Some of the cute, miniature enemies are creatively drawn and even seem to beckon well to other game references and culture (check out the white wizards that begin appearing and see if they remind you of a certain Final Fantasy mainstay). The bubbles are indeed round and float somewhat convincing. Other than those factors, this cart is actually very disappointing; for instance, there is no background of any kind for the levels, merely a dark, inky blackness. This would provide a foreboding, atmospheric experience, if not for the…

Sound

In a word: Bubbly! The background track, though infinitely repetitive, has a catchy, light, delightful, earworm quality to it that will elicit few complaints. Or, at least, it could last maybe a couple hours before becoming aggravating. The effects “pop” and play like something from an arcade (think Q*Bert meets Donkey Kong). Not great, but not bad.

Creativity and Innovation

It seems like this game was half-made. Yes, it provides a goal and the means to attain it, and yes, it has some semblance of a soul. But the mechanics are limited, the depth is lacking, and the ultimate reward is slim. Beyond the original artwork for the characters, and the utter focus on bubbles, there is very little originality or creative genius to be found. This is one game that could have used a little more thought on providing a richer gameplay experience and less on perfecting the little green monster guy.

For whatever reason, Bubble Bobble is often considered a classic, and is a recognizable game for the NES, with a title many will smile at. Perhaps this is because Bobble marked a turning point, when the NES truly began to shift from its crude, pixelated, and basic roots (Gyromite, Excitebike, etc.) and expand into bigger ideas of what 8-bit gaming could do (Star Tropics, Dragon Warrior, Super Mario Brothers 3, etc.).

But when you strip away the sentimentality, it is a very average game, so it gets a deserved two and a half stars out of five.

To see what rating other NES video games deserve: NintendoLegend.com.

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