Review: Bubble Bobble Old & New (Game Boy Advance)

Bubble Bobble Old and New
Genre: 2D Puzzle adventure
Developer: Taito
Publisher: Empire Interactive
Release Date 09/29/04

YES! YES! MY GOD YES! Bubble Bobble! One of the greatest most classic games of all time is back and on the GBA! Portable Bubble Bobble greatness! Taito, thank you, thank you, thank you! Say it with me readers. Taito. Taito. Taito. It’s fun to say out loud. Taito! TAITO!

Bubble Bobble is one of those games everyone likes. That everyone finds fun. If you generally dislike video games, you still like Bubble Bobble. It’s an easy game to learn, but super hard to defeat the entire 100 levels. Bub and Bob are adorable classic characters and have gone on into games like Puzzle Bobble and Super Bust a Move. It’s just amazing. It transcends genres. It transcends tastes. It is one of those very rare games that a person can’t help but enjoy. Where you find yourself humming the music again and again even days after playing it. Where the main characters become instantly recognizable to people. Where all you do is have to say the title out loud to longtime gamers and they will burst out with a grin. It’s one of those games you really can’t complain about.

I remember as a little kid playing Bubble Bobble in a mom N pop pizza restaurant. I would beg my mom to go there just so I could play Bubble Bobble. Was I that good at it? No. I was in single digits. But I loved the look, the sounds, the handling, EVERYTHING, about the game. From the second we entered the Pizza Parlor to the second the fresh baked pizza arrived, my cruddy little hands were firmly latched onto the joystick and buttons of the console. It was near impossible to pull me away. I always swore I’d get an arcade cabinet of this game. But I never found one. Sure I got it for various systems, but it’s been a while since it was re-released. And let me tell you, I was chomping at the bit for this game.

Bubble Bobble Old & New simply refers to the graphics. You can play the game in either a perfect arcade port of the game, or you can play it with totally revamped and updated graphics and sound. Either way it’s still the exact same game. One is just prettier than the other.

I should warn you, this review is going to be a slathering worship of this game because I love it so much. But you know what? It deserves this. It deserves to be talked up so much that every man, woman, child, and corpse with a GBA or GBASP or Game Boy Player rushes out to the nearest gaming store and demands this game or else the clerks risk their families and loved ones being butchered like hogs. LIKE HOGS I TELL YOU, HOGS! Bubble Bobble will not be done justice by some Squaresoft or EA fanboy or some 15 year old gamer who bases how good a game is by the graphical quality of what he is looking at. This is a game that needs to be reviewed by the kind of gamers who remember when Arcades were cool and had a line outside the building because of the Street Fighter 2 console. The kind of gamer who saved up his allowance to buy the Adventures of Lolo 2 because they wanted a challenging game, not a violent one. The kind of gamer who said “Fuck the Konami code, I’m going to beat Contra with THREE GUYS. ”

More importantly, it needs to be reviewed by someone who cherishes classic games that are beyond words like greatness or incredible. Yes this entire review is going to be one big unpaid advertisement for you to buy this game. But listen to me when I say this: BUY THIS GAME!

Let’s Review

1. Story

Simple and sweet. Two dino-dragons, Bub and Bob have their girlfriends stolen and taken away to the very bottom of the cave of monsters. Bub and Bob have to traverse all 100 levels in order to same them.

And a certain other two people if you get the ‘true’ ending.

There’s not much more to the story. You blow bubble around enemies and pop them. You collect food and jewels and bubbles that open hidden levels and that’s really it. There is no character development. There are no cut scenes of five minute FMV’s. It’s just a green guy and a blue guy killing monsters in order to get some sweet sweet interspecies poontang.

Bubble Bobble is a quaint game plot wise. If anything the plot is akin to those of older games. It’s there just to give the game a very shallow extra level and to give you some sort of explanation for the goings on in Bubble Bobble. Sure it’s weird, but it’s at least an attempt to explain things.

By today’s standards Bubble Bobble has a flimsy weak plot that adds nothing to the game. But by Retrogaming standards, it’s cute and all the game needs. Yeah, it’s a little underwhelming. But Super Mario Bros never had a strong plot either, and both are classics.

Story Rating: 4/10

2. Graphics

Bubble Bobble O&N gives you two choices for graphics. The first are of course the original graphics. The second is a total update and revamp for the GBA. Both games look good though. Sure Bubble Bobble came out when Castlevania 3 was considered as amazing as graphics got, but they still hold up pretty well for a GBA game. All the monsters have amazing detail and you can see facial expression on Bub and Bob, especially when being smooshed by one to many bubbles in a tight spot.

In the new game, everything looks even better. Characters are bigger and brighter. Everything is more defined and the game looks amazing. Bubble Bobble NEW will easily win over people who don’t like the look of the older game, feeling it to be outdated and/or ugly. Me though? I still prefer the old version, but what can I say? I’m a sucker for the classics.

Graphics Rating: 6/10

3. Sound

The Bubble Bobble theme is one of the greatest and most memorable songs in all of gaming, easily up there with the original Super Mario Bros and Legend of Zelda themes. It’s catchy, bubbly and so much fun to listen to. Yes, there is only the one song, but when you have a track as wonderful as the Bubble Bobble theme, you don’t need anything else.

In the new game, the song is remixed. It’s still the same tune, but with a lot more added to it making it seem totally fresh and original for the new version. And Bub and Bob speak now! Nothing fancy, but I love the voices given to the Dino-twosome.

Best of all is the adorable mini movie that starts off the game when you turn it on. Bub and Bob have never looked better and the silly antics that go on in it just make you go “Awwwwww.”

The song is addicting and pound for pound is up there with the Velvet Room Operetta from the Persona games as one of the best single tracks in all of gaming. This game only needs the one track, and everything else is just gravy upon it.

If you can find a mp3 of the Bubble Bobble theme or a wav file or anything, get it. Listen to it. And then and see how miserably you fail at getting it out of your head.

Sound Rating: 10/10

4. Control and Gameplay.

The best thing about the old games are that the controls were so easy and simple. Bubble Bobble is still that great and easy to learn. B blows bubbles. A lets you jump. You have no other controls.

But don’t think that makes the game simple. There is so much more you have to know to come close to being able to beat the game. Popping the bubbles, using the bolt bubbles or fire bubbles or water bubbles to your advantage. Paying attention to the design and layout of the level. Seeing all the not-so subtle clues put into the board layout.
Bubble Bobble can be a very tough game, especially on later levels. But everything is so simple and fun, it’s not frustrating, it’s addicting. When you finally beat level 99 for example, that my friends, is what success feels like.

Control Rating: 10/10

5. Balance

Again, we’re seeing perfection here in Bubble Bobble. Each level is a little bit harder than the last. Each new level presents a little more in the way of challenges and enemies. But it’s such a slight boost to the challenge, your playing skills should increase with each level as well. Play the game for about 30 levels, then go back and play the game from the beginning. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is. Because you’ve been unwittingly improving your mastery of all that is Bubble Bobble.

But at the same token, by the time you get to the end of the game, you will be presented with some of the biggest challenges you can imagine. Bubble Bobble gets very tough indeed, especially if you don’t keep improving your skills as the difficultly curve continues to climb upwards.

There will be points where you spend all your lives on one levels. Sometimes where you spend multiple games on one level. But that’s what makes Bubble Bobble so wonderful. It’s a cross between a puzzle and an adventure game, and the hybrid is as close to perfect as it could possibly be.

Bubble Bobble, when you finally beat it, will give you one of the most rewarding feelings you have ever had in regards to beating a game. I can’t emphasis enough how masterfully put together all aspects of this game is!

Balance Rating: 10/10

6. Replayability

You want to know why my Shadow Hearts: Covenant review is so late? BLAME THIS GAME! Oh my god, I don’t want to put it down. With both old mode and new mode. Single player mode, single player computer controlled bob mode, two player old and two player new modes, this game is a must own for the GBA. You will pick it up again and again, never allowing dust to form on the cart. Just a few levels each day. Really. That’s all.

Bubble Bobble doesn’t get old. It is a game you will always want to play. Even if you beat the game a few hundred times, there is always some new to enjoy and discover. And playing it with friends? It’s harder a better two player game out there.

For twenty dollars, I can’t imagine a game with a higher replay value. Honestly. This is Bubble Bobble. This is a game that was made almost 2 decades ago and developers are still trying to find a way to recapture the sheer levels of near perfection that can be found in a game consisting of two tiny dinosaurs blowing bubbles around a myriad of monsters.

Replayability Rating: 10/10

7. Originality Rating

There has never been a game quite like Bubble Bobble. Yes, it is a port of the Arcade classic, but it’s still the same original masterpiece gamers have been playing for the last 4 generations of consoles. It’s a game that is so clever and surreal in its gameplay and premise, it’s hard to imagine anyone copying the feel of the game. Even spin offs like Rainbow Islands, Bust a Move and Puzzle Bobble play completely different from the original classic.

There has never been, and there never will be a game quite like the original Bubble Bobble. You owe it to yourself as a gamer to support the re-release of this classic so developers and publishers continue to put out games like this that are true to their original roots like Sword of Mana and Shining Force Advance instead of horrible remakes that only serve to destroy the legacy of the classics. Games like River City Ransom EX and Advance Guardian Heroes. Run from those games kids. Run fast.

A reduction for being a port and an update at the same time, but still a game that can never be duplicated.

Originality Rating: 8/10

8. Addictiveness

See my replayability comments. Bubble Bobble is so hard to put down. Even when you get your Bub or Bob trapped and stuck in a part of the level where you literally can’t do anything until the ghost monsta appears and kills you, you can’t bring yourself to give up or reset. The game is that hard to walk away from. Every time I decide to do something else, my SP catches my eye and I tell myself, “Just one quick game.” And an hour later, I’ve realized I’ve wasted a lot more time that I thought I would playing this crazy game.

I can’t express in verbiage how amazing Bubble Bobble is. How it draws you in with its cute main characters and it’ challenging puzzles and wonderfully simple gameplay.

Bubble Bobble is digital heroin. I warn you. Play this game and risk falling in love with a game that has stolen the hearts of tens of millions of gamers.

Addictiveness Rating: 10/10

9. Appeal Factor

Whether you are 5 or 89, Bubble Bobble will reach out and suck you in. It is one of those games that are so rare nowadays. You know, games that can be enjoyed by everyone, no matter their age or genre preference. Games like Bubble Bobble were so plentiful in the 8 bit and 16 bit age. Now? Games for kids are so insulting and condescending it makes me shake my head in sadness. If we had been given games featuring Olson Twins or Barbie or Barney or all the other crap out there, gaming would have died a grisly death. So why keep offering that kind of pablum to the generation that will soon be making all the purchasing decision? Thank god games like Bubble Bobble are now readily available and enjoyable for younger gamers. And also for older gamers like myself who long for when games were this good.

Appeal Factor Rating: 10/10

10. Miscellaneous

The most important aspect I want to focus on is the fact you can have a two player Bubble Bobble game with only one cart. Just take two GBA’s and link them together, put in one cart and you are on your way! Why can’t more GBA games do this? Instead of paying 60$ in order to have two people play a portable game, you only have to pay TWENTY dollars for you and a friend to experience the thrill of two person Bubble Bobble. This is one of the highest selling points of the game and even more of a reason for me to empathize how amazing this cart is!

With hidden rooms, codes so that you can access secret rooms and do all sorts of things that were available in the original form of the game, and the choice between old or new graphics and music makes Bubble Bobble on of the best buys not only for the GBA, but for all systems this year.

Miscellaneous Rating: 10/10

Short Attention Span Summary
Although this game is a bitch to find (EB Games will not carry it), this is a sure firer system seller. This + Shining Force + Pokemon FR/LG + Pokemon Pinball are 4 of the best games in a long time and you can buy them and the system they come on for under 200 dollars. If you own a GBA, you need to hunt this cart down and buy it and devour every second of play you can from it. Bubble Bobble is one of the greatest games ever made, and it has stood the test of time.