It’s the same game you know and love, plus some tweaks, and one major flaw.
I love me some Bubble Bobble on the NES/VC. The infectious music, mere presence of dinosaurs (or “bubble dragons”), the silly enemy designs, and creative levels all come together to make a fantastic game that I still play today. Bubble Bobble Plus is a WiiWare remake that features a whole slew of new features that add longevity to the title, only developer Taito forgot one very important thing that I’ll get to in a minute.
For those of you who somehow missed out on the original Bubble Bobble, it’s a game roughly similar to Rainbow Islands (its sequel) and Snow Bros. in that your character—in this case a little bubble-blowing dinosaur—runs around a stage trying to kill all the enemies in order to move on to the next stage. There are one hundred stages total, and they vary in complexity, as do their enemies. You blow bubbles at enemies to trap them within the bubble, then jump on the bubble or pop it with your dorsal spines to kill the encapsulated foe. Dead baddies always leave fruit behind, which you collect for points, and various items and fruits are constantly dotting the landscape of each stage. There’s a wealth of items:warp umbrellas, speedy sneakers, bonus round activators, rapid-fire bubble blowers, enemy-destroying plagues activated by crosses, special bubbles that spell out “EXTEND” for a 1-up, and many more. Although it may at first seem like most items appear randomly, in fact many have specific requirements that must be met before they appear..
The bubble dragons (Bub & Bob) can move around and jump, as well as bounce on bubbles (hold down 2). If you don’t pop an enemy bubble in time, they will escape and become an faster red version of themselves. This will also happen automatically to the last enemy alive in the room (unless he’s in a bubble). Every stage employs a creative tile design that will have you thinking on your feet, though cheap deaths are one of the game’s trappings. Happily, the game has a wortwhile two-player co-op mode, and you can continue from where you left off endlessly….
Providing you don’t turn off your Wii. Bubble Bobble Plus lacks any sort of save feature. If you quit on stage 34, for instance, and then go back the next day, you will start from stage 1. Apparently, unlike the original Bubble Bobble on NES (which featured passwords), you must slog through the entire game in one sitting. This takes a few hours and is completely unacceptable in a modern console game. The lack of a save feature is bad, but the lack of a password system, something Taito could have lifted from the original game, is downright horrendous. And since this is WiiWare and not VC, you can’t suspend your gaming session. I understand that Taito was, perhaps, trying to replicate the experience of the very first Bubble Bobble (an arcade cabinet), but they should have given players the option of saving.
It makes you want to play the other modes less. Bubble Bobble on the old brick Game Boy featured a Hard mode, accessible after beating the main game. It was harder because it remixed the enemies (just like Super Mario Land). That same mode is present here as Super Standard. It’s the same 100 stages, but the top-tier enemies are present from the get-go. The newest addition is Arrange Mode, which features 100 brand-new stages that are playable with four players. It gets very chaotic, but in a fun way. This mode introduces slopes, which cause your bubble to angle diagonally. This isn’t revolutionary, but it adds to the strategy somewhat. Bubble Bobble Plus also supports downloadable content (DLC) in the form of two additional level packs, 50 stages each, for the truly hardcore among you. The game touts online leader boards so that you can see how slowly you can complete 100 stages compared to kids without jobs or families.
Bubble Bobble Plus would be the ultimate Bubble Bobble experience, were it not marred by the lack of any kind of save or password feature. It’s enjoyable, no doubt, until you realize that you have to start at stage 1 every time you start it up. As a result, I have to recommend the original NES VC version over this one. It doesn’t have four-player co-op, but it does let you save your progress.