Reviews Archive
  Bubble Bobble
  Master System

Master System - The detail level here is fairly comparable with the arcade game (though the arcade original wasn't that graphically impressive truth be told). Like the arcade game here we have a simple black background, with textured patterns used for borders and platforms, and some well drawn sprites for the player and enemies, all of which contain a lot of charm.

The texturing is very good for the most part, but to save on memory the game uses small texture pieces which it recycles across the whole stage (the arcade game often used small patterns for the platforms, and larger ones for the side borders, sometimes it also had unique patterns for the side borders).

The sprites and items here are very accurate and look great, with the shading on the items especially notable.

NES - The borders here are slightly less detailed than those of the Master System, but still look good. Unfortunately this version also has the Master System's simplified texturing, so the platforms and borders always look the same here too.

The sprites in this version are also slightly worse than the ones found on the Master System, and on top of that they actually have transparent eyes and mouths, but all in all they're pretty good.

C64 - This version looks more cramped and low res than the console versions, but is still very well done.

The patterns here tend to be a bit simplified due to the low resolution (see far right picture, which uses simple lines for the pattern), but are all still fairly recognisable to the original arcade designs.

The sprites look alright, but are certainly inferior to the console versions. Bub and Bob themselves look a little bit on the dumb side here, sporting some vacant-looking stares.

One thing which is especially notable here is that the programmers have actually managed to retain the original side border patterns throughout the game (see far right screenshot, on the C64 Stage 3 has the correct cherry pattern for the side borders whilst the console versions just re-use the platform design).

Not only are the unique side borders retained, but the pattern dimensions are too (for instance when using the heart pattern, the platforms use small hearts, and the side borders use large hearts, whilst in the console versions the small hearts are just doubled up side by side).

Amstrad - This version looks even more low resolution, and blocky than the C64 version. The sprites here are quite small and ill-defined, and unlike the C64 version this does not retain the correct side border pattern either.

All in all though this is respectable, the texturing is still fairly good, and the sprites still fairly recognisable.

Spectrum - This is a very bad job overall.

Firstly, there's been no attempt to make any of the stage patterns accurate at all. Out of the few which made the cut (such as the hearts), hardly any of them actually appear on the correct stages (see far right screenshot, which is using the incorrect heart pattern), worse still the new ones which replace the original patterns are all blocky in appearance, and very lazy (see middle screenshot).

Sprites-wise the player artwork is bad, for some reason Bub, and Bob are both inverted, and look like childish scrawls. On the upside the enemies actually look very detailed, and are as good as can be expected.

Whilst the original side border patterns are absent here, this version does retain the variable pattern dimensions, so the hearts are small when in the platforms, but full size when in the side borders (see far right screenshot). Unfortunately this doesn't really come off as that much of an advantage though, as the side border patterns look zoomed in, and very blocky.

  Winner Is: Master System

Master System - Overall colour use is excellent here, the whole thing actually looks fairly close to the original source material, and this has to be the best of all the versions in this area.

All of the sprites look great, and are actually quite authentic to the original arcade sprites, they use the highest number of colours out of all the versions, and have more fitting colour choices as well.

The borders here are colourful, and vibrant. Like the sprites they also look quite similar to the arcade originals, and generally contain greater numbers of colours than the other ports.

NES - This version looks fairly good, but looks a little washed out in comparison to the original arcade, and Master System versions. The sprites here use a decent amount of colours, but colour counts have still been noticeably dropped, and the items look much simpler than they did originally. Borders are recognisable, but also have lower colour counts.

C64 - This version is a little bit drab in its colour use, and is definitely weaker than the two console versions, but its not too bad all in all, and is an admirable job when taking into account the hardware's capabilities

The sprites here are respectable, but some have been changed due to limitations (the helicopter enemy is now green)

Amstrad - This version is bright and colourful, and actually has very good colour use overall, with the borders possibly looking better than those of the C64 version in fact. The sprites here are generally good, though like the C64 version some now use different colours (such as the player sprites themselves), unfortunately the items look quite low colour though.

Spectrum -The Spectrum isn't exactly known for great colour use, but this has to be some of the ugliest colouring I've ever seen in the system's library, not only is there no attempt to follow the arcade's colours at all, but the choices (such as bright red and turquoise?! blue and green?) are very poor combinations. Anyway, I believe that this game uses some kind of random colour cycling to save on memory or something, but honestly they shouldn't have bothered, better to have only two or three fixed colour variations that you know look good, than risk having a ton of bad combinations for the sake of more variation.

The sprites here all share a colour, and change between levels. They don't have very good colouring, but to be fair in this area the programmers had little choice if they wanted to avoid a screen full of bubble-on-enemy colour clash.

  Winner Is: Master System

Master System - Respectable animation across the board. Most of the sprites generally have two frames of animation, the helicopter enemies (see bottom right sprite in the sprite picture above) contain three frames.

NES - Very similar to the Master System version, but the aforementioned helicopter enemy has fewer frames.

C64 - A pretty decent job overall, there are the same number of frames as the Master System, but the animation itself looks cruder in motion than both of the console versions.

Amstrad - The animation here is bad, it runs too fast and isn't drawn very well either. Instead of having fully animated sprites the characters here just have two or three pixels flashing back and forth.

Spectrum - This version is not bad on frames but poorly drawn, overall its not too great.

  Winner Is: Master System

Bubble Bobble is a single screen game which doesn't scroll.

  Winner Is: Draw


Master System - The music in this version is decent, its fairly simple, but be honest the original arcade music was simplistic to begin with. Other than that the only criticism I would make is that it maybe sounds a little tinny.

NES - Very good. This version is probably the best for music, though truthfully there's not really that much in it because the original arcade music doesn't really push any of the sound chips of these machines.

C64 - Again, this is a pretty good rendition, I think its a little more grating on the C64 but really its perfectly acceptable.

Other than the main in-game music, I noticed that the bonus stage music is completely absent from this version.

Amstrad - Unfortunately there's no in-game music at all here, just sound effects.

Spectrum - The music here is actually very good quality, definitely one of the better versions in this respect. Tim Follin has done an excellent job and the music is probably the most accurate thing about this version.

On the downside the Baron von Blubber time-out tune is missing though.

  Winner Is: NES
  Sound FX

Master System - Generally good sound effects, they're not exactly amazing but they sound similar to the arcade game, and no glaring mistakes have been made with any of the choices.

NES - The sound effects in this version are passable, most of them are acceptable, but the quality doesn't particularly stand out, and I'm not too keen on the sound effect used for the bubble bursting.

C64 - The sound effects here are just about decent. Many of the sounds are missing (such as the bubble bursting sound effect), with the only prominent sound really being the jumping noise.

Amstrad - Again, like the C64 version the sound effects here are nothing special, in fact I would say that this version is a little weaker than the C64 version overall as it has quite a bad sound effect for jumping.

Spectrum - The sound effects here use the Spectrum's beeper, as you'd imagine they're not particularly great, but under the circumstances they do the job as well as can be expected.

  Winner Is: Master System

Bubble Bobble's gameplay takes place on two separate levels. On the surface the game is a simplistic, enjoyable platforming romp through a multitude of different single screen stages, the aim is to simply clear each screen of monsters to proceed to the next stage. In Bubble Bobble the main way of dispatching the enemies is to trap them in bubbles which you blow out as projectiles, you then need to burst the bubbles before the enemy escapes. The game also gives you many power-ups, including three types of candy (increased shot speed, distance, and rapid fire), shoes (faster running speed), and Umbrella's (which allow you to jump ahead stages), as well as many others. Under the surface though Bubble Bobble has a mass of secrets which add a lot of depth to the experience. The game is constantly checking behind the scenes to see if certain conditions have been fulfilled, and when they are, it gives the player a specific item on the subsequent stage (if the player jumps on a bubble 51 times then the next screen will give them a yellow candy for example, or if the player bursts 15 water bubbles the next stage will give them an umbrella). On top of that, if you burst three or more enemies simultaneously, the next wrap-around stage will give you a number of extend bubbles matching the number of enemies you killed over two (these bubbles give you an extra life for spelling out EXTEND). Lastly, you can also be sent to bonus stages if you can make it to certain check points without losing any lives.

Master System - This version is very accurate to the arcade game, the core gameplay is fast, and fluid, and everything moves along well with no issues, on top of this all of the arcade game's secrets have admirably been retained, so if you if you jump on that bubble the required number of times the yellow candy will appear, and if you run the course of the screen 15 times you will get the shoes, if you burst the right numbers of enemies simultaneously then the correct number of EXTEND bubbles will appear, if you get to the checkpoint without losing a life you will be sent to the bonus level.

Outside of the rather excellent, and accurate porting, Taito have actually blessed this version with a whole load of extras.

The Master System game is actually 200 stages long! the first 100 stages are largely faithful to the arcade game, but hidden in this version as a bonus are three secret rooms which give you special diamonds, if you get all three you unlock the second, new set of 100 stages. To be honest a large amount of the new stages are actually the same as the old ones but with new enemy placements, but a very notable amount (~30) are completely new stages.

As well as the new levels, this version also has some extra boss fights which are completely exclusive. There is a new giant Mighta boss fight at Stage 48, and a new giant Hedgegons boss fight at Stage 80.

On top of those two very good inclusions, this version also has an added password system, and some new items.

NES - Just like with the Master System version, Taito have done an excellent job at porting this over. The game plays very much like the original classic, and virtually all of the secrets have been retained (though I'm fairly certain that one of the candy types is absent, replaced with a new candy which simply gives you the power of the other two candy's immediately). Generally this is an awesome port of the game though, just like the Master System version.

This version also has some extras over the arcade original, it also has a password system, and it also has some extra stages, but this time its only 112 stages long, as opposed to the 200 stage Master System game.

C64 - The main gameplay is recreated pretty well in this version, the full 100 original arcade stages are here, the game is smooth, and the airflow and enemy behaviour is all present and correct, I would say that its a little bit slow though in comparison to the arcade version, in this version you learn to appreciate the shoe power-up.

Unfortunately most of the secrets have not been accurately re-created here, the power-ups, and EXTEND bubbles don't seem to follow any kind of set pattern, instead being either randomly generated, or pre-determined, but happily the secret stages still appear when you get to the correct check-points without losing any lives.

Amstrad - The core gameplay in this version is not really that accurate, and suffers a bit truth be told.

In this version there are only 80 stages, with 20 of the original levels removed, the bubbles burst instantly when you touch them (instead of having to be squashed into a wall of jumped on), the game plays a little slow, and when there's a lot going on on-screen it gets even slower, elements like the water bubbles don't work as they should, and the enemy behaviour is inaccurate, with them following different patterns to usual. All in all the main gameplay is still kind of ok, but very simplified, and a bit compromised, its definitely the weakest in this area.

Outside of the core gameplay, like with the C64 version all of the secrets are absent.

Spectrum - The main gameplay in this version is re-created fairly well, everything is a good speed and is smooth, and all of the enemy behaviour and air flow seems to be correct.

Unfortunately, like the Amstrad version this is also only 80 stages long, again the programmers haven't managed to fit all the game into the small amount of memory.

Just like with the other computer ports this version is also missing the secrets, simply having random and pre-determined items and power-ups. All in all though this plays very respectably.

Winner is: Master System

The original arcade game didn't really have much in the way of presentation, and the home ports aren't much different in this respect, however, the Master System game has some added dialogue at the end of the game.

Winner is: Master System

Well, the Amstrad and Spectrum versions are both out of the equation immediately. The Spectrum game is competent, though ugly, and has 20 stages missing, whilst the Amstrad version has no in-game music, and definitely has the most compromised gameplay.

The C64 version is actually very impressive, and its easy to see that the programmers of that version put in a lot of effort. I never realised when I started the comparison that the C64 game would actually have some plus points over the console versions (such as the correct side borders for instance), and all in all I've been very pleasantly surprised by that version. This still has to be taken out of the running early though, as its missing the secrets of the console versions, and the graphics just don't quite stack up to either of them.

Out of the two console versions, they're both very good ports. Taito went above and beyond the call of duty with both of these versions, but to be honest in the end this is just a whitewash win for the Master System. The Sega version just excels in all areas, has the most extras, and is as good a version as any self respecting Master System fan could hope for.

  Overall winner is: Master System
Atari ST
Atari VCS
Commodore 64
Master System
Mega Drive
Neo Geo
PC Engine
ZX Spectrum