Retro Weekends – Bubble Bobble

In prehistoric times, there were dinosaurs that blew bubbles at toy robots… at least, this is what Taito wanted you to believe. The dinosaurs Bub and Bob became the mascots for Taito, and this was the game that started it all. Combining puzzle elements and action gameplay, Bubble Bobble made its rounds across many platforms and charmed audiences with its bright colors and steady challenge. This weekend, NES MAY gets caught in a bubble.

After Space Invaders, They Turned To Dinosaurs

The story behind this game is pretty simple. Bub and Bob’s girlfriends have been kidnapped by what looks like a drunk wizard, and it’s up to the dinosaurs to save them. This is one of the earliest games known that has multiple endings depending on what you did. I’ll get to that part later on. But the gameplay itself is something of a unique mix of genres. It resembles the look of early NES games, looks to have puzzle elements with a draft system for the bubbles, and has some action thrown in with enemies to defeat to advance. In a sense, you can sorta see this as a cute beat ’em up, with less beating up and more popping up.

The game became popular for Taito over time and spawned quite a few sequels, including an equally successful puzzle series, Bust-A-Move (aka Puzzle Bobble).

Um… since I don’t know much else about the history of the franchise outside of Bust-A-Move and Rainbow Island, lets talk about some trivia. Now we all know about Nintendo’s draconian censorship rules that were in place for the NES’s lifecycle right? There was one rule they enforced where religious symbols and references were forbidden. There were some exceptions to the rule, but overall nothing religious was allowed. So it makes you wonder how Bubble Bobble managed to get not one, but two religious references past censors, in both symbol and action. This was in the form of the cross power-ups. There was one cross where picking it up caused lightning bolts to rain down and kill all enemies on-screen. The other was blue cross that flooded the entire stage, killing all enemies.

Then there’s Nintendo’s other rule: No alcohol, alcoholism, or characters being under the influence. I’m guessing Taito didn’t get the memo/Nintendo didn’t realize it because the final boss is a bottle spewing, cane holding, hood donning character who goes by the name… Super Drunk. Yeah, and the small regular version of him is called “Drunk”. This was changed for the U.S. release, but it’s pretty obvious what they are.

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