Halo. Diablo. Gears of War. Each of these franchises feature co-op, and each of them are legendary. They are also violent, grim, and gritty, for the most part. For Co-Op Classics today, we will look at a co-op game at the opposite end of the spectrum. There are no bullets, demons, or chainsaws in the world of Bubble Bobble. But you won't care, because there is some top notch co-op here.
Bubble Bobble first brought it's bright, cute gameplay to arcades in 1986. Even then, the game was unusual. Arcades were full of games that had words like "Alien" or "Ninja" or "Soldier" in their titles. Bubble Booble was like a Saturday morning cartoon. The title was as sweet and wholesome as it could be. Everyone loves bubbles, right? Who didn't spend hours blowing bubbles with a magic wand as a kid? (Or, perhaps, watching the Lawrence Welk show.) I wasn't sure what the Bobble part was all about, but it sounded fun.
The story behind Bubble Bobble was quite simple, and reminiscient of a Smurfs episode. Two guys, named Bob and Bub, naturally, have been magically transformed into adorable little dragons (or is it dinosaurs?) who breathe bubbles instead of fire. An evil dude named Baron Von Blubba has kidnapped their girlfriends, and the two heroes must travel through each level of a castle to rescue them. Baron Von Blubba - now that's an excellent bad guy name. Perhaps the Star Wars prequels would have been better had Count Dooku been named Count Von Blubba instead.
Moving on to the gameplay, the cuteness continues. Players move on the full screen, full of platforms. Various enemies, each one more adorable than the last, come after our two lil' dinos. This is where the bubble blowing comes in handy. Enemies trapped in the bubbles rise into the air, and if you pop the bubble with the spikes on your back, the enemy turns into a piece of fruit. Nope, I'm not making this up. You can also ride the bubbles, which rise to the top of the screen.
All sorts of power ups and special items appear, as you would expect. Effects of these range from increased speed and bubble power to lightning and fire weapons. Magic potions spew rainbows or fruit all over the screen, allowing for some major point accumulation.
Bubble Bobble will give you warm, fuzzy feelings in other ways besides just the art style, though. The co-op is one example. The key game mechanic, bubble and pop, is a natural fit for two players. One player blows the bubbles, the other runs around popping them, and everyone has a good time. The levels are quite straightforward in design at the beginning, but soon you'll get into tougher situations. Often, your partner will have to come to your rescue, and of course, you'll have to pay back the favor later. All told, co-op is just one more pleasant aspect of Bubble Bobble.
If you want to play Bubble Bobble in modern times, you're in luck. The game has been released on many different game systems. Bubble Bobble was included as part of the Taito Legends collection for Xbox and PS2. Bubble Bobble Double Shot was released for the Nintendo DS last year. The NES version of the original is available on the Wii's Virtual Console. A WiiWare remake was released in Japan earlier this month, and will likely be coming overseas soon.
I wholeheartedly recommend checking out Bubble Bobble if you have the chance. The game looks like it was designed by a 7 year old girl who was in the midst of a cotton candy induced sugar rush, yeah. But there's a really fun game here, particularly when you play with a friend. Bubble Bobble may have been released over twenty years ago but it's still plenty of bubbly, "dino"-mite fun, and it will definitely bring a smile to your face.