bubble bobble(1)

Genre: Platformer
Year: 1988
Developed by: Taito
Published by: Taito
Platforms: Arcade, NES
Feeling Like: Humming a tune

Bubble Bobble is one of the few NES titles that straddled the line between being difficult, but also being fun. “Nintendo hard” was absolutely a thing; a manufactured challenge intended to enhance the longevity of a game rather than provide a fair curve of new tasks and enemies. It still rattles my brain to see speedruns on Youtube that conquer an unconquerable game in less than 30 minutes. As a child, seeing the end credits for some games were manifestly impossible. You might as well have asked me to jump over my house.

Bubble Bobble is not that type of obstacle. It’s silly, but lengthy, fun. Anybody can pick up and play it – move, jump and shoot bubbles at bad guys. Enemies are untouchable, until you trap them in your trademark bubble. Afterwards, they’re ripe for the picking to turn into food that raises your point total. I have no idea what point totals did, but I’m assuming extra lives?

bubble bobble (3)
Playing Bubble Bobble solo is a fool’s errand

Each stage has various platforms and layouts, so you won’t be able to completely duplicate your strategy each time. When you clear the stage of enemies, you’ll have a limited time to grab the food and alcohol that’s lying around before being whipped off to the next level in, of course, a bubble.

bubble bobble (2)
This is actually one of the better translations on the NES

The enemy AI is moderately forgiving. They’ll frequently run right towards you, with very little defense against your onslaught of bubbles. It’s gratifying.

But the REAL reason I have Bubble Bobble so high, and in fact it may be the ONLY reason I have Bubble Bobble so high is when Dobbo and I first moved into our first apartment together on Yates St., Matthew and Dobbo conquered Bubble Bobble as we were finalizing our moving in. I still have the song stuck in my head, and now, you will too. 

It’s impossible to forget. Once the song gets going, it doesn’t stop. Roger Ebert once said that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song sounded like a carousel that had spun out of control. Bubble Bobble’s theme is from a carousel that you’re not allowed to leave. You’ll go through various aural stages; initial enjoyment, to psychological agony, to reluctant acceptance. This is the song. If you’re going to beat Bubble Bobble, you’re going to have to endure it. What else are you going to do, hit the mute button?

bubble bobble (4)
Not until New Super Mario Bros. would bubbles have such an impact on gameplay.

I associate it with comfort. Dobbo and Matt are two of my closest friends, and I enjoyed hearing their lamentations at the frequent enemies, cursing the overly happy song and wondering what the hell they were doing with their lives. Doubly so when they discovered that you couldn’t get the true ending without having done something obscure on previous levels…so I’m fairly certain they played through the entire game again. I was content to be a bystander in this case and watch my buddies traverse through this bizarre piece of arcade history.

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