Review: Bubble Bobble Old & New – Gameboy Advance

 Both the Sony PSP and the Nintendo DS are getting their “new versions” of Bubble Bobble (Evolution and Revolution, respectfully), but they aren’t looking too spiffy right now. I will cover these titles more in depth soon, but for now, I decided to cover a more deserving Bubble Bobble title that received a bit less exposure.

Bubble Bobble Old & New is a cute little title that not only has a wonderful port of the original Bubble Bobble game, but also includes a GBA exclusive remake using arranged music, updated graphics and extra gameplay.

Bubble Bobble Old & New requires no deep thinking or masterful reflexes — just the willingness to have some fun. This is old-school puzzle fun that you can dive right into and play in spurts whenever you feel the urge for a quick gaming fix.

 Instead of merely slapping a new cover on an otherwise untouched game, the developers tried to add some new goodies to make the package more attractive. Its effectiveness depends on how much of a Bubble Bobble fan you are.

Graphics/Presentation: 9
When it comes to Bubble Bobble, there are only a few things to be concerned about — the game should be colorful, cute, and the graphics shouldn’t get in the way of the gameplay. This Bubble Bubble Old and New accomplishes these objectives just about as well as it could on the GBA.

The “Old” version looks just like the original — so everything is good there. In the “New” version, the character sprites are very colorful have been updated and the levels themselves have a bit more detail. The art style differs just a bit, so some purists might not like it. But I think they style is fun and breathes some fresh air into the series (and it’s MUCH better than the DS and PSP Bubble Bobble games).

Unfortunately, the GBA can’t accurately fit the exact resolution of the arcade game on the LCD screen, so a portion of the playscreen remains off the edges with a “scroll” to follow the player’s dinosaur. This does limit the game since it’s tough to locate off-screen enemies and items. However, Taito went a step beyond and offered up an extremely handy, dynamic “zoom in/out” function that utilizes the GBA’s scaling feature. The downside: the character sprites aren’t quite as crisp in full-screen mode.

 The overall presentation is slick and the extra features are good. There’s now a save feature that records your progress and high scores (which is what this game is all about). Two save slots allow you to chip away at the game little by little without having to worry about someone deleting your progress (my wife is actually farther ahead than I am). There’s also an item library that displays all the items you’ve acquired during play.

Sound/Music: 7
As peppy as the original theme was and still is, that’s the only song you’re ever going to hear in the game — even in “New” mode. The New version’s music has been arranged a bit, so at least there is a small bit of variety. But, of course, the purists will be happy that the music is authentic.

Gameplay: 9
You take on 100 different levels that must be cleared by encasing foes in bubbles and then popping them for points. You can chain bubble pops in succession for even more points and there are fire and water bubbles that help clear the screen. Eliminate all your foes, grab the fruits and bonus items that appear, and head on to the next stage. Everything that you enjoyed about the classic 80s version has been retained and it benefits greatly from going portable.

With a link cable and one Bubble Bobble GBA cartridge, you can play two player simultaneous on the old version of Bubble Bobble. If both players have a copy of the game, you can play the new version that way, too. There are also lots of hidden secrets and features for you to find.

Affordability: 7
Bubble Bobble Old & New saw a limited Gameboy Advance release and disappeared quickly. However, on eBay you can find the game between $16 and $22 — pretty much hovering around its original $20 budget price.
Check eBay for Bubble Bobble Old & New

Overall Score: 8

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