Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Five favorites: Bubble Bobble clones

Is Fukio Mitsugi's Bubble Bobble the best single-screen platformer ever made? I believe so, but that doesn't mean it's the only example of the genre worth playing. Cases in point: each of the so-called "Bubble Bobble clones" (I'm not a huge fan of this phrase, by the way, despite the fact that I used it in the headline above--more on that in an upcoming post) below more than hold their own against the Taito-published arcade classic that possibly-maybe inspired them.

1. Chip Chan Kick! (PC-FX, 1996)--This particular clone is solely responsible for me wanting to add a PC-FX to my console collection. Why? Well, it's chock-full of the kind of charm and craziness that one expects from this genre, for starters. Surprisingly, I'm not all that enamored with the pig-tailed protagonists, but I do like the Puyo Puyo-esque blobs they chuck at baddies. (When one connects, the baddie in question becomes confused and can be finished off with a kick.) Everything else about this game is pretty par for the course (I mean that in a good way) except for its end-of-level bosses, many of which are huge and all of which take a lot of hits before raising a white flag.

2. Parasol Stars (PC Engine, 1991)--For the longest time, I thought this Taito-made title paled in comparison to its predecessors, Bubble Bobble and Rainbow Islands. Today, I'm not so sure about that stance--thanks to the strategic element that's added to the game via the creation and collection of its "miracle icons." Regardless, this one is special, with adorably crafted enemy sprites, color-splashed backdrops and a can't-get-it-out-of-your-head soundtrack. The only criticisms I can level at Parasol Stars: a few of its bosses could put up a better fight (I'm lookin' at you, Loch Ness Monster-ish leader of world three) and it would be nice if there were a way to jump down from platforms.

3. Pop'n Magic (PC Engine CD, 1992)--As I mentioned in this recent post, Pop'n Magic hasn't always been my cup of tea. In fact, I used to find it downright boring. After giving it a second chance, though, I discovered there's a lot to like about this title, which seems to turn to both Bubble Bobble and Parasol Stars for inspiration. (Pop'n Magic's blue-haired protagonist encases foes in bubbles and then tosses them at each other in order to get rid of them.) One thing this game has that its fellow clones don't: beautifully animated backdrops.

4. Rod Land (Arcade, 1990)--Don't worry, I didn't include this Jaleco-made game simply because of its "suggestive" title. Actually, that title is by far the worst thing about this quarter-muncher, if you ask me. The best things: the awww-inducing (get it?) enemies--including walking sharks and what appear to be bow-sporting leeches--and the main character's ability to bash them to kingdom come using her trusty rod-whip doohickey. Sure, Rod Land's backdrops are the stuff that yawns are made of and its soundtrack is a bit bromidic, but the rest of what's on display here is of the first order.

5. Zupapa! (Neo Geo, 2001)--Never heard of this one? No worries. It's a fairly obscure addition to the genre. It's also a very worthy addition to the genre, though, with flashy graphics and frenetic, toss-things-at-your-foes gameplay that calls to mind the first game mentioned in this post, Chip Chan Kick! Zupapa! sets itself apart from that title by giving its Zooks (the aforementioned, toss-able "things") a ton of personality. (Leave them alone and they'll start juggling or fall asleep; throw them around too much and they'll run away from you.) Also, touching an enemy that's been stunned by one or more Zooks creates an explosion that can take out other enemies--a tactic that's expertly employed during this delightful game's boss battles.

Honorable mentions: Don Doko Don (Arcade/PC Engine), The Fairyland Story (Arcade), Nightmare in the Dark (Neo Geo) and Wani Wani World (Mega Drive).


Kimimi said...

*Rushes to check list*
*Sees Rod Land in the top 5, and DonDokoDon in the mentions*
*Feels satisfied*

Seriously though, this is great! I haven't played Chip Chan Kick and Zupapa, but I will have to now :D

coolpowers said...

Great games! And even one I hadn't heard of (Chip Chan Kick!).

For the longest time I forgot about Parasol Stars' existence too, because it didn't get an arcade release. This is despite playing it lots on the Amiga. This makes me feel old.

I still maintain that your opening line could possibly be changed from "single-screen platformer" to "game".

coolpowers said...

Oh, and I forgot to say..

Bromidic or not, I once sat and listened to the Rod Land high score music for hours. I may or may not have been chemically influenced.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Kimimi: You are too funny! Also, I didn't realize you held Rod Land in such high esteem.

I nearly included Don Doko Don on the list, BTW. Actually, I loved it off in favor of Zupapa! mainly because I didn't want the list to include too many PC Engine titles. So, understand that I, too, hold Don Doko Don in high esteem.

Which Bubble Bobble clones are your favorites, BTW?

Oh, and you definitely should check out both Chip Chan Kick! and Zupapa! at some point. I especially like the former -- although the bosses can be a bit brutal :|

Bryan Ochalla said...

coolpowers: Oh, I agree with you about that first line. Bubble Bobble *is* one of the best games ever made, IMO.

As for forgetting about Parasol Stars: You're making me clutch my pearls. That's ... blasphemy! Well, at least I helped remind you of this great title (which I'm completely obsessed with at the moment, BTW. I've played it every day for about two weeks now).

Kimimi said...

I love Rod Land to bits - haven't you seen my Twitter avatar? ;) I used to spend a load of time playing it on the Amiga and I squeaked with joy when I found out it had had an official iOS port :D

Bryan Ochalla said...

Oh, and one more thing, coolpowers: Calling Rod Land's soundtrack "bromidic" was a bit harsh, I have to admit. I actually really like its title tune, but the tunes that play during each of the stages kind of bore me, especially when compared to the tunes that play throughout Bubble Bobble and Parasol Stars.

Speaking of Rod Land's title tune, have you heard this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDvsZpbu400&feature=relmfu

Bryan Ochalla said...

Kimimi: Duh! You're right! How could I forget your Twitter avatar? :)

How is the iOS port of the game, BTW? Does it hold up even without the use of an actual d-pad or buttons?

Going back a bit, have you ever played Don Doko Don 2? It's not a single-screen platformer like the original, but I really like it all the same. One of my favorite Fami platformers, actually. If only I could find a copy of it on eBay. (Saw one ages ago, but wasn't able to buy it at that time. Haven't seen one since.)

Kimimi said...

The iOS port is really good - they even included the second game too! Thankfully they didn't mess with the controls and just added a virtual pad/buttons, so there's no worry there either.

I've not played DonDokoDon 2, but as you're the second person who's spoken about it I will try to keep it in mind should I ever decide to own more than a single Famicom game :)

Bryan Ochalla said...

Wait, there's a Rod Land 2? How did I not know this? Off to YouTube...

Also, you should try Don Doko Don 2 via emulation. Or are you against such things? If not, I say give it a try that way at some point. No reason to waste your money on a game that you may not like.

Viewtiful_Justin said...

Once again, you open my eyes to a world of games I had no idea even existed. Thanks, Bryan!

RetroKingSimon said...

Nice selection Bryan! I like the look of the first one but I don't think I have much chance of playing it anytime soon. I've actually got a review of Zupapa among my drafts at the moment... :)

Bryan Ochalla said...

Really, Justin? Which games didn't you know about before reading this post? Regardless, I highly suggest checking out the ones you've never played :)

Oh, and you're welcome!

Bryan Ochalla said...

Simon: Well, there is a pretty great PC-FX emulator out there (Magic Engine FX), and I'm guessing you can find ISOs easily enough via Google. I understand not wanting to bother with all of that, though.

As for Zupapa: I look forward to your review of it! Really charming one, IMO. Also, it's amazing that it was created by FACE, a company usually known for games that are completely bonkers (and often somewhat disappointing).

RetroKingSimon said...

Thanks for the info, Bryan, glad to hear the PC-FX can be emulated - a future candidate for an 'Exploring...' post, perhaps? Trying to emulate CD-based systems scares me though - I'm not even sure how to do it when I've got the original discs, nevermind when I have to use those ISO things as well! Oh nooo :(

Bryan Ochalla said...

I wouldn't be too scared of emulating CD-based systems, Simon. I've done it w/ PC Engine CD, PC-FX, PlayStation and Saturn and haven't run into any problems yet. If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

Unknown said...

These are all so adorable! I've never played Bubble Bobble... but I should. I've only ever played the puzzle reiterations featuring the same characters... Bust A Move, is it? I think that's what they're called in the US anyway. Or maybe I'm getting confused!

Anyway, I have to say, the minute I saw the shark in that Rod Land screenshot, my first thought was "aww!"

Bryan Ochalla said...

You ... you ... you've never played Bubble Bobble, Anne? If so, walk away from whatever you're doing right now and GO PLAY IT!

Granted, you seem to be less swayed by retro games than some folks, so it's possible you won't like it. I hope that's not the case, but you never know.

Also go try Rainbow Islands and Parasol Stars, if you're up for them.

Oh, hell, go try every game included in this post. They're all wonderfully charming little games, in my not-so-humble opinion :)

warp said...

Great article! I'm putting Zupapa! and Chip Chan Kick! on my list of games to dig up. BTW, I did 2 GIFs of Rod Land for my blog recently (after you mentioned it on twitter): whale boss and tongue monster

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hey there, warp! Thank you :) Also, yes, give Chip Chan Kick and Zupapa a try, if you can. They're actually kind of similar, in a way -- or at least both involve throwing things at enemies and then destroying them after they've been stunned.

As for your GIFs: I love them! The whale boss especially. How cute :) Also, those tongue monsters are the "bow-sporting leeches" that I mentioned in my post. "Tongue monster" seems to be a worthy name for them, too :P