As much as I've long loved Taito's earliest console efforts--such as the titles the company made and released for the Famicom, PC Engine and even Mega Drive--I haven't been able to say the same about the titles that flowed from their offices during the 32-bit era (and after) until recently.
That's mostly because I lacked a general awareness of this portion of Taito's output, I have to admit, but it's also because the few releases I was aware of from this period--like 1991's PuLiRuLa, 1995's Psychic Force and 1996's RayStorm--failed to impress me the way predecessors like Bubble Bobble, Don Doko Don, Elevator Action and Insector X did.
A couple of months ago, you could have thrown the company's many Puzzle Bobble sequels onto the same pile as the one that contained PuLiRuLa, Psychic Force et al. What's changed in the interim? Well, I bought and played a few of them, for starters.
Specifically, I bought and played Taito's (Japanese) PlayStation ports of Puzzle Bubble 2 and Puzzle Bobble 3DX, both of which can be seen in the photo above.
I'm still not the biggest fan of the way Taito's artists decided to alter Bub's and Bob's designs around this time, but at least the gameplay of this pair of Puzzle Bubble titles makes up for these artistic miscues.
The other Taito-published PlayStation title included in the aforementioned photo (as well as the one above), by the way, is 1998's Pop'n Pop.
Wikipedia describes this colorful arcade port as "a hybrid of Puzzle Bobble and Space Invaders," and that's a pretty spot-on assessment based on my enjoyable experience with it so far.
Of course, I probably would've picked up a copy of Pop'n Pop even if its disc contained nothing more than high-quality scans of its beautiful cover art and manual illustrations.
Speaking of which, I love the adorable pieces of art that accompany this game's character bios. (The characters highlighted on the page above are Hipopo and Tamasun from Mizubaku Daibouken, as well as Chack'n and the missus--she's literally "Miss Chack'n"--from Chack'n Pop.)
A few more of Pop'n Pop's cast of playable characters can be seen in the photo above, including Kiki Kaikai's Sayo-chan, Phee Phee from The New Zealand Story, one of Don Doko Don's dwarves and Bubby (or is it Bobby?) from Rainbow Islands.
Moving on from Pop'n Pop, here's a better look at Puzzle Bobble 2's cover art. I don't know if you can make it out in this photo, but the colorful bubbles look to be actual marbles--an effect that's surprisingly pleasing in person.
Puzzle Bobble 3DX's disc is surprisingly pleasing, too--or at least I think so. Sure, it's a bit barren, but I've rarely been one to complain about minimalist approaches to such things.
Have any of you played any of the games mentioned in this post? If so, please share your own thoughts on them in the comments section below. (Oh, and feel free to share your thoughts on some of the other Taito-published titles discussed here, such as PuLiRuLa, Psychic Force and RayStorm, too.)
See also: 'Recommend me some Taito-made Famicom, PC Engine and GameBoy titles'