Friday, September 16, 2016

Help me solve the mystery of Bubble Bobble's many Famicom Disk System releases

When the NES port of Taito's classic quarter-muncher Bubble Bobble hit North American store shelves back in late 1988, its PCB and ROM were packed inside the standard gray cartridges that are now considered iconic.

The game's Japanese release, however, was quite different. First, it happened a year earlier--just before Halloween in 1987. Second, the game wasn't sold on one of the brilliantly colorful carts that defined Nintendo's Famicom on that side of the pond. Instead, it was sold on one of the banana-yellow diskettes that defined the Japan-only Famicom Disk System.

That's just part of the story, though. How so? Well, most people who have any interest in Bubble Bobble or Nintendo's 8-bit consoles know that Taito offered Japanese consumers an undeniably fabulous limited edition version of the game.

This LE, showcased in the photo below, included a copy of the game and a larger-than-usual instruction manual--both of which were stuffed within a soft plastic pencil case that featured the Bubble Bobble logo and adorable depictions of main characters Bub and Bob.

But that's not the only version of Bubble Bobble that was made available to Famicom Disk System owners. Another was included in a thick plastic case (it's nearly twice as thick as the typical FDS case) and came packaged with a manual that's smaller--and, uh, pinker--than the one made for the above-mentioned LE.

The mystery I'm looking to solve here is this: was this last version of Bubble Bobble FDS released alongside the LE as that region's "standard edition"? And if so, why do copies of it rarely pop up on auction sites like eBay or even in online photos?

In fact, I've come across so few of them over the years that I've long assumed they were bootlegs. I'm now pretty sure they're official, but that doesn't answer the questions I posed a couple of paragraphs ago.

Is it possible more limited editions were produced for Bubble Bobble's Famicom Disk System port than standard ones? Or is there some other explanation to all of this?

If you have an idea--even just a guess--as to what that may be, please share it in the comments section below.

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