Thursday, February 04, 2021

Manual Stimulation: Bubble Bobble (Game Gear)

The Sega Game Gear port of Bubble Bobble may be my favorite home version of Taito's arcade classic.

Which of course means it's also one of my favorite Game Gear titles.

In fact, I love Bubble Bobble for Game Gear so much that one of my "bucket list" wishes as a games writer is to interview the folks who developed it so I can learn why they made some of the intriguing design choices they made. 

(Seriously, if you know anyone who used to work for the now-defunct, South Korea-based Open Corp and you can put me in touch with them, please let me know.)

Why am I such a huge fan of this portable iteration of Bubble Bobble? The main reason is that its Bob, Bub, enemy, and item sprites are the usual size, but its backdrops look as though they've been zapped with a shrink ray.

The result is that this Bubble Bobble port gives off some serious Godzilla vibes. As in, Bub and Bob—as well as their enemy combatants—tower over the surrounding environment. It feels strange, yet also thrilling.

It alters the gameplay quite a bit, too, which I'm sure will irk some Bubble Bobble lifers to no end. Personally, I like how it switches things up—even if it does obliterate the few strategies I've developed for other, more traditional versions of the game over the years.

Anyway, enough about the game itself. This post is supposed to be about the instruction manual that was packed inside copies of this small-screened take on Taito's seminal classic, so let's talk about it.

If you scroll back up a bit, you'll see the Bubble Bobble Game Gear manual kicks off with a two-page comic. Sure, it employs an art style I'm not a huge fan of, but it's still pretty sweet—if short.

Sadly, this booklet isn't as crammed full of lovely illustrations as I think it should be. Still, it includes enough of them that you're unlikely to feel let down at the end. 

Pages 13 and 14 of the Bubble Bobble Game Gear instruction manual feature my favorite part of any old game manual—that being artistic renderings of the title's many items.

They're nowhere near as fabulous as the item illustrations that appear in the manual made for the Famicom Disk System port of Bubble Bobble, but you know what they say about beggars and choosers.

The "beastie brigade" drawings are awfully swell, too. That said, some of the depictions are decidedly... different. Baron von Blubber is a perfect example. 

Something you might not know about this version of Bubble Bobble: it only released in North America. Why Taito failed to release it in Japan as well boggles the mind.

In particular, I'm sad that the world never got to see the glorious box art and instruction booklet that surely would have been created for a Japanese iteration of Game Gear Bubble Bobble.

Oh, well, this North American iteration will have to do. And, really, the game itself is far more important than the packaging in this case, so there's no need to fret too much about what might have been.

See also: scans of the Magical Puzzle Popils, Lunar: Walking School, and Ganbare Gorby! instruction manuals

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