Bubble Bobble also featuring Rainbow Islands was coded by British developer Probe Entertainment and published by Acclaim in 1996. It was also released for the PlayStation, PC MS-DOS and Windows, but I’m just covering the Sega Saturn version here because they’re mostly identical.
The first thing that stands out about this game is that it opens with a horribly compressed and dated animated FMV intro, featuring really bad CGI characters doing “comical” things to introduce the game. It’s the kind of intro sequence that would make anyone cringe in this day and age and all bar small children would probably skip past it as quickly as possible by mashing the controller buttons.
The second thing that stands out about this game is that it contains three different titles on one disc – Bubble Bobble, Rainbow Islands, and Rainbow Islands Enhanced. Which is pretty good value. If you’re a Bubble Bobble fan you’re going to like this fact – especially as Rainbow Islands (the sequel to Bubble Bobble) is arguably even better than the original Bubble Bobble. The ‘enhanced’ version of Rainbow Islands features completely new graphics, but essentially the same gameplay as the Rainbow Islands arcade game.
The conversion of Bubble Bobble is interesting because the game is pretty much the same as the original arcade game, except that all the sprites have been enhanced with extra colours to make them look better than the original. They look authentic, and obviously look enhanced, but in a good way. Not in a ‘so different that they look weird’ kinda way (like the ‘enhanced’ Rainbow Islands). In fact: this conversion of Bubble Bobble is arguably one of the best around, because they haven’t messed with it too much. Just enough to modernise it slightly. And it plays superbly too. It’s fast, slick and fun. I’d rate it as one of the best Bubble Bobble conversions out there.
The same goes for Rainbow Islands. The regular version is pretty much a perfect conversion of the original, and it’s brilliant (according to the in-game credits it’s a Graftgold production). The ‘enhanced’ version is… an acquired taste. Replacing amazing pixel graphics that were timeless with dated, mid-Nineties graphics is not really my idea of ‘enhanced’.
One interesting thing to note about this conversion is that one of the programmers – David J. Broadhurst – was responsible for coding the Amiga and Atari ST conversions of Bubble Bobble for Firebird in the late 1980s, and he returns to it again for this project. It’s not unusual for a coder with experience of a game to return to it later – if he’s being paid to do it, of course.
See also: 10 Best Bubble Bobble Conversions