Game: Bubble Bobble 4 Friends
Fukio Mitsuji has never exactly been a household name. In fact, I can almost garantee most of you have never heard the name; unlike names such as Shigeru Miyamoto, Hideo Kojima, Ron Gilbert, Yu Suzuki, and countless others, Fukio dropped his masterpiece in his early 20’s, and after a roughly 10 year stint as a game designer, by the late 1990’s Fukio followed a seemingly “more rewarding career path”, and opened up his own game design school, which he ran till his untimely death in 2008. Released in 1986, his creation however, Bubble Bobble, did in fact become a household name, along with its two cute Dragon protagonists, Bub & Bob.
The premise of the game is simple; blow bubbles at your enemies to trap them, then pop them for points, fruit, and powerups through 100 levels, and five different boss fights, with the setting taking place in different areas of a child’s bedroom whos toys are engaged in a heated battle.
As one of the first arcade games to focus on co-operative play, its 2019 iteration expands on this tradition by allowing up to four friends to participate. The original game mechanics are still present here; trap enemies in bubbles, pop them to turn them into fruit or ‘fashion accessories’, bubble gum powerups, and the E-X-T-E-N-D bubbles that can be collected. Collecting one, will award you an extra life. Collecting all six will allow you to upgrade your skills/abilities. This differs from the original which required you to collect all six letters to receive an extra life, and the skill system, rather than allow you to chain all abilities together by collecting candies as it did in the original release, now requires you to choose a skill at the beginning of each world.
The level design is creative, and appears to have been very thoughtfully created, with some sneaky references to other arcade classics, similar to the original game. The boss designs have that element of cuteness, and upping that difficult level really helps elevate the game fr a more experienced audience.
Though it is a rather short, approximately two-hour ordeal, Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is a welcome throw-back to the golden days of arcades, with a modern finish to it. The original game is included as a bonus, and is accessible from the get-go without having to complete any complicated achievements in order to access. This scores some massive bonus points in my books, however the lack of online multiplayer in a party focused game in 2019 is just incomprehensible; its a feature whos inclusion has been drastically simplified by commercial game engines over the years, like Unreal Engine and Unity, one of which i strongly believe has been used in the development of this title.
We all understand how much fun it can be to sit on a couch and play some games with friends. In todays’ hectic society however, this just isn’t always possible.