Way back in 1986 there was a little game that existed in the darkened corners of arcades. That game was Bubble Bobble. A cute game about bubble blowing dinosaurs and fruit, made by Taito. It was later ported to home systems like the NES by Toei Company. Fast forward to 2019, and Taito is still developing Bubble Bobble games. Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is releasing in Europe on the Nintendo Switch on November 19th 2019. There will also be a special edition following in December. It will be releasing in North America sometime in 2020. For me, it’s been a while since I’ve laid eyes on a Bubble Bobble game. So, when Bubble Bobble 4 Friends came across my desk, I was interested to see how the franchise had progressed. Let’s dive into this European exclusive game and see how it is, shall we? Ready? Go!
The gameplay in Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is the same gameplay that was in the 1986 arcade version of Bubble Bobble. You jump around on platforms and try to trap enemies in bubbles, then pop the bubbles to defeat them. There are 5 sets of 10 levels each, and each set is capped off by a boss. After you get through the 50 levels, you can go back and do them again on a harder difficulty. As you progress through the levels, you accumulate score from the fruit left behind from defeated enemies. Bubble Bobble 4 Friends scores you using a three-tier scoring system, where it tallies your points, time and chain combos to award you stars at the end of a set of levels. You can also collect EXTEND bubbles throughout the levels to unlock and power up new abilities like Long Shot and Thunder Bubble.
Bubble Bobble 4 Friends features cooperative play for up to 4 players, so you can get your friends to join in the frenzy. I don’t have that many friends willing to play a Bubble Bobble game, so I tried it out with my wife. It was very simple and easy to learn, however, the lack of competing for a score became boring fairly quickly. That being said, we switched to the original Bubble Bobble coin-operated arcade game that is included as a bonus, and it was great fun.
Visually, Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is quite lovely. A cute art style, combined with bright colours makes the game pop. It’s a very simple game that runs well on the Nintendo Switch in both Handheld and Docked mode. There are no complex lighting effects or visuals, making it for an easy game to follow what’s going on.
The music featured in Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is pretty catchy and very reminiscent of classic arcade music. Taito has done a very good job of capturing the feeling of the old arcade games and putting it into a modern game.
Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is not a long game. Featuring only 50 stages and two difficulties, for a total of 100 stages, It will be quickly completed. A lot of the replay value will come from trying to perfect the stages and get all the 3-star ratings. Outside of that, it is a fun party game to play with a couple of friends. It’s the type of game you can just load up and play for an hour or two while knocking back a few “sodas” with the crew. The part of Bubble Bobble 4 Friends I’ll probably be spending the most time with is the original arcade version of Bubble Bobble. I’ve never been able to beat it on an actual cabinet. Partly because I never had enough quarters, so this will be my best shot at it.
Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is a great game to sit on the couch and play with some friends while having some drinks. Unfortunately due to its limited replay value for those who don’t care about high scores, I’m going to have to score this a Silver award. If trying to beat your own high scores is your thing, then you’ll definitely want to pick this up. Bubble Bobble is one of those classic franchises that’s difficult to build on without losing what the game was meant to be. Bubble Bobble 4 Friends does a good job of what it’s supposed to do, without adding too much to take away from the core gameplay.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.