I realize I’m just the latest blogger to throw my hat into the ring on this one, but here’s my theory on the Bubble Bobble timeline.
I think we can all agree it starts with Bubble Bobble, and everyone knows the familiar tale of that game. Brothers Bub and Bob encounter the nefarious Baron Von Blubba, an albino ghost creature that kidnaps Bub and Bob’s betties. Bub and Bob are then transformed into bubble blowing dinosaurs, and a magical journey through the Cave of Monsters is the only road to rescue/restored humanity.
And, for the record, the Cave of Monsters is a pretty fun place to hunt monsters with bubbles. Bubble Bobble is one of those rare games that falls into the arcade vs. console gulf, but is actually entertaining to play. What could be very simple gameplay quickly becomes much more complicated with things like elemental bubbles, and some of the unique “maze” levels make navigation interesting (the enjoyable kind of interesting, to be clear). And I want to say that this is the first NES game I ever played where your hero can suffer a “stun” hit (mostly from lightning bubbles), as opposed to every moving thing on the screen instantly killing poor Bub. Even Mario wasn’t afforded that luxury!
But the real kicker for Bubble Bobble is the two player mode. 2-Player Simultaneous play on the NES was a beautiful unicorn that frolicked through the meadows far too fast for many games to catch it and braid its beautiful mane… Wait, this metaphor kind of got away from me… Point is that the ability to “play two player” actually at the same time, and not as some lame alternating mode where you’re forced to cheer for the immediate death of your best friend was a rarity at the time reserved for the likes of Double Dragon 2 (but not Double Dragon 1). 2-Player Bubble Bobble, with its Mega Man-like jumping, shooting, and Bubble Lead, was a marvelous innovation on the home consoles. If Bubble Bobble is remembered for one reason, it’s for cooperative Bub and Bob monster bubbling.
Though, according to all data, it’s that delightful two player mode that has caused the fractured timeline of the Bubble Bobble universe. Bubble Bobble was ahead of its time in more ways than just multiplayer: it actually contained multiple endings. And these endings weren’t based on whether or not you told Glenn he’s dumb or slayed Grumple Gromit early, no these endings were based on if you were cool enough to even have a friend. If you complete Bubble Bobble as a solitary loser, than you’re told that you’ve reached the “bad end”, and come back with a friend, you lonely, detached hermit. But if you find a buddy, then and only then do you receive the good ending, with Bub and Bob regaining their brides and becoming human once again. This creates a clear dichotomy: Bub and Bob have no control over their dinosaur forms, and they are either human or dinosaur.
Bub and Bob are evidently human in Rainbow Islands: The Story of Bubble Bobble 2. Bub and Bob have forsaken their dinosaur forms and bubbles altogether to rescue the Rainbow Islands from The Boss of Shadow, who is/was apparently Baron Von Blubba’s boss. Or is Baron Von Blubba? It’s confusing. Regardless, during this adventure, the beoveralled brothers can produce rainbows and use said meteorological phenomenon to both attack monsters and create useful platforms. Assuming the bros. can defeat Dark Shadow (apparently also known as Super Skull Monsta… don’t ask), a large group of dino-people are rescued and transformed back into humans. Again, the message is obvious: being a dinosaur person is a punishment, not a reward, and Bub, Bob, and all their friends should be human.
But what about Puzzle Bobble aka Bust-A-Move? In this famous puzzle game, Bub and Bob are again dinosaurs. What’s more, they’re using bubble powers to pop bubbles filled with monsters from Bubble Bobble. What’s going on? Have Bub and Bob been re-cursed? Was a life of humanity, living in boring seclusion with their nameless girlfriends, too much for the poor former-lizards? Once you become a magical dinosaur, you can never go home again? What’s the deal, Puzzle Bobble? Why did you undo the good deeds of these adorable dinos?
And this is where the multiple timelines theory comes into play. Bub and Bob did not regress to their dinosaur forms, they simply never transformed back! It’s very simple if you consider the two endings of OG Bubble Bobble: in one path, Bub and Bob were restored, and went on to save Rainbow Islands, and in the other, Bub and Bob could not work together, and eventually defeated Baron Von Blubba without being properly transformed back into humans. In that world, the Bub Bros. were forced to constantly relive their failure in a puzzle-based purgatory, and forever be dinosaurs performing for browser-based games until the end of time. Or until they learn to work together again… which may take a while, considering dinosaurs have brains slightly larger than Nerf darts. It might take a few millennia for such a creature to learn a lesson…
And that’s the simple explanation for the Bubble Bobble expanded universe. I could share the 2,783 slide PowerPoint presentation I made on the topic, but this article is already getting a little long, and I’d prefer to get back to popping bubbles now. Just remember: Bub and Bob were doomed to an unending torment because Jimmy couldn’t come over to help you beat the game that one time. Have a fantastic day!
FGC #305 Bubble Bobble
- System: Nintendo Entertainment System for this review, but the arcade port was available for a myriad of other systems, including the Gameboy, Master System, and Game Gear. It was the Bust-a-Move of its time.
- Number of players: Always be two people!
- Favorite Enemy: You never forget your first monster, and the Zen-Chan aka Bubble Buster, the little wind up man, is my favorite creature in the Cave of Monsters. I adore his little angry eyes when you’re running low on time/monsters.
- Proper Genus: I suppose Bub and Bob are supposed to be dragons, not dinosaurs? Bah, I care not for your creature canon.
- Goggle Bob Fact: So I have extended family in Florida, and, when I was a kid, this was used as a fine excuse to say over and visit Disney World for a week on an annual basis. As everyone knows, there are roughly 12,000 things to do in Orlando… but I generally most remember playing Bubble Bobble with my younger cousin, because it was like the only two player game he owned. In later years, Universal Studios Orlando became available, but my cousin also obtained Rocket Knight Adventures, and… Wow, I really have measured my life in tiny plastic cartridges.
- Did you know? The Invader/Super Socket monster moves and looks exactly like a Space Invader. Taito was mining that nostalgia fount before there even was videogame nostalgia.
- Would I play again: Be glad this article isn’t just me lamenting my inability to score a second player for a thousand words or so. I really enjoy Bubble Bobble, but it doesn’t see much play these days, because, ya know, everyone has lives. Was BB on the NES Mini? It was? Dammit, another reason I should have grabbed one of those.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… King of Fighters 2006! 2006? That was only eleven years ago. Which one was that, again? Bah, guess we’ll find out. Please look forward to it!