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  • Writer's pictureAllan Jenks

Game Review #487: Bubble Bobble 4 Friends (Nintendo Switch)

Updated: Apr 2, 2020

Reviewer: Allan Jenks

Developer: TAITO

Publisher: ININ Games

Category: Arcade, Platformer

Release Date: 3.31.2020

Price: $39.99


Buy Bubble Bobble 4 Friends from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

I’m Not Old, I’m Classic!

I grew up in “The Golden Age of Gaming” (read: I’m starting to wish those damned kids would get off my lawn) and that means I got to enjoy some of the games that are today considered classics, only, I got to play them when they were still the coolest new thing! Games like Super Mario Bros 3—which had an awesome gameplay teaser in the coolest NES-themed movie ever, The WizardMega Man 2, and Metroid were magical to me as a kid.

I didn’t have a huge amount of games growing up, but my friends and I would always have different games from one another, and mom and pop video rental stores were still a thing, so we still got to try out a lot of games. One of my favorite games that I always played but never actually owned as a kid is Bubble Bobble for NES. My neighbors had it, so I got to play it all the time, and I absolutely loved it! The cute little bubble dragons and their girlfriends, the simple-but-catchy soundtrack that instantly puts me in a good mood even to this day—though it is an earwig and sticks in my head for days after playing the game—and the cute and ambiguously-shaped enemies all earned their way into my heart. So, obviously, when Bubble Bobble 4 Friends came across the review desk, I jumped at the chance to try it out! Was it going to be as good as the beloved Bubble Bobble of my youth? Would it live up to my expectations? I had to know!

Was It All a Dream?

Bubble Bobble 4 Friends starts out with a cut-scene of the wizard, Bonner, as a stuffed animal in a child’s bedroom. While the child sleeps, Bonner casts a spell on the room, turning the child’s room into a series of different stages, from the bookshelf world to the toy castle world. This awakens the plushy version of the dragon, Bub, causing him to set out on a mission to stop the destruction of the room by defeating all of the enemies and bosses, by way of trapping them inside of bubbles he blows and popping them. There’s really not much else to the story, and that’s okay, because we grew up in the 80s and 90s, and stories were in the instruction manuals, not the game!

Falling for Arcade Classics

So, the first thing that sold me on this title right off the bat was the fact that the original arcade release of Bubble Bobble is included in its entirety. Now, I only played the arcade version a few times, but it was essentially what was ported to the NES, with a few extra bells and whistles. It plays just like I remember, though I must say, I actually prefer the NES soundtrack to the arcade version. I’m not sure if it’s actually the quality of the composition though, or just the ingrained aural memory of the NES version I played so much growing up that is influencing this preference.

The other part thatsold me, of course, is that there are new stages of Bubble Bobble to explore! The arrangement is set up in different worlds, each with multiple stages that culminate with a boss battle. The stages each have their own platform arrangements and airflow currents—these affect the path of your bubbles, and as such, your platforming strategy—along with a different layout of enemies to defeat. While this is in most ways very similar to the original game, there are a few differences as well.

Obviously, the graphics have greatly improved over the decades, so our 8-bit friends have been updated, but the physics of the stages has changed slightly as well. I noticed a distinct lack of Pac-Man screen logic with regard to falling through the bottom and coming back down from the top of the screen. I was a little bummed by this, as I used to enjoy a good endless fall every once in a while, or the occasional shortcut to the goodies at the top of the screen, but I was able to get over it—especially since the feature is still alive and well in the arcade mode.

One interesting feature in BB4F is the “Continue with Invincibility” option you get after 3 Game Overs on the same stage. The game basically takes pity on you after a while, and offers you a free pass to get through to the next stage without the possibility of dying. I fought against taking this lifeline as much as I could, but I did eventually end up using it once on one of the boss fights. I figured it would make me re-do it later in order to actually be able to finish the game, but it didn’t. It even gave me the “Hard Mode Unlocked” reward when I defeated the final boss. I suppose they just did it to be nice. We need more of that from developers these days!

Wrapping Up

Overall, I really enjoyed my time with Bubble Bobble 4 Friends, and while it wasn’t everything I hoped and dreamed it would be—and honestly, nostalgia is a hard thing to live up to—it was certainly still a great game! The soundtrack is still great, though pretty much just a remix of the original tune; and the new stages are still capturing the spirit of the original games without simply copy/pasting them, so it’s still a whole new experience on its own. If you were a fan of the original Bubble Bobble, either arcade or home console, then you will absolutely want to pick this one up right away! If you are not familiar with the franchise, then this is a great way to enter into it—but I would recommend playing through the included arcade version first, just to get a true feel for the classic. Either way, you should definitely add this to your collection, whoever you are!

Score: 9/10

Buy Bubble Bobble 4 Friends from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

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*A game code was provided for review purposes

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