Bubble Bobble vs. Bust-A-Move

Bubble Bobble vs. Bust-A-Move

Bubble-bursting fun with Bub and Bob

A.J. Maciejewski

Written by for Versus on

Taito's arcade library remains one of the most impressive in gaming history so let's revisit 2 of their most iconic series and see which one offers better bubble-busting games.

Photo of A.J.'s Bubble Bobble and Bust-A-Move collection
There have been a lot of Bubble Bobble and Bust-A-Move games; this is just a few!

Arcade originals

Bubble Bobble debuted back in 1986 and it's just as fun to boot up nowadays. The simple single-screen platforming gameplay where you blow bubbles to trap enemies then hop on top to watch them fly across the screen only to turn into collectible score items is so satisfying, especially while playing cooperatively with a friend. Years later in 1994, Bust-A-Move released which included the same adorable characters (Bub and Bob) yet it's a completely different kind of game. Although the single-screen concept remains, this time you fire bubbles up a playfield in order to clear the screen by matching similarly coloured bubbles. This puzzle formula has been emulated dozens of times yet it all started with Bust-A-Move. Both games feature super-catchy soundtracks and are great fun in multiplayer. However, the original Bust-A-Move is extremely barebones while Bubble Bobble can remain fun for hours so it wins for best debut title.

Arcade Archives: Bubble Bobble Review ACA NeoGeo: Puzzle Bobble Review

Arcade sequels

There haven't been many arcade sequels to these games but the ones that have released add layers of fun to the original formulas. For starters, 1994's Bubble Symphony (AKA Bubble Bobble II) boasts beautiful colourful visuals that are much more detailed than the original. Plus, being able to play as 4 distinct characters with their own attributes, select which set of stages to tackle next, and charge your bubble shots is awesome. Finally, Bubble Memories: The Story of Bubble Bobble III is a mildly disappointing sequel as it features only 2 characters and doesn't differentiate itself much from the other games but it does have some pretty cool boss fights.

Meanwhile, Bust-A-Move had 4 arcade sequels. Bust-A-Move 2 introduced a non-linear campaign structure and the ability to play against CPU players and Bust-A-Move 3 added a character select, rainbow bubbles, node-based puzzles, endurance challenges, and had a very unique visual style. Bust-A-Move 4 went above and beyond by including pulley-based stages, the ability to perform chain reactions, and some welcome new modes. Last but not least, the Japan-exclusive Super Bust-A-Move includes different sized bubbles, new kinds of blocks, and even a co-op mode. It goes without saying but Bust-A-Move clearly wins when it comes to arcade sequels.

ACA NeoGeo: Puzzle Bobble 2 Review
Arcade Archives: Bubble Bobble screenshot
Bub sure loves to gloat in Bubble Bobble

Console revivals

Aside from the arcade games that started these fantastic series, there have been tons of console games as well, many of which were attempted revivals of the franchises. Although I could go on about these all day, I'll just discuss the highlights. In the mid-'00s, both Bubble Bobble Revolution for DS and Bubble Bobble Evolution for PSP released. The former actually had an infamous game-ending bug at level 30 but I sent my copy to the publisher and got a replacement fixed version in return. Anyway, neither of these games are that good but a couple of years later, Bubble Bobble Double Shot for DS brought back the classic gameplay in a rather fun way. Finally, Bubble Bobble Plus / Neo for Wii / Xbox 360 did a good job of recreating the classic game with swanky new 3D visuals.

Nintendo's DS also had a couple of Bust-A-Move games. The simply titled Bust-A-Move DS was a decent portable game that featured fun use of the touchscreen to charge and aim shots while Space Bust-A-Move has more traditional gameplay yet includes a fun and quirky story campaign. The Wii had a couple of games, too, in the form of the somewhat basic Bust-A-Move Plus and the silly fast-paced 8 player Bust-A-Move Bash. One of the weirdest console games is Ultra Bust-A-Move for Xbox as it has trippy visuals and doesn't even include Bub or Bob. One of my favourite console adaptations of the series is Super Bust-A-Move (not to be confused with the arcade game of the same name) along with its sequel and GameCube port (Bust-A-Move 3000). The amount of fun to be had in those games is virtually unmatched in the puzzle genre. After all is said and done, it's clear that Bust-A-Move has the better console releases.

Multiplayer

Before wrapping this up and deciding on an overall winner, I figured I should discuss how fun each of these franchises are to play with a friend. It's difficult to decide because they are both extremely enjoyable. Bubble Bobble is one of the best cooperative games ever made as far as I'm concerned yet Bust-A-Move provides a ton of competitive puzzle fun, sometimes for more than 2 players. That being said, the cheerful vibe of the original Bubble Bobble with its intuitive and immediately gratifying gameplay makes playing it with a friend a memorable and thoroughly enjoyable experience so I have to give it the win here but you really can't go wrong with either.

ACA NeoGeo: Puzzle Bobble 2 screenshot
Bub plays a friendly game of Bust-A-Move with a chum

Well, this certainly went on longer than I thought it would so perhaps I should just pick a winner now and that winner is...

Winner Bust-A-Move

Bubble Bobble is a top-notch cooperative arcade experience that still holds up beautifully in this day and age. However, the simplicity of Bust-A-Move makes it one of the best puzzle series ever created and with so many sequels, original console releases, and enjoyable clones over the years; I feel it deserves to win here by a slight margin. With all of that in mind, I sure miss Taito and would take yet another revival of their arcade catalogue over any modern game, that's for sure.

That's just my opinion. Agree? Disagree? Vote now!

Gameplay video playlist for Bubble Bobble vs. Bust-A-Move 23:42
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