Many arcade classics frequently pop up when discussing retro video games. However, Buster Bros. remains an obscure title that even some retro enthusiasts may not recognize at first. It's rather fun, too, so let's bust some bubbles!
Who the heck are the Buster Bros.?
Back in 1983, a game titled Cannon Ball debuted in Japan. Later that year, it was ported to ZX Spectrum under the name Bubble Buster. The gameplay involved controlling a fellow at the bottom of the screen who shoots up at bubbles which makes them pop and spawn two smaller bubbles. After they multiply and get smaller and smaller, they eventually disappear. It's very simple to play and undeniably addictive. So, in 1989, Capcom and Mitchell Corporation popularized this formula and made their own take on it. In North America, it was known as Buster Bros. while it was simply called Pang elsewhere. Over the years, there have been a handful of sequels released every once in a while. It wasn't until the 1997 compilation Buster Bros. Collection (available for the original PlayStation) that I got to experience the first three games in the series. Recently, I played through these gems yet again and am I ever glad that I did! By the way, if you want to play Buster Bros. Collection without tracking down a copy of the PS1 disc then you can snag Capcom Puzzle World for PSP which includes it as well as Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo and Block Block. That's a lot of great games to pack onto one UMD!
The debut: Buster Bros. (1989)
This marked a great start for the series as popping bubbles with a buddy makes for some good times. Although you essentially play cooperatively, comparing scores to see who's on top allows for some exciting competition. The characters may be generic yet the backgrounds display some colourfully detailed works of pixel art as you travel the world. One feature that adds to the satisfying action is the variety of power-ups that can stop time, deploy a shield, and change your weapon. Overall, it's just simple arcade fun.
The sequel: Super Buster Bros. (1990)
Considering this came out only a year after the first game, it really isn't all that different. The most notable inclusion is Panic Mode that lets you pop non-stop so you can test your skills and get a high score. It's a welcome inclusion for sure, but the best improvement is that you get to play as a kid with his cap on backwards. Radical, dude!
The oddball: Buster Buddies (1995)
Half a decade later with no new Buster Bros. to be found, Buster Buddies finally arrived in arcades. However, this is one strange iteration. The story is a bit hazy, but as far as I know, you choose from one of four art thieves who try to steal a bunch of works for their private collections. What's the number one obstacle when stealing art? Bubbles, of course, so pop them suckers and get yourself some sweet stolen swag. Visually, this sequel is quite unappealing compared to its predecessors, but it's just as fun. Panic Mode returns, too.
The future: Pang Adventures
Next month, a long-awaited sequel to the Buster Bros. series is finally being released. That's right, on April 19th; you can download Pang Adventures for PlayStation 4. Brought to you by France's very own retro-obsessed DotEmu and Pastagames, you know that the Buster Bros. are in good hands. Now, many gamers like me who love this obscure arcade series and newcomers alike can wrap their hands around a modern take on addictive buddy-based bubble-busting mayhem!