Please join us in welcoming (again) our special guest Quan, founder of arcadeworks.net and inventor of the Omega Console!
AFPH and Quan discuss one of our personal favorite puzzle games and all time classic, the Puzzle Bobble Series! It will take us through the dark world of Japanese Corporate take overs only to emerge in the bright and forever positive light of Puzzle Bobble.
Puzzle Bobble Notes
The Puzzle Bobble Series was developed by Taito.
The Taito Corporation (株式会社タイトー Kabushikigaisha Taitō) (commonly referred to as Taito) is a Japanese video game developer and publisher of arcade hardwares and mobile phones, and an operator of video arcades. It is also a former publisher of home video games.
Taito is wholly owned by Square Enix Holdings. Despite being a subsidiary to Square Enix Holdings, the parent company has kept the branding of Taito entirely distinct from Square Enix.
Taito is known for producing hit arcade games, such as Space Invaders and Bubble Bobble. It has produced arcade games all around the world, while also importing and distributing American coin-op video games in Japan. Taito owns several arcades in Japan known as Taito Stations or Game Taito Stations.
Taito has its headquarters in the Shinjuku Bunka Quint Building in Yoyogi, Shibuya, Tokyo, sharing the facility with its parent company. In the past, the company had operated divisions in North America, Brazil, South Korea, Italy, the United Kingdom and Beijing, China. (wiki)_
Taito Corporation has incarnated three different companies over the course of its existence. Two mergers (in 2006 and 2010) were achieved in order to adapt to the business requirements of its parent company, Square Enix.
First company: Taito Corporation (1953–2006)
The company was founded as “Taito Trading Company”. In 1972, the name of the company was changed to “Taito Corporation” which has remained Taito’s legal name ever since.
Second company: Merger of Taito and SQEX Corporation (2006–2010)
In March 2006, Square Enix, which already owned 93% of the company, wanted to make Taito a wholly owned subsidiary. To accomplish this goal, Square Enix merged Taito into SQEX Corporation. Although the combined company took on the name “Taito Corporation”, it was actually Taito that was dissolved and SQEX that was the surviving entity.
SQEX was established on June 22, 1999 under the name Game Designers Studio as a shell corporation of the defunct Square Co, Ltd. It was renamed to SQEX Corporation in 2005 once Square Co, Ltd merged with Enix and purchased the company as a subsidiary. Game Designer Studios was used by Square Co, Ltd in order to evade an exclusivity deal to develop for Sony PlayStation as Sony Corp had an 18.6% stake in Square Co Ltd.
Third company: Taito and ES1 merging as Taito Corporation (2010–present)
Square Enix Holdings wanted all of its arcade operations to be consolidated into one subsidiary. And so, the third and present Taito Corporation came to being on February 1, 2010 by merging Taito Corporation (formerly SQEX/Game Designers Studio) with ES1 Corporation. In an “absorption-type company split” move, Taito Corporation (the second company) was spun-off as a separate company and renamed Taito Soft Corporation, while ES1 Corporation was renamed “Taito Corporation” (the third company).
During the merger with Taito Corporation (the second company) to become itself the new Taito Corporation, ES1 inherited all of Taito’s arcade business and nearly the totality of its employees.
On the other hand, Taito Soft Corporation (formerly SQEX) was left with 10 employees to concentrate exclusively on the development and publishing of video games for home consoles.
Taito Soft Corporation was eventually merged into Square Enix in March 2010 and dissolved.
ES1 Corporation was established on June 1, 2009 as an operator of arcade facilities. ES1 Corporation was owned by SPC1, itself a wholly owned subsidiary of Square Enix Holdings. SCP1 was dissolved when ES1 Corporation re-branded as Taito Corporation in February 2010.
As such, the current Taito Corporation is technically the company formerly called ES1 Corporation. (wiki)
Bubble Bobble Series
Before Bubble Bobble, there was Chack’n Pop, a far more obscure platform game released by Taito in 1983. Some of Bubble Bobble’s ideas appear here in nascent form: a single-screen platform game where the player controls a weird chicken-like creature (the Chack’n of the title), the aim is to retrieve a heart from one corner of the maze-like screen before rushing back to the top.
Some of the mechanics are quite strange; Chack’n’s primary attack is a hand-grenade-like weapon, which is quite difficult to control. Nevertheless, many of the enemies and collectible items are identical to those in Taito’s later classic – the purple enemies called Monstas make their first appearance here, while two levels in Bubble Bobble directly reference Chack’n Pop. (mentalfloss.com)
Bubble Bobble was designed by Fukio Mitsuji, who’d joined Taito in his mid-20s and initially worked on such games as Super Dead Heat, Land Sea Air Squad and the (very good) vertical shooter, Halley’s Comet. For his next game, however, Mitsuji wanted to create something very different from the experiences commonly found in arcades at the time. Noticing that arcades in Japan were commonly frequented by men, he wanted to create a game that couples could enjoy together. (mentalfloss.com)
The Bubble Bobble series is a long-running game series which has amassed over 30 games and two spin-offs. The series has been published by the Taito Corporation, and later by their parent company, Square Enix. The Bubble Bobble series is one of the most ported series ever, with the original appearing on over 19 different platforms, and the sequel, Rainbow Islands, appearing on 17 different ones. While the first game, Chack’n Pop, was originally a stand-alone game, it has been retroactively absorbed into the Bubble Bobble series. The series proper started with Bubble Bobble. (wikia)
Bubble Bobble Games
Puzzle Bobble Series
Puzzle Bobble (Japanese: パズルボブル Hepburn: Pazuru Boburu), also known as Bust-a-Move in North America, is a 1994 tile-matching arcade puzzle video game for one or two players created by Taito Corporation. It is based on Taito’s popular 1986 arcade game Bubble Bobble, featuring characters and themes from that game. Its characteristically cute Japanese animation and music, along with its play mechanics and level designs, made it successful as an arcade title and spawned several sequels and ports to home gaming systems. (wiki)
Two different versions of the original game were released. Puzzle Bobble was originally released in Japan only in June 1994 by Taito Corporation, running on Taito’s B System hardware (with the preliminary title “Bubble Buster”). Then, 6 months later in December, the international Neo Geo version of Puzzle Bobble was released. It was almost identical aside from being in stereo and having some different sound effects and translated text. (wiki)
At the start of each round, the rectangular playing arena contains a prearranged pattern of coloured “bubbles”. (These are actually referred to in the translation as “balls”; however, they were clearly intended to be bubbles, since they pop, and are taken from Bubble Bobble.) At the bottom of the screen, the player controls a device called a “pointer”, which aims and fires bubbles up the screen. The colour of bubbles fired is randomly generated and chosen from the colors of bubbles still left on the screen.
The fired bubbles travel in straight lines (possibly bouncing off the side walls of the arena), stopping when they touch other bubbles or reach the top of the arena. If a bubble touches identically-colored bubbles, forming a group of three or more, those bubbles—as well as any bubbles hanging from them—are removed from the field of play, and points are awarded.
After every few shots, the “ceiling” of the playing arena drops downwards slightly, along with all the bubbles stuck to it. The number of shots between each drop of the ceiling is influenced by the number of bubble colors remaining. The closer the bubbles get to the bottom of the screen, the faster the music plays and if they cross the line at the bottom then the game is over.
The objective of the game is to clear all the bubbles from the arena without any bubble crossing the bottom line. Bubbles will fire automatically if the player remains idle. After clearing the arena, the next round begins with a new pattern of bubbles to clear. The game consists of 32 levels. (wiki)
Puzzle Bobble is played at both Penny Arcade Expos, PAX East and PAX Prime. After being the 9-time (7 consecutive years at PAX East, 2010-2016, and the 2015-2016 PAX Prime) undefeated champion, Matthew A. Tom has declared that he is “retiring from competitive Puzzle Bobble playing.” (wiki)
Bubble Bobble Games (mobygames.com)
Puzzle Bobble (Bust a Move) – 1994 Arcade
Ports: Neo Geo, Neo Geo CD, 3DO, Game Gear, SNES, Windows, WonderSwan
Story: See Bubble Bobble Series
Notable Releases in 1994:
- Sonic the Hedgehog 3 – Sega, Genesis
- Sonic & Knuckles – Sega, Genesis
- Super Metroid – Nintendo, SNES
- Final Fantasy VI (III) – Square, SNES
- Earthworm Jim – Shiney Entertainment, SNES
- Killer Instinct – RARE, SNES
- Warcraft – Blizzard, PC
- Donkey Kong Country – RARE, SNES
- Daytona USA – Sega, Arcade
- Tekken – Namco, Arcade
- Point Blank – Namco, Arcade
See “Puzzle Bobble” section above.
Puzzle Bobble 2 (Bust a Move 2) – 1995 Arcade
Ports: DOS, Game Boy, Macintosh, Nintendo 64, PlayStation, PlayStation 3, PSP, PS Vita, SEGA Saturn
Story: See Bubble Bobble Series
Notable Releases in 1995:
- Ristar – Sega, Genesis
- Chrono Trigger – Square, SNES
- Mortal Kombat 3 – Midway Games, Arcade
- Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island – Nintendo, SNES
- Command & Conquer – Westwood Studios, PC
- Rayman – Ubisoft, Saturn
- Twisted Metal – Single Trac, Playstation
- Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness – Blizzard, PC
- Tekken 2 – Namco, Playstation/Arcade
- EarthBound – Ape Inc, SNES
- Street Fighter Alpha – Capcom
- The King of Fighters ’95 – SNK
- Time Crisis – Namco
- Battle Arena Toshinden 2 – Tamsoft/Capcom
The game builds on the original by adding a tournament style variation on the two player game for play against the computer and by adding a branching map to the one player game, allowing the player to periodically select one of two groups of five levels to play next, leading to different game endings. Some of the contestants in the new tournament mode are based on characters from Bubble Bobble, including variations on a Monsta and a Mighta.
Some versions of the game, including the PlayStation, feature time trial competitions in which a single player attempts to finish simple rounds quickly enough to beat previous time records or two players simultaneously attempt to beat the records and each other.
Completion of the single player game gives the player a code which can be entered to unlock ‘Another World’ for the single player game, which features subtle changes to the existing levels to increase their difficulty and changes to all backdrops to resemble levels from Bubble Bobble. The various enemies from Bubble Bobble also make an appearance in the background of the credits sequence. (wiki)
Puzzle Bobble 3 (Bust a Move 3) – 1996 Arcade
Ports: Nintendo 64, PlayStation, PlayStation 3, PSP, PS Vita, SEGA Saturn, Windows
Story: See Bubble Bobble Series
Notable Releases in 1996:
Notable Releases in 1996:
- Duke Nukem 3D – 3D Realms, PC
- Pokémon Red and Green – Nintendo, Game Boy
- Super Mario RPG – Nintendo, SNES
- Metal Slug – SNK, Neo Geo
- Quake – id Software, PC
- NiGHTS into Dreams – Sega, Saturn
- Tomb Raider – Eidos, PC/PS1/Saturn
- Diablo – Blizzard Ent, PC
- Super Mario 64 – Nintendo, N64
- Civilization II – MicroProse, PC
- Resident Evil – Capcom, PS1
- Virtua Fighter 3 – Sega
- Dead or Alive – Team Ninja/Tecmo
- Street Fighter Alpha 2 – Capcom
The game completely abandons the idea of previous titles that the playfield is being pushed down by some sort of mechanical device and instead attaches groups of bubbles to nodes that move downwards. When a node is no longer connected to any bubbles, it will disappear and when all nodes in a level have vanished the level is complete. One result of this change that may appear strange to players of previous versions is that shooting a bubble to the top of the visible playfield without striking any bubbles causes it to bounce and start travelling back downwards. The player is not penalised if such bubbles again leave the playing field without attaching to anything (except for adding to the number of moves until the field is pushed down by one empty line). Despite this some versions include a reimplementation of the Puzzle Bobble 2 levels now built around nodes (entitled Version 2.5).
Gameplay is further varied by the implementation of new scrolling playfields that are several times as high as the screen and must be conquered as an endurance event. Each scrolling playfield occupies the same space on the world map as five previous levels.
This game also marks the introduction of rainbow bubbles into the series – bubbles that are initially transparent and filled with a rainbow. Any adjoining bubble that is burst, the rainbow bubbles next to them switch to the colour of the burst bubble, allowing the player to build up chain reactions.
The ability to choose a character was introduced, but only to the VS Computer mode. As in Bubble Bobble, the 1st player, when he/she picks Bub, gets Bub, and the 2nd player gets Bob. In the Nintendo 64 version, a 4 player simultaneous option is available. (wiki)
Puzzle Bobble 4 (Bust a Move 4) – 1998 Arcade
Ports: Dreamcast, Game Boy Color, PlayStation, Windows
On the planet Bubbleluna live the twins Bub and Bob. One day, the sun fails to rise because the Fairy of the Night, Cleon, has stolen the light source known as the Rainbow for Full-Moon Madame Luna. She splits this rainbow into 7 light bubbles. Bub and Bob then set off to retrieve these bubbles and restore the light and peace to their planet. (wiki)
Notable Releases in 1998:
- Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes – Capcom, Arcade
- Panzer Dragoon Saga – Sega, Saturn
- StarCraft – Blizzard, PC
- Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six – Red Storm Entertainment, PS1
- Metal Gear Solid – Konami, PS1
- Half-Life– Valve, PC
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Nintendo, N64
- Sonic Adventure – Sega, Dreamcast
- Mario Party – Nintendo, N64
- Baldur’s Gate – Bioware, PC
- Suikoden II – Konami, PS1
- Soulcalibur – Project Soul/Namco, Arcade
- Real Bout Fatal Fury 2 – SNK
This installment of the series introduces two new features: the pulley system and chain reactions. The pulley system consists of two groups of bubbl
\es attached to either side of a pulley. Popping some on one side will cause that side to be “lighter” and therefore rise. The other side lowers in response. If a pulley is shaking and a bubble is attached, the resulting heavier side will lower. This requires added strategy to prevent one side moving too far and therefore losing the game. One possible strategy is to form a bubble cluster between two pulleys to prevent them from lowering or rising at all. Then the player can triangulate until acquiring the necessary bubbles to clear both anchor bubbles, while still keeping both ends of the pulley clustered together.
Chain reactions occur only on the two player (or player and CPU) modes. When a bubble is dropped, it can move to another place on the board if this causes more bubbles to pop. If this in turn causes more bubbles to drop, then the chain reaction can continue. (wiki)